2019 Winery of the Year: Seville Estate

James Halliday by James Halliday for Wine Australia

Located in the Upper Yarra in Victoria, Seville Estate is a regional pioneer that has pushed the boundaries of the area with its diverse plantings and succeeded with some outstanding wines.

Seville Estate was established in 1972 by Dr Peter McMahon and wife Margaret. It was the pioneer in planting on the red, volcanic soils of the Upper Yarra, at a time when the climate was wetter and cooler than it is today. It was a courageous decision, amplified by the choice of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and riesling to accompany chardonnay and pinot noir.

The riesling bore mute testimony to the challenges of the vineyard, with some spectacular botrytised wines bearing the sweetness required for trockenbeerenauslese in Germany. The problem was that the botrytis spores rained down on the adjoining block of shiraz and so the riesling had to go. And then there was Peter’s decision to keep the shiraz in the faces of Dr John Middleton (of Mount Mary), who condemned shiraz as ‘a weed’, and of Guill de Pury (of Yeringberg), who in 1991 pulled out his shiraz because he decided ‘no one will buy it’.

With picking then very much a family affair, grandson Dylan McMahon grew up helping with the vintage every year. In 2000 he started working full-time on the estate while remotely undertaking the wine science degree at Charles Sturt University. Between ’02 and ’03 he worked in Europe, returning home in ’04 to become Seville Estate’s winemaker.

Fast-forwarding to today, Seville Estate is very different after several changes in ownership, culminating in the present control of Mr Yiping Wang, a wealthy Chinese businessman with a chain of wine shops in China. He has invested heavily in the enterprise, buying the adjoining vineyard and property (formerly Ainsworth Estate), and establishing luxury accommodation in the original homestead and in three self-contained apartments. Dylan has been encouraged to replant original material (grafted onto rootstock) to preserve the 1972 clones, which Dylan regards as essential for the future of Seville Estate’s distinctive style.

A consistent winner of gold medals and trophies at the Yarra Valley Wine Show and further afield, Seville Estate is a red five-star winery, its name also printed in red. Only Australia’s top 100 wineries (out of 2835) are thus identified. When I was proofreading the pages for the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion, the Seville Estate entry – in particular its tasting notes – hit me in the face. With its absolutely dazzling array of great wines made over the 2015, ’16 and ’17 vintages, I instantly knew that it had to be the Winery of the Year.

For the record, their wines come in four ranges: Sewn – entry point wines made from contract-grown grapes; The Barber – made for early consumption; Estate – wines made using a combination of the old 1972 vines and the younger 1996 vines; and Reserve – wines that speak for themselves, made in tiny quantities, mainly from the 1972 plantings. At the very top is the Dr McMahon label, the best of the best, with typically only one varietal release each vintage.

Purchase award-winning Seville Estate Wine at The Australian Wine.

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