YOUNG TALENT: Briar Ridge’s new winemaker, Gwyneth Olsen, starts next month.GWYNETH Olsen, who has proved herself a rising star of Australian and New Zealand wine, has been appointed winemaker at Mount View’s Briar Ridge vineyard and winery.
Briar Ridge is one of the Hunter’s trail-blazing boutique ventures.
It was established by Murray Robson in 1972 as the Squire vineyard, then became the Robson vineyard and in 1989 was renamed Briar Ridge after it was purchased by millionaire geologist and oil exploration company director Dr John Davis.
Gwyn’s Briar Ridge appointment is the latest in a spell of musical chairs within John Davis’s wine empire, which includes the Hunter’s Pepper Tree, Briar Ridge and Tallavera Grove operations and vineyards in Wrattonbully, Orange and Coonawarra.
Gwyn, 30, will move next month to Briar Ridge from her current job as a senior winemaker with McWilliam’s.
Last May ace winemaker and wine judge Jim Chatto ended his seven-year stay as Pepper Tree chief winemaker to accept the post of McWilliam’s chief winemaker in charge of the family-owned company’s Australia-wide portfolio, including the iconic Hunter Mount Pleasant brand.
Jim has been succeeded at Pepper Tree by 32-year-old Scott Comyns, who produced some great wines for the Tempus Two arm of Australian Vintage Ltd and was a finalist in The Wine Society’s 2010 Young Winemaker of the Year Award before taking over as Briar Ridge winemaker last year.
With Scott’s promotion to Pepper Tree chief winemaker, the vacancy created at Briar Ridge will be filled next month by Gwyn, who established her credentials as a top show judge of the future by winning one of Australia’s toughest wine tests conducted by the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) and the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show.
Gwyn lives with her husband at Bellbird and last month was declared dux of the elite AWRI Advanced Wine Assessment Course, in which 30 participants had to evaluate a diverse range of more than 320 wines under simulated wine show conditions.
Her Maitland-born husband Kurt is match-day trainer for National Rugby League referees.
Raised in Cairns, Gwyn went to New Zealand in 2001 to do a bachelor of science degree at Otago University and then moved to Adelaide to do a Roseworthy oenology degree course.
After gaining her degree in 2005, she worked on her first post-graduation vintage at Domaine Preignes Le Vieux, in France’s Languedoc region.
This was followed by a six-year stint as assistant winemaker at Villa Maria winery in New Zealand.
Then she moved back across the ditch to join McWilliam’s, where she rose through the ranks to take responsibility for the family-owned company’s Mount Pleasant, lower-alcohol and New Zealand Essenze ranges.
She has worked on four Hunter vintages at Mount Pleasant and has earned praise for her 2011 Mothervine Pinot Noir, 2011 Mount Henry Shiraz-Pinot Noir and 2011 Leontine Chardonnay, named for Maurice O’Shea’s mother, French-born Leontine O’Shea.
Gwyn said she was thrilled to join such an iconic Hunter Valley producer as Briar Ridge.
Briar Ridge director Steve Davis said Gwyn’s appointment would not only be an important asset to Briar Ridge but to the young talent pool of the Hunter Valley winemaking.
Learn about your organic drop
WINES from many of Australia’s best organic and biodynamic producers are being featured in a What’s in your Glass wine fair in Newcastle on Sunday, July 28.
The event will begin with a tasting at the Reserve Wine Bar of wines from more than 20 producers such as Cullen, Castagna, Battle of Bosworth and Rippon.
Other wines will come from the Hunter-based Harkham, Macquariedale, Krinklewood and Tamburlaine brands and from New Zealand and European makers.
The tasting will run from 1pm to 4pm and will be followed by a four-course dinner at 6pm at Bacchus Restaurant, in King Street, Newcastle.
Dinner wines will be matched to a menu created by award-winning chef Tim Montgomery.
The cost of the tasting is $30 per person and the Bacchus dinner is $120 a head.
The cost to attend both events is $135.
Tickets can be bought at hunterwhatsinyourglass.wordpress上海夜生活m/.
Awards for small producers
ENTRIES have opened for the 2013 NSW Small Winemakers’ Show at Forbes from August 26 to 28.
The show, which is in its 22nd year, is open to all NSW and ACT wine producers that crush a maximum of 500 tonnes annually.
It is not open to any winery that is wholly owned or part owned by a large producer.
Entries close on Monday, July 22, and judging begins on August 26 at the Forbes Youth and Community Centre in Battye Street, Forbes.
The judging panel will be chaired by Hunter winemaker Andrew Thomas. Other panel members are: Mike De Iuliis, of De Iuliis Wines; Southern Highlands freelance wine writer and consultant Deb Pearce; Bryan Martin, of Ravensworth Wines, Canberra; Jeff Byrne, of Audrey Wilkinson Wines; Tom Ward, of Swinging Bridge Wines, Cowra; and Jacob Stein, of Stein Wines, Mudgee.
Last year’s show attracted 573 entries from 98 small producers across NSW.
Andrew Thomas said the show gave small producers an excellent opportunity to benchmark their wines against those of other makers.
“The judging is as strict as any other show, so winning a gold medal at the NSW Small Winemakers’ Show will place a wine up there with the very best in the country,” he said.
An exhibitors’ tasting will be held on Friday, August 30, between 4.30pm and 8.30pm at the Forbes Youth and Community Centre.
The tasting will be open to the public from 6.30pm. More information is available at nswwineshow上海夜生活m.au, by emailing [email protected]上海夜生活m.au or by contacting the wine show secretary on 0455 154 434.
Learn to appreciate wine
LEADING winemaker David Lowe this month will launch a series of wine appreciation sessions at his winery in Tinja Lane, Mudgee.
Under the Lowe Wine School banner, the events aim to provide an entertaining, no-nonsense, hands-on approach to learning the basics of making and tasting wine.
The school’s in on Friday, July 19, Friday, August 16, and on each Wednesday of September. The sessions last from 5.30pm to 7pm and the cost is $45 per person.
Bookings are essential and can be made by visiting lowewine上海夜生活m.au/events, emailing [email protected]上海夜生活m.au or by phoning 02 6372 0800.
David Lowe said while the wine schools were a bit of fun, they were a response to a real hunger for knowledge about the Mudgee region and about wine in general.
“We don’t like to take ourselves too seriously,” he said, “but we are serious about increasing the awareness and knowledge of Australian, NSW, Mudgee and Lowe wines.
“We start with a few white wines and work through grape growing, winemaking techniques, how to taste, and what to look for in various varieties. We then move to some of the local red varieties, and of course our zinfandel.”