Meet South Australia’s Young Gun Winemakers


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By Kate Foreman

South Australian winemakers have come out on top in this year’s Young Gun of Wine Awards, with six making the top 12 for 2017.

Now in its tenth year, the coveted Young Gun of Wine Awards recognise emerging wine producers, looking for innovation, inspiration and ability to bring new ideas to the table.

With a mixture of traditional, biodynamic, natural and reimagined wines, there will certainly be some tough judging before the winners are announced on June 20.

Here’s a snapshot of each of South Australia’s Young Gun finalists:

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Anna Hooper – Cape Jaffa Wines – Mount Benson/Limestone Coast

Located on the picturesque coastline between Robe and Kingston, Cape Jaffa Wines is a biodynamic vineyard and winery run by a husband and wife team following their passions for unique wines.

Young Gun finalist Anna Hooper isn’t surprised there is a number of South Australian finalists. “That’s what we are known for in SA.”

“I’m very proud and excited to be a finalist, being located on the Cape in a relatively new and emerging region means we are removed from any expectation about varieties or styles,” says Anna.

“So we feel fairly well poised to challenge tradition and that’s what these awards are about.

“For me being a winemaker is more than just about wine, it’s about being involved as an ambassador for a successful Australian wine industry, getting behind the region and having a good moral base from where the brand stems.”

Cape Jaffa Wines is known for producing a diverse portfolio which include single vineyard biodynamic wines as well as a number of innovative blends and wine styles.

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Charlotte Hardy – Charlotte Dalton Wines – Adelaide Hills

Charlotte Dalton Wines are hand crafted and produced in South Australia’s Adelaide Hills region.

It’s all about the love of wine for winemaker Charlotte Hardy, who is “so overwhelmed, excited and proud” to be named as a finalist.

“It means a great deal, it means my wines are liked by some people who have very esteemed palates and who see a lot of wine,” she says.

“It makes me so very proud of my wines, my brand and of myself for following my heart.

“The other finalists are amazing, all 12 finalists produce wines full of soul and love, so to be nominated among such a fabulous group is such a privilege.”

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John Hughes – Rieslingfreak – Clare Valley

Vineyards and winemaking is certainly in the blood for Rieslingfreak winemaker John Hughes, who spent his childhood in the family vineyard Penwortham in the State’s Clare Valley region.

“It is a real honour to be named in the Top 12, a great acknowledgement for the label and what we are trying to achieve through Rieslingfreak,” says John.

“We are producing rieslings, showcasing regions and styles, and this acknowledgement shows me we are definitely heading the right direction.

“Being nominated show’s my dedication and passion for the riesling variety.”

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Michael Downer – Murdoch Hill – Adelaide Hills

Located in the stunning Adelaide Hills, Murdoch Hill has been producing wines for the last 15 years.

Winemaker Michael Downer is the youngest winemaker in the family with plenty of overseas, interstate and local experience with creating fresh wines for any palate.

“The two wines we entered I think really showcase the true potential of the Adelaide Hills region,” says Michael.

“My approach is really to display the regional and sub regional characters by not manipulating the wines too much, I also like to think my wines have a sense of drinkability with freshness and vibrancy that make them accessible to consumers.

“It’s a honour to be recognised in the Top 12 considering the quality of dynamic younger producers emerging in Australia over the last five years.”


Rob Mack – Aphelion Wine Co – McLaren Vale

The fairly new label Aphelion Wine Co was founded in 2014 by husband and wife team Rob Mack and Louise Rhodes.

With plenty of experience in the wine trade the duo turned their passion for producing wines which are perfectly matched to food into a reality.

“It is a huge pat on the back for our hard work and cements legitimacy as first generation winemakers crafting delicious wines that are suited to our climate and designed to match the food we love,” says Rob.

“We own neither vineyards nor winery and have created our own community around Aphelion of growers, wineries, logistics and important input for winemaking, food and beer providers.”

With a vintage trip to Barolo, Italy already on the cards later this year and a new baby in the mix there will be no slowing down for winemaker Rob Mack any time soon.

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Vanessa Altmann – Switch Organic Wine – Langhorne Creek

Switch Organic Wine is an “electric mix of variety and region” showcasing the benefits of certified organic wines.

For winemaker Vanessa Altmann it’s about reflecting on her hopes for the future and how this translates not only in the way she makes wine but in her everyday life.

“It is really exciting to be included amongst some of Australia’s up and coming winemaking leaders,” says Vanessa.

“I’ve always looked at these awards for insight and inspiration, as the awards represent winemakers on the edge of taking things to the next level.

“So much of what I’ve built to this point has come from tasting, watching and learning from those who have gone before me – I’m absolutely thrilled to be included.”

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