Best New Winery of the Year

James Halliday by James Halliday
This year’s Best New Winery is the start-up of wine industry veteran Glenn James, who has 30 years of experience working for some of the biggest wine businesses in Australia. That experience is in stark contrast to his tiny new Tasmanian label Shy Susan Wines. Glenn’s day job is as chief winemaker for Tasmanian Vintners, which gives him fantastic insight into the fruit and vineyards across the regions of the Apple Isle for his range of wines. Read on to hear what James Halliday has to say about his Best New Winery of the Year.

James Halliday on his Best New Winery of the Year

Tetratheca gunnii, commonly known as Shy Susan, is a critically endangered wildflower found only in a tiny part of Tasmania. Its survival depends entirely on a native bee that alone is capable of the flower’s pollination. Presumably, the extinction of the first will lead the other to the same fate. It all sounds like Sir David Attenborough at work. These tiny machinations of the natural world find a parallel in the tiny production at Shy Susan Wines. Three hundred dozen bottles, each parcel a jewel: Chardonnay ’16 and ’17, Pinot Noir ’17, Riesling ’17 and ’18, and Gewurztraminer ’16, all brilliant. The two chardonnays are sublime, both eliciting 97 points from me, and the ’16 winning Top Gold at the 2018 Tasmanian Wine Show. I cannot remember any prior recipient of this award spinning together such a spectacular list of 5-glass rated wines.

For those ‘in the game’, it may come as no surprise. The owners are Glenn James and Jo Marsh. Glenn is chief winemaker of Winemaking Tasmania (which recently rebranded to Tasmanian Vintners and is by far the largest contract winemaker in the state) and before that was the chief white winemaker for Accolade. Jo was a senior winemaker at Seppelt before starting a consultancy business coupled with her own brand, Billy Button Wines. Billy Button relies on a network of growers across the Alpine Valleys; Campbell Mattinson tasted more than 20 wines for this year’s Wine Companion, giving all 90 to 94 points.

Blockquote Section Icon
I cannot remember any prior recipient of this award spinning together such a spectacular list of 5-glass rated wines.
Making both Billy Button’s and Shy Susan’s wines is akin to painting angels on a pinhead: as technically difficult as they come. The quality of Tasmanian grapes is inherently unbeatable for fresh, crisp, light-bodied wines with distinctive aroma and flavour on the way through to the bottle, so I’d say it doesn’t matter who is in charge of the various key vinification decisions.

The challenge for the future will be overarching demand for Tasmania’s grapes, but Glenn James’ position with Winemaking Tasmania will give Shy Susan a long – not just a head – start in finding small parcels of very high-quality grapes.

Previous Best New Winery recipients were Rob Dolan Wines (2014), Flowstone (2015), Bicknell fc (2016), Bondar Wines (2017), Dappled (2018) and Mewstone Wines (2019).

This extract is from the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion guide, published by Hardie Grant and available at all good bookstores.

Sign up to view these tasting notes and ratings

By becoming a member of Wine Companion, you'll have access to the largest database of wines in Australia.