Gourmet Traveller Wine Awards
Gourmet Traveller WINE, Australia’s leading independent drinks journal, boasts an unmatched team of local and international wine experts dedicated to keeping you informed on the ever-evolving world of wine.
Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year, is now in its 22nd year and continues to shine a light on those responsible for creating Australia’s finest wines. The vastly experienced judging panel chaired by Peter Forrestal includes Peter Bourne, Nick Bulleid MW, Huon Hooke, Andrew Caillard MW, Mike Bennie and Toni Paterson MW.
We congratulate Jim Chatto who received Winemaker of the Year for 2019. Stu and Jim have been liaising throughout the course of this year and we are hoping to be bringing Jim’s superb Tassie wines to the UK later next year.
This year Tasmania has scored a double win, with the award for Young Winemaker of the Year going to Jonny Hughes of Mewstone and Hughes & Hughes for his clear focus and assured direction. This week, we showed Jonny’s H&H Barrel and Skins Sauvignon Blanc at Tuesday’s Australian Redefined tasting in London. It wowed the press, travelling winemakers and many customers for its complexity and wonderful mouth feeling weight. For us, this is our No:1 new world sauvignon blanc.
Judge, Peter Bourne wrote “Innovative and adventurous winemaker Jonny Hughes is making his mark on the Tasmanian wine industry and is the obvious choice for our Young Winemaker of the Year. Travelling from the North West to the South East of Tasmania may be a relatively short distance but it’s been a big step for Jonathan Hughes. Jonny (as he’s universally known) is a native Taswegian who grew up in the bleakly bucolic North West and dutifully studied economics before throwing financial caution to the wind to roam the vinous globe.
In 2011, Hughes put down roots on the banks of the achingly beautiful D’Entrecasteaux Channel, which runs between mainland Tasmania and Bruny Island. And not just a few roots, but lots of vines he planted with his (financially savvy) brother, Matthew. Their 3.5 hectare Mewstone vineyard has the charming address of 11 Flowerpot Jetty Road, Flowerpot, Tasmania and is the source of the Mewstone branded wines.
To keep the ‘wolf from the (fiscal) door’ the brothers also make wine under the Hughes & Hughes label. Well, it’s actually just Jonny Hughes who physically tends the vines, makes the wines and is the front man for the operation and hence the recipient of the 2019 GT WINE Young Winemaker of the Year. Hughes believes the collaborative nature of the new wave of Tassie winemakers has been a huge help to his endeavours.
Hughes’ journey into winemaking began in 2002 at Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand with a compressed viticulture and oenology course before vintage at Bleasdale in
Langhorne Creek and vineyard work at Felton Road in Central Otago.
Hughes hopped back across the Tasman Sea for the 2003 vintage in Mornington Peninsula with Stonier Wines.
As he further progressed, it was the opportunity to work with Alessandro Ceretto in Piedmont that really kindled Hughes’ enthusiasm and drive for making wines that reflect their site, and not the hand of a winemaker. Ceretto encouraged Hughes to take a philosophical approach to winemaking by thinking outside the square. Hughes loved the texture and savoury complexity of the nebbiolo fruit he handled at Ceretto’s three sites. Ceretto clearly made a big impression on the direction of his own winemaking.
Vintages in the Hunter Valley and Canada’s Okanagan Valley helped build Hughes’ experience before returning to Tasmania for a seven-year stint with Conor van der Reest at Moorilla Estate. Again, Hughes attributes much to van der Reest’s ability to handle small parcels of fruit in an individual way.
Whilst at his time at Moorilla, he and his brother purchased an old cherry orchard with spectacular views over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the rest has been a lot of hard work, grit and determination. Hughes believes the collaborative nature of the new wave of Tasmanian winemakers has been a huge help. His move to the Pooley winery in 2016 to both make his own wines and to work with Anna Pooley and Justin Bubb is an example of this tight-knit alliance. Bubb’s experience in Italy opened common ground with Hughes.
Hughes also acknowledges the pioneering role of Andrew Hood in Tasmania’s wine industry, a mark of how Hughes sees the past as a catalyst for the future. And the future is bright for this young winemaker with the plans for an on-site winery well under way, in time for vintage 2021. Meantime, the minuscule Mewstone vineyard is growing with the core of pinot noir augmented with chardonnay, syrah, riesling and sauvignon blanc. The estate-grown Mewstone wines sit comfortably alongside the Hughes & Hughes label, which utilises grapes from nearby growers.
Included in the Hughes & Hughes range is a pair of wines that step well outside the square. Soirée is a pétillant naturel made from pinot noir, merlot, pinot gris and riesling – its blushing pink colour and tangerine and Campari-like flavours are definitely far away from the mainstream. So too is Solstice, a novello-style red made from dornfelder, pinot noir, merlot and sauvignon blanc – a fresh chillable red with acid-etched flavours and a mild-mannered tannin profile.
Hughes is a young man on the rise with a clear focus and assured direction. The fact that he has a business-brained brother to guide the vineyard and winemaking enterprise augurs well for the future of the duo – and for Tasmanian wine.
Mewstone 'Hughes & Hughes' Pinot Noir 2018
Mike Bennie, Wine Front - "Has an amazing, fruity aroma, full of detail, cherry and maraschino, sweet spice, raspberry liquorice, some jubey notes. Screams great drinking. Juicy and bright in the palate, more of the sweetish cherry fruit to taste but crisp acidity and a feathery web of tannins works well. Flavoursome yet fresh, leaner style but high drinkability. Yes thanks."
£22.95 per bottle
or £202.70 per case of 12 In Bond
Mewstone 'Hughes & Hughes' Sauvignon Blanc
Barrel & Skins 2018
Fruit from a single vineyard in the Coal River Valley, 60% barrel fermented after a 4 hour skin soak, 40% skin fermented for two weeks and pressed to oak, all natural yeast, partial malolactic ferment while maturing on lees. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
£22.95 per bottle
or £202.70 per case of 12 In Bond
Mewstone 'Hughes & Hughes' Pinot Noir
15% Whole Bunch 2018
Sourced from a single vineyard in the Derwent Valley, one puncheon from MV6, two puncheons from the mixed clone ‘home’ block, naturally fermented with 15% whole bunches in barrels, no plunging or pump overs, pressed to and matured in oak, 33% new, for 7 months. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 1848 bottles produced.
£26.95 per bottle
or £242.70 per case of 12 In Bond
Mewstone 'Hughes & Hughes' Riesling 2018
Fruit sourced from vineyards in the Derwent and Coal River Valley, picked at approximately 12 baume, destemmed, crushed and soaked on skins for 4 and 16 hours respectively, slowly fermented in stainless with GHM yeast, stopped when sugars and acids found balance and matured on lees. Bottled unfined and filtered.
£19.95 per bottle
or £172.70 per case of 12 In Bond
Flagship Mewstone 3-pack
1 x Mewstone Chardonnay
1 x Mewstone Pinot Noir
1 x Mewstone Riesling
£112.85 per 3 pack
18 packs available
2018 Mewstone Chardonnay: "Grapefruit and white floral aromas are supported by hints of stone fruit, citrus and cedar. Underlying reduction adds a savoury dimension. The palate walks the line between rich and refined, generous but taut. Our earliest pick to date, vintage began on 23rd March in our Chardonnay block. Whole bunch pressed directly to barrel and naturally fermented followed by full malolactic fermentation. Aged in oak, 40% new, for nine months and bottled in late summer. Only 792 bottles and 24 magnums produced." - Winemaker
2018 Mewstone Pinot Noir: "Blue fruits and earthy aromas are complemented by great tannin structure. Red fruits and subtle reductive notes make for a wine with poise, complexity and structure that will continue to develop with time. The two pinot blocks were picked individually on March 23rd and April 2nd. The top block was then naturally fermented with 40% whole bunch, the bottom block with 20% in our old milk vats. These were pressed after 20 days on skins to oak, 40% new, and matured while undergoing malolactic fermentation. They were racked and sulphured prior to bottling in late summer. Only 3036 bottles and 72 magnums produced."- Winemaker
2018 Mewstone Riesling: "White blossoms and ripe citrus make for a seductive nose, the cool site is reflected in the great acidity on display. A medium dry style, the sweetness balances the racy acidity and refreshing bitter twist. A rich mouth filling style perfectly suited as an aperitif. Picked on April 8th, the fruit was destemmed, crushed and left to soak for 24 hours. Pressed to old oak and naturally fermented. As the cellar cooled in late autumn so too did the ferment. Fermentation extended out beyond six weeks before we called a halt as the sugars and acidity found their balance. Matured on lees through to late spring before filtering and bottling. Only 1128 bottles and 60 magnums produced."- Winemaker
Sadly, Gilli & Paul from the amazing Sailor Seeks Horse missed out on an award, but should be incredibly proud to be finalists…
Huon Hooke wrote “Their beginning is a story that will echo into generations, their light-touch winemaking unrivalled. The Lipscombes“ let the vineyard do the talking” and their wines speak volumes. Gilli and Paul Lipscombe’s route into the wine industry was anything but typical. He was raised in Essex and has a degree in history; she was a Brisbane girl. They met in 2004, did a vintage together in the Languedoc in ’05, and moved to Australia in ’06. Their first experiences here were in Margaret River where Gilli worked at Xanadu and Paul at Devil’s Lair. She completed a degree in oenology and viticulture at Curtin University in Margaret River, while he did a post-graduate diploma. Vintages in New Zealand and Oregon followed, and they decided to ‘bite the bullet’ and move to Tasmania, in 2010 buying the derelict Huon Valley vineyard that became Sailor Seeks Horse. It had been planted in 2005 and ‘let go’ almost immediately, says Paul.
He writes on the website: “Half the vines were dead, blackberry above our heads, and about 100 trees littered the vineyard. Not so perfect. But it wouldn’t be satisfying if it wasn’t challenging.” They pulled out the dead vines and revived the others, naming the 6.5 hectare vineyard after seeing an handwritten sign on the wall in a Cygnet cafe. It was headed ‘Sailor Seeks Horse.’ An American adventurer wanted to borrow a horse to travel across Tasmania. They saw it as a metaphor for their own adventure.
An important step in the journey was a long and fruitful relationship with the Bennett family, owners of Home Hill vineyard, also in the Huon Valley. Gilli and Paul have been the winemakers for the past nine vintages. They helped harvest a massive haul of wine-show trophies and other accolades for their sumptuous pinots. They’ve been able to make their own pinot noir and chardonnay at Home Hill, but this year they’ll open a winery and cellar door in Cygnet – part of a complex which includes a restaurant, slated for a September opening.
“Having polished the vinous gems at Home Hill, Gilli and Paul Lipscombe are seeking their next adventure with a firm commitment to the Huon Valley. Watch this space, the horses have bolted.” Peter Bourne
While the Home Hill pinots are deeply coloured and lush, the Sailor Seeks Horse style is lighter coloured, more delicate and restrained. An ethereal style rather than fruit forward. “Elegant, complex and fine,” says Paul.
And, in reference to the dark-coloured pinots fashionable in Central Otago: “It’s easy enough to get deep colour: just use enzymes. But that’s not for us.” He and Gilli want a more natural style that faithfully expresses the vineyard site. They use new oak sparingly for the same reason: just 10-15%, and a variety of barrel sizes – puncheons, hogsheads and barriques. “We also have 12 months in barrel instead of the eight months that most people do. We want the complexity that comes from evolution in barrel.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with the Home Hill style and, indeed, this nomination is chiefly in recognition of the Lipscombes’ stunning work at Home Hill, where their synergy with vineyard manager Terry Bennett has borne outstanding rewards for all concerned.
The irony of this nomination is that, like Jim Chatto, Sailor Seeks Horse had to scrap the entire 2019 production from its vineyard because of smoke taint. Again like Chatto, the Lipscombes have been fortunate to buy top-quality grapes from other Tasmanian vineyards. They plan to bottle the wines under a less expensive secondary label.
At least they will have some income from the 2019 vintage. “We’ll be a bit tight for cash for the next few years,” Paul admits.
He is bullish about the future for southern Tasmania. “If global warming continues, at least we’ll be moving in the right direction. It’s one of the reasons we came down here.” With 6.5 hectares under vine and another 1.5 hectares planted this year, to several clones of pinot noir, plus chardonnay and trousseau, the future looks promising – bush fires permitting."
Sailor Seeks Horse Chardonnay 2017
98-99 points Stuart McCloskey "Marine, saline, oyster shell with touches of green apple, orchard flowers and a lovely streak of minerality on the nose. The palate is medium-bodied, bright, alive with a slight chalkiness. There’s a lovely fabric to this wine. Tightly knit with subtle fruits interwoven with a tension which I find difficult to express in words. More a sense of completeness. The simplicity is quite breathtaking and rare to find these days. Tensile, reserved and unapologetically a personal expression of Paul & Gilli who are obsessed with producing wines which they love, rather than following fashions. I believe this to be one of those wines which will create much argument. Those edging toward flamboyance may show disdain, whereas those wishing to seek out ethereal balance and gracefulness will be swooning. I would argue this must be one of the greatest exponents of Australian Chardonnay I have come across and cannot wait to see how this individualist wine unfolds over the coming years. Regardless of which camp you stand in – May I suggest you, at the very least, try a Tassie Chardonnay which flirts with perfection (if only once). Decanted for 20-30 minutes and served using Zalto Bordeaux glassware (as essential as the wine!)"
£44.50 per bottle
Sailor Seeks Horse Pinot Noir 2017
98+ Points Stuart McCloskey "The aromas waft from the glass with consummate ease… Touches of smoked, grilled meat, redcurrant, liquorice, dried orange rind, blood orange, spice (black pepper & cinnamon) and rose hip. Very Burgundian. The palate is medium bodied with tannins as long and fine as one could imagine. As with their Chardonnay – This wine shows an amazing level of control. Not a millimetre is out of place. The fruit conveys a cool-climate, saline elegance which is far from sparing. Unfurling, charming, precise and certainly built for the cellar (5-10 years). There are two Aussie Pinot Noirs which I go to and this is one… Such is the brilliance, Paul & Gilli should pay Burgundy a tutelage visit. For now, I award 98+ points but I believe this will increase over the coming years. This is a fantastic Pinot Noir and a benchmark against which other Aussie wines should be measured. Decant for one hour and serve using Zalto Burgundy glassware"
£44.50 per bottle