The Halliday Wine Companion Awards

Viticulturist of the Year

By The Tasting Team

2023 Viticulturist of the Year

Tom Carson, SerratYarra Valley, Victoria

We were greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm with which our introduction of Viticulturist of the Year was received last year, and we are delighted to continue to highlight the unsung heroes of Australian wine. The Viticulturist of the Year category celebrates the individuals whose wines in this year’s Companion most fully exemplify best practice in the vineyard.

The final decision was multifaceted, taking into account all of the wines submitted for this edition, considering the full history of wines submitted in the past, and our personal knowledge of each of the individuals and their viticultural initiatives. It is indicative of the calibre of our winner that he was the only nominee this year to be shortlisted as a finalist not only for Winemaker of the Year and Viticulturist of the Year but also Winery of the Year.

Tom and Nadege Carson
Tom and Nadège Carson of Serrat.
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Inspired by the great vineyards of Europe, vines were planted at a density of 8800 vines/ha, more than four times the Australian average, yielding just one bottle per vine...They planted varieties for which the Valley is noted, but also took a punt on what might work well for the future.

In 2001, Tom and Nadège Carson planted 1ha of pinot noir, chardonnay, viognier and a handful of grenache vines on the Yarra Valley floor, three kilometres from Yarra Glen. Tom describes the site as ideal, 'in the central part of the valley and a lovely little amphitheatre of north- and east-facing slopes.' Inspired by the great vineyards of Europe, vines were planted at a density of 8800 vines/ha, more than four times the Australian average, yielding just one bottle per vine.

Today they have 3.6ha planted, with 1.2ha of pinot noir, 0.85ha of shiraz, 0.6ha of chardonnay, 0.4ha of grenache, 0.28ha of nebbiolo and 0.3ha in total of barbera, grenache blanc and malbec. They planted varieties for which the Valley is noted, but also took a punt on what might work well for the future. The decision to plant grenache, based partly on Nadège’s family’s long history with the variety in Banyuls and the warm site’s suitability for the variety, has been fortuitous. The 2021 is a superb wine, that while more elegant and different in style to McLaren Vale, is equally good. – Philip Rich

Tom and Trixie in the buggieFor Tom, the job of viticulturist and winemaker aren’t that separate: "viticulture is everything."

For Tom, “viticulture is everything” when it comes to making great wine. “We believe that less crop per vine produces better balanced, more intense and higher quality fruit and therefore higher quality wine,” he says. By close planting, Tom, his wife Nadège, and fellow vigneron Kate Thurgood ensure they’re still using the land productively.

“At Serrat, we do everything we can to produce the best possible fruit, grab it at the right moment and then do our best in the winery to make it all come together. We’re always here doing it. Everything. It’s day to day, every day.”

Tyson Stelzer on the 2023 Viticulturist of the Year

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The previous Viticulturist of the Year recipient was Vanya Cullen (2022).

The 2023 Halliday Wine Companion is available now. Secure your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here – and at all good bookstores.

*This is an edited extract from the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, Ned Goodwin MW, James Halliday, Erin Larkin, Jeni Port, Philip Rich and chief editor Tyson Stelzer.