The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) has announced the finalists for the 2020 ASVO Winemaker of the Year: Peter Leske, Frank van de Loo and Sam Connew.
The finalists were selected by a committee of ASVO members chaired by 2017 ASVO Winemaker of the Year, Mike Hayes.
Hayes said, “The awards delivered an exceptional class of assiduous finalists all shining examples of the extraordinary talent Australia has to offer”.
“The cross section of finalists all developed their own stylistic approach to quality combined with an altruistic approach to research and development. Undoubtedly one of the finest selections ever seen in the awards.”
ASVO president Brooke Howell said, “The Australian wine industry is extremely fortunate to have many highly engaged, skilled, professional individuals who are willing to contribute for the greater good of the community”.
“These professionals inspire others to seek out and adopt innovative practices to ensure the longevity of our businesses and industry. The calibre of finalists this year is outstanding, and I congratulate them all on their achievements”
The winners of the ASVO Awards for Excellence will be announced on Tuesday November 17.
Leske is the senior winemaker and co-proprietor of Revenir Winemaking in the Adelaide Hills where he makes wines from an extraordinarily wide range of grape varieties (Arneis to Viognier and everything in between; the list runs to 55), from several different regions, using many diverse techniques.
Leske has demonstrated excellence in winemaking. He undertakes a diverse range of modern, innovative and traditional winemaking techniques, balancing creativity with technical precision and customer and consumer expectations.
He has sought to think outside the box finding innovative ways to deal with challenging vintages.
Leske is an active contributor within the industry, generous with his time and knowledge, his recent work supporting effective response to the impacts from smoke on vineyards and the support for knowledge development relating to bushfires will provide significant benefits to support the sustainability of the sector into the future.
Leske said, “I have always appreciated and enjoyed the collaborative nature of our industry, the opportunities it gives to share and learn from others, and to give back when the chance arises”.
Frank van de Loo is the winemaker and general manager/part owner of Mount Majura Vineyard in the Canberra District where he has overseen development for more than 20 years.
Coming from a background in plant science research, his winemaking starts with variety selection and viticulture and is focussed on making wine that best expresses the character of the vineyard.
This has involved many trials ranging from alternative varieties and ecological vineyard approaches to fermentation techniques and unusual wine styles.
He is keenly aware of the limits of a small winemaker operating alone and has tried to maximise sharing of information in the local industry and being involved in research and extension more broadly.
Frank’s innovative approach to his work does not just stop at winemaking. He has also been actively involved in seeking alternative varieties suited to a changing climate and other sustainability initiatives. He has been actively involved in sharing information with the broader wine community and in supporting industry organisations including ASVO.
Frank said, “It’s a real honour to be nominated when there are so many winemakers doing interesting work in our industry”.
A highly experienced and respected winemaker and consultant, Samantha Connew launched her Tasmanian solo project Stargazer in 2013.
Prior to establishing this and her consulting company, Compass Wine Consulting she was working in applied research, development and extension for the Australian Wine Research Institute as manager of the Hunter Valley node.
Samantha was the winemaker/manager of boutique Hunter Valley winery Tower Estate, after working in McLaren Vale for ten years as the senior winemaker at Wirra Wirra Vineyards.
Amongst her many achievements, in 2007 she was awarded ‘International Red Winemaker of the Year’ at the prestigious international Wine Challenge in London, and in 2008 she was a South Australian finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.
Samantha has served on the boards of several regional associations and was a board member of the ASVO and a founding member for the Australian Women in Wine Awards. She is currently a director on the Wine Tasmania board.
Samantha is a highly respected wine show judge and has chaired many regional and capital city wine shows, having completed both the AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course and the Len Evans Tutorial where she continues her involvements as a tutor. In 2014 she was appointed Chair of Judges at the Sydney Royal Wine show, the first female and the youngest judge in that position.
In 2016 she acquired a small vineyard and olive grove in Coal River Valley, North East of Hobart, under her stewardship, this vineyard was awarded ‘Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year’ in May 2019.
Samantha said, “I am beyond delighted to be recognised by both my peers and by the ASVO for my contribution as a winemaker and as a member of the Australian wine community. This is some good news for myself and my little label Stargazer in what has been a challenging year for all of us!”
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