GWYNETH Olsen, the 31-year-old general manager-chief winemaker of the Hunter’s Briar Ridge Wines, has been crowned Australia’s 2014 Young Winemaker of the Year.
The annual award, the Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine Young Winemaker Medal, is given to a young winemaker for “raw talent, ascension in the wine community, commitment and interest in broader pursuits and for producing exceptional wines”.
The medal was presented to Ms Olsen on Thursday night at a gala dinner at Sydney’s Star casino.
Gourmet Traveller WINE’s judge, Mike Bennie, said Ms Olsen was a winemaker “at the top of her game” and was a standout among the contenders for the young winemaker award.
Ms Olsen said yesterday the award had left her speechless.
“With so many young winemakers doing interesting things and making their mark on the industry, I feel humbled and privileged to get this award,” she said.
Ms Olsen, who won plaudits for the wines she produced as a senior winemaker with McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant winery, joined Mount View’s Briar Ridge vineyard and winery operation last year.
In June last year she was declared dux of the elite Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) Advanced Wine Assessment Course, one of Australia’s toughest wine tests conducted by the AWRI and the Royal Queensland Food and Wine Show.
She is a judge at six Australian wine shows, including the Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane national wine shows.
Raised in Cairns, she went to New Zealand in 2001 to do a bachelor of science degree at Otago University and then moved to Adelaide to gain 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. She then moved back to Australia to join the McWilliam’s family company and then the Briar Ridge arm of Dr John Davis’s Hunter-based wine group.
At this year’s Hunter Valley Wine Show Miss Olsen’s $35 Briar Ridge Vineyard 2014 Dairy Hill Single Vineyard Semillon won the Marshall-Flannery Trophy for best current-vintage semillon and this month it claimed the 2014 Hunter Valley Small Winemakers’ Show trophy for the best current vintage semillon white.