Alex Cassegrain wins Winemaker of the Year

Alex Cassegrain, Head Winemaker at Cassegrain Wines in NSW, has named 2021 ASVO Winemaker of the Year.

Alex grew up in the vineyard learning hands-on the time-honoured winemaking practices that have been passed down through the generations. The Cassegrain family began winemaking in France in 1643.

After settling in Australia, they forged the revival of winemaking in the Hastings River region with the planting of the first vineyard near Port Macquarie in 1980. John and Eva Cassegrain opened Cassegrain Wines in 1985.

When damage from bush fires threatened the livelihoods of many growers in 2020, Alex stepped up looking for a solution to salvage smoke affected fruit. This involved working with practitioners and researchers trialling various techniques through bucket ferments to enhance the organoleptic properties of wine. The results have led to Alex being part of a million-dollar grant from the Cooperative Research Centres Projects to implement and manage related longer-term projects, which he hopes will add much to the future understanding of the impact of fires in viticultural regions.

“I strongly believe that this award is one for everyone involved in particular to the growers who went through such an ordeal,” he said. “The idea of leaving grapes on the vine due to something quite unknown wasn’t a solution and that’s where we decided to try anything to see if we could turn a negative into a positive and in some cases we did. I am so proud to be the recipient of this award and it has given me the confidence to always push the boundaries and to continue to be innovative and a big thankyou to the ASVO committee for everything you do for the industry.”

Wynns’ Ben Harris wins Viticulturist of the Year

Ben Harris from Wynns Coonawarra Estate has been awarded 2021 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year at the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) Awards for Excellence.

ASVO National Wine Centre, Hackney, South Australia Photo: John Krüger

Treasury Wine Estates said it was an exciting and very timely nod to Ben, as it was announced today that he has taken over the management of the Wynns Viticulture team. After joining in 2010 as a Vineyard Manager, he steps into the shoes of industry stalwart Allen Jenkins who retired last month after a 20-year tenure. 

Colin Bell, 2021 ASVO Viticulturist of the Year Advisory Committee Chair, said: “Ben Harris is one of the most respected and regarded viticulturists in the industry. He has a massive role but still finds the time to push viticultural excellence, offer his time to industry and, most inspiringly, offer his time to young individuals starting their journey. Technical projects like data-based harvest predictions, virus elimination, and robotics make Ben’s contribution highly relevant and essential to the industry. What really stood out was his commitment, integrity, and contribution outside of his role and his great ASVO values and leadership style.”

“It’s an honour to be awarded the 2021 Viticulturist of the Year,” said Ben. “The ASVO plays an important role within the Australian wine community, promoting the best R&D, innovation and assisting the extension of research into practice. Many exceptional viticulturists have won this award in the past and it’s a career highlight be recognised alongside them.”

The news follows the announcement in September that Ben has been selected to participate as a 2022 Len Evans Tutorial Scholar.

Wynns’ Sue Hodder named Fellow of the ASVO

It’s also the second honour to be bestowed upon Wynns by the ASVO this week.

On Monday, Senior Winemaker Sue Hodder was announced as a Fellow of the ASVO in recognition of her particularly outstanding and meritorious contribution to the grape and wine industry and to the Society.

Brooke Howell, ASVO President and Chair of the Fellow Selection committee, said: “The Fellows advisory committee commented that the selection of Fellows was particularly difficult this year because of the extremely high calibre of candidates within the ASVO membership. The wisdom that Sue encapsulates is extraordinary as is the diversity of her background and experience. She is a quiet achiever, often putting others before her. She is still very active in the industry and for ASVO and has contributed across both winemaking and viticulture.”

Sue, who next year celebrates her 30th vintage at Wynns, said: “I’m humbled to be a Fellow of the ASVO. The current Fellows include some of the most important people in the history of Australian wine who have made immense contributions throughout long careers.”

“I’m also thrilled for Ben, whose success has not come overnight. He has combined practical experience with innovative thinking for several decades and his future success is guaranteed. I look forward to working with Ben on the next chapter of Wynns Coonawarra Estate.”

This is the second time the ASVO has honoured Sue, after she and fellow winemaker Sarah Pigeon were jointly awarded ASVO Winemaker of the Year in 2016 in recognition of two decades of collaborating on “Cabernet Sauvignon for the Future”. Sue was also appointed Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year in 2010.

2021 ASVO Winemaker of the Year

The full list of ASVO Award categories and winners are as follows:

ASVO Viticulturist of the yearBen Harris, Wynns Coonawarra Estate
ASVO Winemaker of the YearAlex Cassegrain, Cassegrain Wines
ASVO Viticulture Paper of the YearDr Marcos Bonada, PIRSA-SARDI
ASVO Oenology Paper of the YearDr Martin Moran, Mordrelle Wines
ASVO Dr Peter May Award Dr Meg Whitener, Bell’s Brewery, Michigan

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