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Grenache and Riesling regions shine in respected Australian wine awards

Food & Wine

A Grenache from McLaren Vale and a Riesling producer from the Clare Valley have taken out two of Australia’s most prestigious wine awards.

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Presented last night by leading Australian wine critic James Halliday, Yangarra Estate’s 2016 High Sands Grenache was named the 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Wine of the Year.

Clare Valley winery Jim Barry was bestowed the title of 2020 Halliday Wine Companion Winery of the Year, ahead of more than 1200 wineries from around Australia.

The awards cements McLaren Vale’s reputation as Australia’s leading Grenache region and Clare Valley as the nation’s pre-eminent Riesling producer.

Both regions are in the state of South Australia, which produces about 80 per cent of Australia’s premium wine.

No stranger to prestigious wine accolades, Yangarra Estate winemaker Peter Fraser has always sung the praises of McLaren Vale’s most notable varietal.

In 2016, Halliday named Fraser his Winemaker of the Year and last year, the 2015 High Sands Grenache was awarded Halliday’s top wine in the “Other Red” category.

Additionally, Fraser was a finalist for Gourmet Traveller Wine’s 2017 Winemaker of the Year and was the only Australian winemaker nominated for Winemaker of the Year in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s annual Wine Star Awards in 2018.

“Since my first vintage at Yangarra, the Grenache from this block has always shown remarkable character,” Fraser said.

“We released the first vintage of High Sands in 2005 and I’ve always felt it was an exceptional wine.

“Grenache is grabbing the attention of the wine community for its ability to show a true sense of place and its subtleties in the winemaking.”

McLaren Vale is about 40km south of the South Australian capital Adelaide and is also home to one of Australia’s most famous international wine brands Hardys.

Yangarra Estate winemaker Peter Fraser.

The region has a history of producing Grenache that dates back to the 1800s.

The Clare Valley is about 140km north of Adelaide and is as well known for its Riesling as McLaren Vale is for its Grenache.

Halliday referenced Jim Barry’s unprecedented dominance at the most recent Clare Valley Wine Show where its Rieslings were awarded as a strong pointer for its latest accolade.

“They are really, really good communicators and they focus on what the Clare Valley does best – Riesling,” Halliday said of Jim Barry.

Established by patriarch Jim Barry in 1959, the Clare Valley winery has become synonymous with crafting quality Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon while also pioneering the variety Assyrtiko outside of Greece.

Second-generation winemaker Peter Barry oversees day-to-day operations alongside sons Sam and Tom.

He said the award was recognition of his father and family’s hard work.

“He was my hero and mentor, and he would be so proud of what we’ve achieved,” Peter Barry said.

“The entire industry watches in anticipation for the announcement of these awards. James Halliday is the king of the Australian wine industry, and I feel that we have just received a knighthood.

“The Halliday award is a tremendous accolade representing our commitment to owning our own vineyards, wine quality, and the Clare Valley. This win is the realisation of the dreams we have and what dad set out to achieve from the beginning.”

Jim Barry was the first qualified winemaker to work in the Clare Valley, graduating from Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1947 as just the 17th oenologist from the newly established course. The world-renowned course, now run by the University of Adelaide, has trained the majority of Australia’s leading winemakers.

The accolade comes as Jim Barry winery is preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary this month, which will see the release of a commemorative book detailing the family’s six decades of winemaking.

Winemaker of the Year was won by Vanya Cullen, of Cullen Wines in Margaret River, Western Australia.

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