We present to you the 2024 Shortlist for Winemaker of the Year. Winemaker of the Year is all about ‘best winemaking practice’ but it’s also about significance, and importance, of the stamp the person has or is making on the Australian wine landscape. It is acknowledged that, even in the smallest winery, credit is never due only to one individual, but to a team and in listing each nomination we also recognise and applaud the teams around them. Meet our finalists.
Colin McBryde – Adelina Wines, Clare ValleyWhat Colin McBryde is doing out of Adelina in the Clare Valley is nothing short of mesmerising. He’s brilliantly modern and steadfastly traditional all at once; we’d go so far as to say that he’s a keeper of the Clare Valley faith, in many ways. His rieslings are exquisite; his red wines are alive with character and charm.
wine at Orange for over 20 years and, along the way, has become the deep thinker of the region; the person to whom everyone goes to for advice. It makes celebrating Gerald Naef seem as natural as waking up in the morning.
Jim Chatto – Consultant, VariousEverywhere Jim Chatto goes, ultra-fine wine follows. He’s recently returned as a consultant winemaker to Pepper Tree Wines in the Hunter Valley though of course he’s best known for the superb Tasmanian pinot noir he produces under his own name.
Kate Goodman – Penley Estate, CoonawarraOne of the first things Ang and Bec Tolley – owners of Penley Estate – did when their winemaking brother, Kym, retired was to appoint gun winemaker Kate Goodman to the post. First and foremost, she has elevated the estate’s traditional cabernet sauvignon (and cabernet-based) wines, so that they now stand toe-to-toe with Coonawarra’s best. The energy, excitement and vigour she has built into the Penley range as a complement to its traditional base is, quite simply, a glory to behold.
Mark Messenger – Juniper Estate, Margaret RiverMark Messenger is the kind of quiet achiever that we all should be making a fuss about. Every year, year after year, he creates finely crafted wines out of Juniper Estate in Margaret River, where he’s been winemaker since 1999. The proof of his prowess, in the glass, is stellar.
Michael Downer – Murdoch Hill, Adelaide HillsA little over 17ha of vines have been established on the undulating, gum tree–studded countryside of Charlie and Julie Downer’s 80-year-old Erika property. Michael Downer is their son and winemaker. Michael really knows what he's doing both in the cellar and in the vineyard. He has proven his credentials over and over again but his 2021 releases place him once again in ‘best winemaker in the land’ discussions.
Paul Dahlenburg – Eldorado Road & Baileys of Glenrowan, Beechworth/GlenrowanThe heart of North East Victoria’s winegrowing district resides in this man. He makes wines out of Glenrowan (for both his own label, and at Baileys of Glenrowan), Beechworth and Rutherglen, as well as from various spots in-between, including from his home at Eldorado. He has the deepest of respect for the history of what he does, where it comes from, and for its people. And yet he makes modern wines, rich in flavour, friendly, huggable, bright.
Sam Middleton – Mount Mary, Yarra ValleyIt’s hard to stop raving about Sam Middleton. He stepped into the role of winemaker at Mount Mary on a hiding to nothing, following in the footsteps of the legendary Dr John as he was, and yet he has somehow made the range his own, seamlessly, magically, wonderfully.
*This is an edited extract from the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by James Halliday, Campbell Mattinson, Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, Jeni Port, Mike Bennie, Ned Goodwin MW, Philip Rich and Shanteh Wale. Cover art by Ka Mo.
The winner of each category will be announced at the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion Awards on Wednesday August 2, 2023.
The 2024 Halliday Wine Companion is available from August 3. You can pre-order your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here.
Words by Campbell Mattinson