SEVENTEEN years ago James Evers honed his winemaking skills on his parents’ charming little Camyr Allyn vineyard at East Gresford and this month a wine he made for the McGuigan brand has been judged the 2017 Australian wine of the year and chardonnay of the year.
The honours come from in the annual WineState magazine awards in which an expert panel assessed the top-scoring 400 of the thousands of wines it reviewed last year.
The panel selected the $29-a-bottle McGuigan 2016 The Shortlist Adelaide Hills Chardonnay as wine of the year – only the second time in the award’s history that a chardonnay has won.
The chairman of judges, the WineState editor-publisher Peter Simic, said the wine “offers pristine fruit at full potential . . . producing a many-layered wine that chardonnay can produce at its finest”.
James Evers told me last week that the dual success was “fantastic” and one of the highlights of his 10 years with the McGuigan arm of Australian Vintage Ltd (AVL).
He said The Shortlist chardonnays had been made since 2007 from grapes from the same Adelaide Hills vineyard, previously owned by AVL and now owned by a group of investors.
James was born in Sydney, but four years of his boyhood were in Indonesia, where his industrial chemist father John managed a big international pharmaceuticals factory.
James went to The Armidale School and then to a Sydney University agriculture degree course after his parents returned to Australia and into the cotton industry at Wee Waa. He spent three years at Sydney Uni, but his heart wasn’t in his studies and during holidays he did a vintage at the Jamieson’s Run winery at Coonawarra. He liked it so much he stayed on as a cellar hand, then as a laboratory assistant, then manager and finally as assistant winemaker.
He left Coonawarra in 2001 to help his parents develop their Camyr Allyn boutique brand and worked alongside veteran Hunter winemaker Geoff Broadfield at Glendonbrook winery, East Gresford. From there he was recruited by Neil McGuigan to work at Rothbury Estate winery at Pokolbin. When Neil quit Rothbury to rejoin McGuigans, a move that has seen him rise to his current post as AVL CEO-chief winemaker, he again head-hunted James Agnew in 2006 to fill a major role in Barossa winemaking.
James has taken over as chief winemaker and brand ambassador for the AVL Adelaide Hills Nepenthe operation and finds it exciting, especially because of the area’s emergence as a premium source of German-origin gruner veltliner whites.
A SUPERB CHARDONNAY
THIS superb McGuigan 2016 The Shortlist Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is lime green-tinted straw and has apricot and crushed almond scents and lovely elegant nectarine front-palate flavour. The middle palate brings forth fig, lemon curd, mineral and cashew oak and flinty acid refreshes at the finish. It’s at mcguiganwines.com.au and shops. PRICE: $29. DRINK WITH: crab soufflé. AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 5.5 stars
THIS 14.5% alcohol d’Arenberg 2014 d’Arry’s Original Shiraz-Grenache is bright crimson and has scents of summer berries and big, ripe loganberry front-palate flavour. The middle palate has raspberry, dark chocolate, peppermint and nutty oak and a chalky tannins finish. It’s at The Cube cellar door, darenberg.com.au and bottle shops. PRICE: $18. DRINK WITH: lamb koftas. AGEING: eight years.
RATING: 4 stars
THE Rymill 2016 The Yearling Coonawarra Shiraz is excellent value with its garnet hues, raspberry scents and big blackberry front-palate flavour. Blueberry, chocolate and hazelnutty oak meld on the middle palate and the finish has soft earthy tannins. It’s at rymill.com.au, the Riddoch Highway, Coonawarra, cellar door and in wine stores. PRICE: $15. DRINK WITH: pork chops. AGEING: six years.
RATING: 4 stars