Penfolds' chief winemaker Peter Gago has just won an unprecedented double honour. He was made both Winemaker of the Year 2014, from among seven finalists, and also won the Len Evans Award for Leadership at the annual awards of Australia's leading wine magazine Gourmet Traveller WINE.
The judges also gave Gwyn Olsen their Young Winemaker Medal for her work most recently at Briar Ridge in the Hunter Valley, and The Perpetual Viticulturist of the Year Award for 2014 went to the Chalmers family in Victoria. (You can read about some of their work in The 11 year itch – importing vines into Australia.)
Others shortlisted for Winemaker of the Year were, in alphabetical order: Tony Ingle of Angove, Mark Messenger of Juniper Estate, Julian Castagna of Castagna, Andrew Fleming and Greg Jarratt of Coldstream Hills, Rose Kentish of Ulithorne, Phil and Rochelle Kerney of Ross Hill and Nick Spencer of Eden Road.
'Custodian of Australia’s greatest wine brand and a charismatic ambassador on the world stage, Peter Gago, chief winemaker at Penfolds, is the first person to be honoured with both the Winemaker of the Year Award and the Len Evans Award for leadership in the 17-year history of the awards', said Gourmet Traveller WINE editor Judy Sarris before the latter award was presented by Len Evans' daughter Sally at a dinner at Black by Ezard in Sydney.
Chairman of Judges Peter Forrestal added, 'The possibility slowly dawned on the judges. Not only is Peter Gago an inspirational winemaker, but his tireless efforts worldwide as a roving brand ambassador (see Winemaker as performer) have transformed his importance to Penfolds and broadened our perception of the kinds of leadership a winemaker can offer. He has a rare talent as a winemaker that melds an astute and refined palate, an inclusive leadership style and a clear sense of historical perspective which enables him to draw on Penfolds legacy in fashioning modern-day wines.' Judge Andrew Caillard MW of Langton's summed up by saying, 'Gago’s instinctive easy-going nature, razor-sharp mind and obsessive inquisitiveness are perfect for his all-encompassing role. He collects people and friends of every ilk; princes, rock stars, politicians, accountants and bus drivers are intrinsically worth the same. He knows the true value of wine is not distinguished by wealth or status, rather by character and meaning.' We will be publishing my tasting notes on the latest Penfolds releases when they are unveiled on 1 October.
Young winemaker Gwyn Olsen was described as 'on a mission to produce expressions of Semillon and Shiraz that show a strong sense of place', while 'addressing the fascinations of those on the cutting edge of contemporary winemaking'. She is the 14th winner of this young winemaker award while the viticulturist award, sponsored by Perpetual, was given for only the second time. The Chalmers family have almost single-handedly been responsible for the introduction and growth of indigenous Italian grape varieties suited to the Australian climate. 'The Chalmers family has contributed an enormous amount to warm-climate viticulture, to the cause of alternative grape varieties, to the diversity of Australian wine and to their fellow grape growers. The fact this is truly a family business with no fewer than five family members now involved gives it extra resonance', said judge Huon Hooke. The award was presented to Bruce and Jenni Chalmers and their daughters Tennille and Kim, and Kim’s husband Bart van Olphen, who makes their small-batch trial wines, received the award.
The Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2014 award was judged by a panel of the magazine’s contributors: Huon Hooke, Andrew Caillard MW, Nick Bulleid MW, Peter Bourne, Sophie Otton, Mike Bennie, and chairman Peter Forrestal.