Jonny Hughes, Franck Moreau MS, winner Jim Chatto’s parents
Kaye Wilcox-Chatto and David Chatto and Nick Dry.

Gourmet Traveller WINE and Perpetual were proud to host the 22nd Winemaker of the Year Awards, held at BLACK Bar & Grill at Sydney’s The Star. As always, there was an infectious excitement in the air, with a stellar line-up of finalists all deserving of the ultimate title of 2019 Winemaker of the Year.

The awards saw a South Aussie takeover, with finalists Sarah Pidgeon of Wynns; Peter Schell of Spinifex and Emmanuelle and Toby Bekkers of Bekkers all hailing from the state. The rest of Australia was also well represented, with finalists Sarah Crowe of Yarra Yering; Rob Diletti of Castle Rock Estate; Emma Norbiato of Calabria Family Wines; Jim Chatto of Chatto Wines and Gilli and Paul Lipscombe of Sailor Seeks Horse and Home Hill Winery.

Guests were welcomed to BLACK Bar & Grill with a glass of 2008 House of Arras Grand Vintage, which truly set the mood for celebration. The menu for the night was created by chefs Sébastien Geray of BLACK Bar & Grill and Peter Robertson of Flying Fish. The collaboration was a match made in heaven, with the pair focusing on showcasing the best seasonal, local produce through the menu.

The menu highlighted Geray’s and Robertson’s flair and passion for creative cuisine, and made for some memorable pairings with wines from all the finalists and winners of the night. Led by Head Sommelier Addy Lam, the BLACK Bar & Grill team was kept busy with over 1,200 Riedel glasses across the five courses – keeping glasses topped up was no mean feat.

This year saw a change of MC, with Nick Ryan taking to the mic, keeping us all equally entertained yet on our toes for the night. Ryan welcomed to the stage GT WINE Editor Judy Sarris, who thanked Perpetual, The Star, BLACK Bar & Grill and Riedel for their support in this year’s awards.

“Congratulations to each and every winemaker who has made the grade tonight,” said Sarris. “Thank you for the love and care you put into creating extraordinary wines that Australia can be extremely proud of.”

Sarris also acknowledged the work of the judging panel, made up of Toni Paterson MW, Huon Hooke, Peter Bourne, Nick Bulleid MW, Mike Bennie and Andrew Caillard, and led by
chairperson Peter Forrestal.

The first course of the much-awaited menu was served – charcoal-roasted Rottnest Island scallop, kombu butter and fish fragrance from Geray and BLACK Bar & Grill, and Sydney rock oyster with caviar, smoked crème fraîche and pickled cucumber from Robertson and the Flying Fish team. Both dishes were paired perfectly with the 2018 Castle Rock Estate Riesling and the 2018 Spinifex Vermentino.

This was followed by a standout marinated yellowfin tuna with enriched rice and mirin dressing, which showcased Robertson’s flair with seafood. It was straight onto the reds with this course, matched to the 2018 Mewstone Pinot Noir and the 2017 Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir.

Ryan took to the stage with Sarris and Perpetual CEO Rob Adams to announce all the finalists for the 2019 Winemaker of the Year Awards. Each finalist was acknowledged with a certificate and a box of Riedel Performance Champagne glasses – ready for those celebratory drinks.

It was a night of Australian pinot noir, with the third course presenting another two stunning wines, the 2018 Chatto Isle Pinot Noir and 2017 Yarra Yering Carrodus Pinot Noir. The pinots were paired with Geray’s Jurassic quail, creamy polenta, exotic mushrooms, confit eschalots and chicken jus.

Rob Adams, whose company has been a long-time supporter of the Winemaker of the Year Awards, returned to the stage alongside Sarris to announce the first winners of the night. Young Winemaker of the Year was awarded to Jonny Hughes of Mewstone and Hughes & Hughes, followed by the Perpetual Viticulturist of the Year awarded to Nick Dry of Yalumba.

The fourth course was another example of Geray’s skill, with a wood-grilled striploin wagyu MBS8+, spring onion puree, pencil leek and sticky shallot sauce. Finalist Emma Norbiato and Perpetual Viticulturist of the Year Nick Dry were celebrated as the dishes were paired with the 2016 Calabria Family Wines Saint Petri Grenache Shiraz Mataro and 2015 Yalumba Tri-Centenary Barossa Grenache.

Sally Evans then took to the stage to oversee the traditional wine options game, invented by her father Len. Everyone’s competitive side came to light as guests got to their feet to guess the mystery wine. The wine was revealed to be a NV Krug Grand Cuvée Edition 166 (ID 317028), with most of the room bowing out when asked the wine’s country of origin.

It was time for the announcement of the Len Evans Award (created in honour of Sally Evans’ late father), which went to Franck Moreau MS. Moreau was acknowledged for his mentorship to sommeliers across the Merivale venues and beyond, and received a Riedel decanter as part of the award.

Finally, the big one. Ryan kept the finalists and guests on the edge of their seats as he introduced the Award – first listing past recipients, including respected winemakers like Peter Gago, Jeffrey Grosset and last year’s winner Janice McDonald of Burch Family Wines. Rob Adams had the job of announcing the winner, with the room breaking into applause when Jim Chatto was revealed as the 2019 Winemaker of the Year. Chatto was acknowledged for his honest style of winemaking alongside his skill, knowledge and leadership in the industry.

But something was missing… Chatto himself. The Tassie winemaker was doing what he does best over in Burgundy – working a vintage. His parents David Chatto and Kaye Wilcox-Chatto accepted the award on his behalf, and were beaming with pride for their son’s recognition.

All the way from a Burgundy vineyard, Jim recorded a message (unaware he had won) which was played to the room.

“I’d like to congratulate all the finalists tonight, each doing fantastic things in Australian wine and worthy winners in their own right,” said Chatto. “None of the winemakers in the room tonight do this for recognition. It’s because they love the industry, the people, and what they do, so to be recognised by your peers is really something very special.”

Guests then settled in for the cheese course of Pyengana cheddar and Dellendale Appenzeller with apple condiment, honeycomb and fruit bread. It was paired with the 2016 Wynns Coonawarra Estate V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz and the 2014 Bekkers Syrah, which was the perfect way to finish a night of exquisite wine and food and a celebration of our Australian winemakers.

On Pour

On Arrival
2008 House of Arras Grand Vintage

First Course
2018 Castle Rock Estate Riesling
2018 Spinifex Vermentino

Charcoal-roasted Rottnest Island scallop, kombu butter, fish fragrance. Sydney rock oyster, caviar, smoked crème fraîche, pickled cucumber.

Second Course
2018 Mewstone Pinot Noir
2017 Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir

Marinated yellowfin tuna, enriched rice, mirin dressing.

Third Course
2018 Chatto Isle Pinot Noir
2017 Yarra Yering Carrodus Pinot Noir

Jurassic quail, creamy polenta, exotic mushrooms, confit eschalots, chicken jus.

Fourth Course
2016 Calabria Family Wines Saint Petri Grenache Shiraz Mataro
2015 Yalumba Tri-Centenary Barossa Grenache

Wood-grilled striploin wagyu MBS8+, spring onion puree, pencil leek, sticky shallot sauce.

2016 Wynns Coonawarra Estate V&A Lane Cabernet Shiraz
2014 Bekkers Syrah

Pyengana cheddar & Dellendale Appenzeller with apple condiment, honeycomb, fruit bread.