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Introducing the six finalists for the ASVO Viticulturist and Winemaker of the Year awards

By Wednesday 17 July 2019No Comments

The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) has announced the finalists for their annual awards. Viticulturist of the Year finalists are Dr Kerry DeGaris, Dr Catherine Kidman and Brett McClen. Winemaker of the Year finalists are Peter Leske, Con Simos and Corrina Wright.

Since 2012 the ASVO Awards for Excellence have recognised the achievements of dedicated and professional individuals in the wine industry.

The finalists were selected by two committees of ASVO members chaired by 2017 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year, Liz Riley, and inaugural ASVO Winemaker of the Year in 2012, Wendy Cameron.

Riley said, “It was pleasing to see a diverse field of viticulturists nominated from across the country. The challenge of selecting the finalists was heartening, as it reflects the depth of talent in the viticultural sector of the Australian wine industry as well as the next generation to come.”

Cameron said, “The finalists showcase the energy, diversity, depth and strength of the people involved in our industry. It was impressive when we considered their varied contributions to our industry over a long period of time, both as innovative winemakers and extending themselves by being active in other aspects of the industry.”

ASVO president Dr Anthony Robinson said, “As an industry, we are fortunate to have many, very skilled and professional people who are contributing significantly to the wine community, inspiring those around them to seek out and adopt innovative practices. The quality of this year’s finalists is absolutely outstanding, and I congratulate each of them on their achievements to date.”

The winners of the ASVO Awards for excellence will be announced at a dinner on 12 November at the National Wine Centre in Adelaide.

ASVO Viticulturist of the Year finalists:

Kerry DeGaris – Dr DeGaris is the chair of the Technical sub-committee of the Limestone Coast Grape and Wine Council Inc. and has been instrumental in facilitating and conducting research and extension in the Limestone Coast. The projects led by Kerry have enabled growers to better understand and manage challenges including Eutypa, iron bacteria in irrigation water, salinity and Cabernet berry shrivel. Her work has also included winemaking trials from local rootstock trials. Kerry’s passion for locally targeted research has culminated in the development of numerous fact sheets, webinars and workshops which are being utilised nationally and she has presented her work at national conferences. Kerry has further promoted the dissemination of research by facilitating events which foster interactions between PhD students and local growers. “This was an innovative formula,” said Kerry “students could develop potential research topics and growers could form relationships with up-coming researchers.”

Cath Kidman – Dr Kidman is a viticulturist with Treasury Wine Estates and has been involved in numerous collaborative projects with local Limestone Coast organisations, the University of Adelaide and Charles Sturt University. These have included optimising irrigation, bud fruitfulness, primary bud necrosis and yield estimation, heritage and clonal selection, enhancing local biodiversity and grapevine virus mitigation. Cath has shared the outcomes of her work at regional, national and international conferences and other forums. Cath says, “a key success is the ability to collaborate and return results that matter to our region. I would like to think that the practices I am working hard to change in our vineyards contribute to the industry being in a better place than where they were yesterday.” Cath is helping to shape the next generation of viticulturists as an honours and PhD co-supervisor.

Brett McClen – McClen is the chief viticulturist for Brown Family Wine Group. Brett has incorporated innovative approaches to problems and challenges including mechanised cane pruning, recycled spraying to achieve chemical savings and reduce drift, mechanised leaf plucking to reduce bunch rot risk, and the use of mechanical shaking to reduce bunch trash and compactness to lessen bunch rot pressure. Brett has been an advocate for adoption of technology and adaption to climate and understanding the potential impacts of climate change on vineyards. Brett generously shares his experience working directly with growers, hosting field days, and he has been an invited speaker at national and international conferences. Brett says, “I am absolutely passionate and unrelenting in striving for incremental improvement in vineyard outcomes year on year – and in particular, doing so without having to resort to crude cost cutting and over extraction of resources from people and the environment. I place importance on being brave, but not reckless in this approach.”

ASVO Winemaker of the Year finalists

Peter Leske – 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. He has co-designed and implemented a ‘waste’ heat capturing system which passively heats insulated barrel storage and he expects to share this knowledge with other wineries. Peter engages with and contributes to the broader wine industry in numerous ways including by presenting guest lectures to undergraduate students, as a member of several sensory evaluation panels supporting research projects and education, as a former wine show committee chair and, more recently, through collaboration with the AWRI and local winemakers to assist the adoption of standard protocols for making and assessing trial wines for smoke taint. Peter 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.”

Con Simos – Simos is the group manager for the Industry Development and Support team at the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI). Con conceived and delivered the wine show software ‘ShowRunner’ – a unique and broadly adopted cloud-based program which organises complex wine tastings and makes wine show administration more efficient, allowing more time for judges’ discussion and assessment. Another of Con’s innovative approaches has been to enable winemakers to experiment with different winemaking techniques with confidence. His approach to this has been to make a series of wines from the same batch of grapes, changing one variable at a time and providing workshop participants with a sensory experience to demonstrate the variables. Con said, “The ASVO plays an important role in advancing technical knowledge to the grape and wine sector which has been integral in my development throughout my career. I feel very privileged to be considered for this award.”

Corrina Wright – Wright has dedicated herself to the development of innovative varieties and innovative wine styles. She led the planting of the first Mencia in Australia, on the back of being an early adopter of alternative varieties, with a particular focus on planting those that are heat and drought tolerant, with high natural acidity and with a different flavour profile to traditional varieties. With a clear commitment to the future of the industry, Corrina has further extended her involvement in the wine industry by being a key instigator in the Winemakers Federation of Australia (now Australian Grape and Wine) undertaking a gender and cultural diversity study for the industry and combined with her Board membership of the Australian Women in Wine Awards (AWIWA), is an important part of the leadership on cultural change for the whole wine community. Corrina said, “It is very humbling to be nominated by my peers and to be in such luminary company as my co-nominees and the previous recipients of this prestigious award.”

Main photo: Con Simos.

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