The future looks bright for Australia’s organic wine industry

Australian Organic Wine Awards Associate Scholarship recipient, Olivia Evans, judging wines for the 2021 Australian Organic Wine Awards. Image courtesy Australian Organic Limited

Almost six months into her one-year Australian Organic Wine Awards Associate Scholarship, inaugural recipient, Olivia Evans, is quickly learning the ropes of the industry from some of the most respected names in Australian wine.

The scholarship, created by peak body for the organic sector, Australian Organic Limited (AOL), is centered on nurturing the talent of high-performing women and supporting gender diversity within the wine-judging ranks.

Announced as the winner in October, trained sommelier, writer and aspiring wine judge, Olivia, has traversed a whirlwind journey since the scholarship commenced, and said she was grateful to forge lifelong relationships with her team of mentors.

“In January, I had the privilege of taking on the role as an Associate Judge for the Australian Organic Wine Awards alongside an eminent panel including Alex McPherson, Josh Martin, Mike Bennie, Ramon Arnavas, Lilly Heenan and Millie Gosney,” Evans said.

“As someone who has always been drawn to organic winemaking, the whole experience was incredible, and everyone’s unique perspectives on the wines we judged was so valuable for my learning.”

Evans said she was continuing to make the most of her year-long scholarship and recently participated in a Wine Masterclass with all six judges of the Australian Organic Wine Awards.

“The Masterclass was an incredible experience for me and extended my knowledge of organic wine, not just those made here in Australia, but overseas as well,” she said.

“Ramon hosted a group exercise on six organic certified wines from the Burgundy region, which were all the same vintage, however extremely different in flavour, while Mike shared a group of contemporary certified organic wines made with minimal intervention.

“It was extremely dynamic to bring the panel back together in a relaxed environment as we all viewed the wines from our own backgrounds and fields – whether that’s retail, wholesale or as an on the floor sommelier.”

Someone who understands the incredible value of mentors is fellow Organic Wine Awards judge, Alex McPherson, who is also STK Group’s Beverage Director and responsible for curating wine lists for a number of high-end Brisbane restaurants including Hellenika and SK Steak & Oyster.

Destined for a career in the wine industry after growing up on her family’s Hunter Valley vineyard, McPherson said a great mentor had the capacity to change the direction of your career path for the better.

“In my first job, I was fortunate to have a kind and generous mentor in the wine distribution business who opened my eyes up to the broader industry and career possibilities, as well as introducing me to people who would help shape my future,” Alex said.

With an impressive resume spanning wine production, sales, buying, marketing, communication and public relations, McPherson said she was delighted to share her expertise and has the upmost respect for Evans as a person, sommelier and wine writer.

“[Evans] is a remarkable person. She has a unique voice in the way she expresses herself and describes wines,” she said.

“She is quietly powerful and one of those people who has a gentle and kind demeanour, and I can see that she will have a long and very distinguished career in the wine industry.”

Applications for the 2022 Australian Organic Wine Awards Associate Scholarship will open later this year, and as she continues her year-long professional development, Evans said she would encourage young women in the wine industry to apply, saying the application process alone had taught her a lot about herself and her values.

“It’s important to go for it, regardless of where you’re at in your career,” she said.

“Don’t discount your own level of experience – your voice and your opinion is just as important as anyone else’s because it’s unique to you.”


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