The 2024 Shortlist

Winemaker of the Year: The Finalists

By Halliday Wine Companion

Meet the 2024 Winemaker of the Year finalists.


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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, in the vineyard

Colin McBryde – Adelina Wines, Clare Valley

What 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.

Gerald Naef, Patina Wines

Gerald Naef – Patina Wines, Orange

This is ‘every egg, a bird’ territory. Gerald Naef has been making 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

Jim Chatto – Consultant, Various

Everywhere 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

Kate Goodman – Penley Estate, Coonawarra

One 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, tasting a glass of red wine

Mark Messenger – Juniper Estate, Margaret River

Mark 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

Michael Downer – Murdoch Hill, Adelaide Hills

A 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 in the vineyard

Paul Dahlenburg – Eldorado Road & Baileys of Glenrowan, Beechworth/Glenrowan

The 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

Sam Middleton – Mount Mary, Yarra Valley

It’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.

Samantha Connew, Stargazer

Samantha Connew – Stargazer, Tasmania

Last year Samantha Connew’s Stargazer was nominated for our Winery of the Year, this year she's nominated for Winemaker of the Year. Connew is clearly doing a lot of things right and consistently so, as most obviously evidenced by her wines.

*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