Barossa vineyards and their viticulturists have won an outstanding three out of four trophies in the 2021 Young Gun of Wine Vineyard of the Year Awards. The wins for Eden Hall, Henschke and Alkina reinforce Barossa’s position as a leader in Australian sustainable viticulture.

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In their second year, the Vineyard of the Year awards shine a light on Australia’s best vineyards and grape growers, recognising sustainability, innovation and the pursuit of vine health and wine quality.

The online ceremony was hosted by esteemed wine writer Max Allen, revealing Barossa’s winners as:

  • Eden Hall (Dan Falkenberg) Vineyard of the Year
  • Henschke, Hill of Grace (Prue Henschke) Old Vineyard of the Year
  • Alkina (Amelia Nolan and Johnny Schuster) Innovative Vineyard of the Year – The Groundbreaker

Barossa’s  Hayes Family Wines, Kalleske and Smallfry Wines were also recognised in the Top 50 finalists.

“We are delighted to see the extraordinary efforts of Barossa’s viticulturists and the heritage of the region’s vineyards awarded. It is a fitting testament to the quest for mastery and connection to our landscape which underpin Barossa’s grape growing community. I extend my congratulations to Dan, Prue, Amelia, Johnny, their teams and all Barossa finalists,”  said James March, CEO, Barossa Australia (Barossa’s grape, wine and tourism body).

Barossa’s regional focus on sustainability, through projects such as Creating Resilient Landscapes has, in its decade of operation, encouraged regional grape-growers to take a more resilience-focused approach to viticulture. Initiatives including Premium, Profitable and Sustainable Barossa Growers, Restoration of Native Vegetation and Wildlife for Wine have led to a significant increase in regional uptake of regenerative and sustainable farming.

Winner of Vineyard of the Year, Dan Falkenberg, has been working alongside the association as a Barossa Environmental Champion, promoting the results of regional research projects and those in his own vineyards.

Innovation is key, you really have to think outside the square.” said Dan

With the Eden Hall property completely off-grid since 2019, it relies entirely on rainfall for its water, an increasing concern with years of drought. “while we can only focus on our water resources at the micro-catchment level, the resource will continue to diminish in quantity and quality unless landowners work together across the landscape and catchments with a common goal. We need to promote a unified approach, not only within the viticultural communities, but across all communities to recognise the importance of sustainability and to meaningfully participate and contribute.” Dan continued.

Planted in 1912, Henschke’s Hill of Grace vineyard is one of the most iconic Australian wine sites. A 30-year project in clonal selection, combined with biodiversity and native planting programs completely revitalised the vineyard, which had started to suffer from Eutypa in the 1980s.

Viticulturist Prue Henschke, whose background is in botany said “We’re Australian, we’re not European, so we have an Australian landscape to look after. That’s what I wanted to see in the vineyard, not surrounded by roses, but surrounded by our native species.”  Prue’s research on native plantings and biodiversity with Dr Mary Retallack has now been adopted as part of the national EcoVineyards Program.

Winner of The Groundbreaker award for innovation was Alkina Wine Estates, where paying attention to the minute details of their landscape is reaping rewards. Their Polygon Project saw 160 soil pits dug across their small estate, defining terroir-specific micro-parcels, with some bottled as flagship releases and others adding complexity to a blend.

“It’s an honour to be recognised amongst so many great names… Alkina is entirely built around a 60ha farm in Greenock which sits on the traditional lands of the Ngadjuri people, who we acknowledge as the traditional custodians… Everything is about this vineyard, this country, this land and its long history. The vineyard is the star.”  said Managing Director Amelia Nolan.

Young Gun of Wine Founder, Rory Kent implemented the awards in 2020 to place vineyards and growers at the heart of the Australian wine story.

“As winemakers frequently say “great wine is made in the vineyard.” We want to strengthen the connection between the wine in your glass, the place it comes from and the way grapes are grown.” said Rory.

“The process for (judging) was rigorous and strongly debated by all the judges. We were provided with detailed applications, photos as a visual guide and a clear set of criteria on which to rank our top picks which included a demonstrated pursuit of grape and wine quality, and a commitment to improving vineyard health.” commented Dr Mary Retallack.

This year’s panelists included Dr Catherine Kidman, Dianne Davidson AM, Lee Haselgrove, Mark Walpole, Dr Mary Retallack and Max Allen.