For the first time, judging for this year’s Halliday Wine Companion Awards was conducted as a blind tasting by the full Halliday Tasting Team. The winners were determined through a series of tastings and round-table discussions, meaning each title awarded is the result of a truly collaborative effort. We present the 2023 Winery of the Year Shortlist. Meet our finalists below.
Bannockburn Vineyards, GeelongThe vision that Geelong businessman, Stuart Hooper, had in the early '70s, in planting a vineyard to classic French varieties that would excel has been delivered through a series of strong-minded, creative winemakers. Early Geelong pioneering winemaker, Gary Farr (very much attuned to a Burgundian way of doing things), laid the groundwork and it has been improved upon by subsequent makers, including the thoughtful anarchist, Michael Glover. Since 2015, the steady hand of winemaker Matt Holmes has been on the till. Long-time viticulturist Lucas Grigsby remains as ever a rock, producing organic fruit across 21 hectares of vines. Bannockburn has been celebrated for its Burgundian varieties and the degree of complexity and depth achieved in both chardonnay and pinot noir. With five pinots produced, the producer has style and diversity of the grape well covered. However, this is not to dismiss the quality of its lively, spice-fuelled shiraz, something of an unsung hero – JP.
Giant Steps, Yarra ValleyGiant Steps already has a reputation for producing award-winning, single-vineyard pinot noirs, and it’s fair to say that the single-vineyard chardonnays are now equally compelling. In 2020, the American-based Jackson Family Wines purchased Giant Steps. Steve Flamsteed, who left before the 2022 vintage but still consults to Giant Steps, made a massive contribution to the brand’s well-earned reputation, and with his successor Melanie Chester as chief winemaker, and a new winery that will sit atop the Sexton vineyard, the future could not be more exciting for one of the Yarra and Australia’s most important producers – PR.
Grosset, Clare ValleyGrosset has become synonymous with Polish Hill Riesling, widely regarded as one of Australia’s greatest rieslings. Jeff Grosset steers his ship in a measured and precise way, producing wines of exceptional quality year upon year. The excellence at Grosset is not limited to the rieslings (although it is a significant part of the story), the wines as a whole show their terroir and age-worthiness, and number among Australia’s most collected – EL.
McHenry Hohnen Vintners, Margaret RiverMcHenry Hohnen is tucked away off Bussell Highway to the south of Margaret River. The wines have bound from strength to strength, a comment never truer than under the stewardship of winemaker Jacopo (Japo). Under his leadership, the wines have been catapulted into a new realm of quality. The chardonnays particularly exemplify that hard-to-achieve balance of pleasurable on release, and capable of graceful ageing. The move towards organics and sustainable farming has had a positive impact on the quality of the wines, and it is a delight to witness so much diversity in the vineyards – from experimental clones and new plantings, to sheep, chickens, olives and vegetables. McHenry Hohnen is an estate on the move – divert your eyes at your peril – EL.
Pooley Wines, Tasmania | 2023 Winery of the YearTucked into a bend of the meandering Coal River, there is a deep spirit about the quaint Cooinda Vale vineyard, still the source of Pooley’s finest wines. To winemaker Anna Pooley, sense of place is everything, "for this is where the heart and soul of wine exists." It is the eloquent articulation of the native Tasmanian spirit of the rugged and beautiful landscapes of their Cooinda Vale and Butcher’s Hill vineyards that has elevated Pooley Wines to the pinnacle of Australian pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling. Anna Pooley and her husband Justin Bubb returned to Tasmania to establish the winemaking arm of the family estate in 2012. The ascension of their wines since has been nothing short of breathtaking, with quality rising emphatically with every season, all the while doubling production. Theirs are wines intricately engineered to heighten sense of place. Crafted with intuition and talent, every tool of winemaking is applied purposefully, sensitively and yet courageously, be it barrel fermentation, wild yeast, skin contact, residual sugar, selective malolactic, or whole-bunch fermentation. The results speak for themselves – TS.
Serrat, Yarra ValleySerrat, the love child of Tom and Nadège Carson, submitted a diverse and exciting range of wines to this year’s guide including all six wines they produced. As you’d expect from Tom Carson, whose reputation for chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz viognier is well recognised, these wines have all excelled in the excellent 2021 vintage. More surprising for some, is the sheer quality of the grenache, a variety not usually associated with the Yarra – and the Fourre-Tout, barbera blended with nebbiolo and a little grenache and pinot noir. That they are well priced is a bonus – PR.
Stargazer Wine, TasmaniaIt seems impossible that someone could achieve so much before establishing Stargazer Wine in 2012. New Zealander Sam (Samantha) Connew completed a postgraduate courses in viticulture and winemaking at Lincoln University in Christchurch, followed by vintages in Australia, Italy, Spain and Oregon on the Northern/Southern rollercoaster. She drew breath for 10 years as chief winemaker at Wirra Wirra, followed by several vintage stints in the Hunter Valley, before rising to become Chair of Judges at the Sydney Royal Wine Show. Numerous board, advisory and academic positions followed. In 2012 she finally stepped off the roundabout by acquiring an 11 hectare vineyard (now called Palisander) in Tasmania’s Coal River district. Riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay and an aromatic white blend all put Stargazer in the running for Winery of the Year – JH.
Yangarra Estate Vineyard, McLaren ValeThis address has won plenty before. And it will again. Deservedly so. The quality of wines from the straight varietal expressions to the top of the totem are not merely outstanding in an Australian context, but truly ‘world class’. And I use this term with scant trepidation. Biodynamic accreditation, a nursery system that propagates the right material for the right sites (with an emphasis on Rhône over robotic) and a culture that believes in grenache as the harbinger of a better future, equipped with the sort of viticulture and winemaking prowess that delivers. What else? The Ovitelli white is an additional bow in the quiver worth getting excited about. Very excited! – NG.
*This is an edited extract from the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, James Halliday, Erin Larkin, Ned Goodwin MW, Jeni Port, Philip Rich and chief editor Tyson Stelzer. Cover illustration by David Lancashire.
The winner of each category will be announced at the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion Awards. Save the date to watch the live stream on Wednesday August 3, 2022.
The 2023 Halliday Wine Companion is available from August 4. You can pre-order your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here.