Former artist wins Young Gun of Wine Award

June 9, 2022
By Ioni Doherty

A former artist who became a winemaker via a curious encounter, Ryan Ponsford of Gippsland’s Entropy Wines has been awarded the 2022 Young Gun of Wine Award at the 16th annual awards presentation hosted in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

Mr Ponsford makes syrah, pinot noir, semillon and sauvignon blanc in Gippsland’s Baw Baw Shire. He focuses on organic growing and minimum intervention and his education in winemaking is with great thanks to Bill Downie.

A practising artist at the time, Mr Ponsford was dining in Melbourne’s Tonka when he tried one of Mr Downie’s pinot noirs.

He says, “The Sommelier explained that Bill was interested in making an expression of the Australian landscape through wine, which mirrored what I was doing in photography, so I emailed Bill and went out to his farm to meet him. I started working with him the next vintage.”

In 2018, Downie gave him some grapes to play with. That fruit made up the first Entropy Wine, released in 2019.

“I never planned on starting my own wine label,” says Mr Ponsford. “It just kind of happened. I came to Gippsland based on the idea that one could make an expression of the landscape through wine. I came to help see that idea manifest. When Bill gifted me a tonne of pinot noir one year, it gave me no choice but to start a wine label.”

Ponsford is also in the process of resurrecting a derelict vineyard, which will form the future core of the Entropy wines.

“I make wine in a way that would probably be considered quite traditional. Old barrels, wild ferments, simple winemaking. I don’t make any orange wine or pét-nats or anything trendy like that. I generally try to avoid making anything that’s fashionable because these things come and go. I just want to make well-farmed wines that speak of the incredible place we live,” he said.

The Young Gun of Wine awards connect emerging winemaking talent with wine drinkers, and support the innovative, creative talent of the next generation of Australian winemakers.

Five trophies were given out on the evening in addition to the 2022 Young Gun of Wine:

2022 Young Gun of Wine: Ryan Ponsford, Entropy Wines
The Vigneron: Marco Lubiana

“Provenance and how wine is grown is where it all begins,” said Young Gun founder Rory Kent. “As winemakers frequently say, ‘Great wine is made in the vineyard.’”

Marco Lubiana is a fifth-generation vigneron, working on his family property, Stefano Lubiana, in the Derwent Valley. The Lubianas also farm one of Tasmania’s oldest vineyards in the Huon Valley (it is the Huon’s oldest vineyard): Lucille Vineyard. Both sites are certified biodynamic, with only one other Tasmanian vineyard having just received biodynamic certification in 2022.

“I spend ten months of the year in the vineyard, and the remaining two months in the winery. The reason being, 90 per cent of the quality of wine comes from the vineyard,” says Mr Lubiana.

Judges say that his wines are “composed and expressive of place, mature expressions from a youthful maker that reflect his gentle hand in the winery and tireless year-round work amongst the vines”.

Pure poetry.

Winemaker’s Choice: Peta Kotz, Sabi Wabi

Peta Kotz’s Sabi Wabi is her homage to reworking the traditions of the Hunter, of searching for “beauty amongst imperfection”.

Semillon is the foundation of the brand she founded in 2019 while working for biodynamic Hunter winery Krinklewood, and she steadfastly says it will remain that way.

“I am Hunter Valley born and bred, and I am proud to be surrounded by such rich history and tradition of wine in the Valley, but there is a new wave of like-minded people here doing different things, and I am stoked to be a part of it,” she says.

People’s Choice: Rowly Milhinch, Scion

Some 20 years ago, Rowly Milhinch left a career in visual communication to set up a vineyard and a family life in Rutherglen. It’s territory that his family have lived in for generations.

Under his Scion label, Mr Milhinch makes fortifieds, a staple of Rutherglen, but with a contemporary slant, including a Muscat Nouveau, making dry red from syrah, grenache and durif, with the later also getting the light red treatment, built to chill.

“To take out the People’s Choice in the 2022 YGOW Awards is really special. A huge thanks to the people who’ve nominated me for this award. This is just amazing,” said Milhinch.

Danger Zone: 2021 Patrick of Coonawarra ‘Méthode Eucalypt’ Cabernet Sauvignon

Eucalypt character is a controversial one in Australian wine but Patrick of Coonawarra’s Luke Tocaciu has celebrated this character with his Méthode Eucalypt.

“At first I wasn’t sure how it would be received as it’s always a hot topic of discussion at tastings. But everyone loved it. The taste, the story, the package was all very well received. Some locals and industry have also reached out and commended me for embracing a character that would be typically seen as a flavour they want to keep out of the wine,” says Mr Tocaciu.

“For me it’s a great ‘Aussie inspired’ wine that shines a spotlight on Coonawarra and Cabernet Sauvignon. Starting a fun conversation with drinkers and telling stories, which is what our industry is all about.”

Best New Act: Lauren Langfield.

Langfield’s eponymous label kicked off with 2021 vintage wines, a merlot and a sauvignon blanc from the Adelaide Hills made in the natural spirit but with broad appeal.

Young Gun of Wine said, “”Starting her label with arguably Australia’s two most unfashionable grapes was a bold move, but the wines were show stoppingly delicious.”

“In such a competitive market I wanted to be sure that I was making wines with a point of difference, but also wines which I would be really proud to put my name to,” said Ms Langfield.

The 2022 judging panel consisted of Young Gun of Wine’s Rory Kent, Ravensworth vigneron Bryan Martin; Jeremy Shiell from Winespeake; Kate McIntyre MW, Moorooduc Estate; wine critic Nick Stock; Penny Vine of Marion and Cutler & Co; Rani Parish, Group Sommelier for Agnes, Honto, Bianca and Same Same; and Charlotte Hardy from Charlotte Dalton Wines, the 2021 Young Gun of Wine.

Photos with thanks to Young Gun of Wine

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