Rieslingfreak winemaker makes Young Gun top 12

Rieslingfreak’s John Hughes is in the top dozen Young Guns of Wine for 2017.

Top rizza: Rieslingfreak's John Hughes was announced in the Young Gun of Wine Top 12 finalists on Tuesday.

Top rizza: Rieslingfreak's John Hughes was announced in the Young Gun of Wine Top 12 finalists on Tuesday.

Following last week’s Top 50 announcement in Melbourne – where Mr Hughes and fellow Clare Valley winemaker Damon Koerner of Koerner wines were shortlisted – the Top 12 finalists were named today.

“In Melbourne last week it was amazing seeing the various styles and how winemakers are exploring various techniques to put their signature on their wines,” Mr Hughes said. 

“It was fantastic to see Damon in it too.”

As part of the judging process, the nominees attended an event where they showcased two wines which represented them best. 

Mr Hughes’ entries were his 2016 Rieslingfreak No.4 Eden Valley Riesling and 2016 Rieslingfreak No.3 Clare Valley Riesling.

A passion for riesling led to the creation of the Rieslingfreak label in 2009.

“I love the diversity (of riesling) and being able to show the stylistic and regional differences of the grape,” Mr Hughes said.

The Hughes family have had vineyards at White Hutt for 37 years, where Mr Hughes’ love for riesling was born.

As well as the family properties, grapes are now also sourced from Robert Jaeschke’s Polish Hill vineyard.

“Clare is my home, and the start of Rieslingfreak,” he said.

Passion leads to innovation and experimentation – key components of the Young Gun of Wine awards.

The awards website reads: “The thing about emerging wine producers is they’re a source of innovation, inspiration and new ideas. They’re not shackled by conventions. They’re free. Wide-eyed; adventurous; eager to travel; to experiment; to remix, they question everything. They create energy. They excite. And this is how they lead.

“Our definition of a young gun is not about a date of birth. It’s about this spirit and being young at heart. We’ve had a number of past finalists over 40 – because, really, it takes a lot to make impressive wine.”

YGOW founder Rory Kent said the awards were a response to the increasing creativity in wine.

“Over the last decade, we’ve seen an explosion across the wine scene, from the number of young independent producers, and the varieties and methods they use, through to the way consumers can engage with wine,” he said.

The Top 50 list was determined after a two-day tasting of multiple wines from 200 winemaker candidates. 

“Winemakers, and their wares, come in all shapes and sizes, creeds and colours, and indeed the Top 50 is a bold statement about the technicolour nature of Australian wine,” judge Mike Bennie said.

“It’s an affirmation that wine, of all types and styles, and the winemakers who produce it, are to be celebrated, and that the axis point for Australian wine culture’s near future, comes from youthful intent.”

Six SA winemakers feature in the Top 12, including Murdoch Hill’s Michael Downer, Cape Jaffa’s Anna Hooper, Charlotte Dalton Wines’ Charlotte Hardy, Aphelion Wine Co’s Rob Mack and Switch Organic Wine’s Vanessa Altmann.

The Top 12 will now head to tastings in Sydney (May 24) and Melbourne (June 19) for the People’s Choice judging.

The invite-only Young Gun of Wine Award Ceremony will take place on June 20.

“The popularity of the Young Gun of Wine is a statement about the new generation of wine makers and consumers redefining wine enjoyment,” Mr Kent said.

“It’s an exciting time for the wine industry in Australia and we are thrilled to be a part of it.”

Mr Hughes will be taking part in the Clare Valley Gourmet Weekend from April 19 to 22 for the first time this year.

He will be based at the Gourmet Hub, at the Clare Visitor Information Centre.