A CHAMPION of the Riverland wine industry who "leaves no stone unturned in the vineyard" was last month awarded the top gong at the 2019 Riverland Wine Show.
Winemaker Jenny Semmler, who runs Glossop-based 919 Wines with husband Eric, has won the coveted JMA Riverland Wine Industry award.
Mrs Semmler said since "taking a leap of faith" and establishing their winery in 2008, she and Eric had focused on promoting the Riverland's wine-producing credibility.
She said as the underdog of wine regions in SA, 919 Wines had repelled constant commercial pressures to replace 'Riverland' on the label with south-east Australia.
"We have to put Riverland on the label because Riverland is the core to our identity," Mrs Semmler said.
"We need to wave the flag. We need to show people what we do and how well we do it.
"We are proud of what we can achieve and, over the past four years, a lot of smaller producers have followed in our footsteps, which brings great diversification to our industry.
"The big guys need the little guys to take risks and put Riverland on the map and the little guys need the big guys to ensure the industry remains viable."
Mrs Semmler, who was introduced to winemaking through family in the Strathbogie Ranges, Vic, said she and Eric chose the Riverland "as we knew here we could produce wine equal to, or better than anywhere else in the world".
"We could never do what we do in any other region," she said.
"We chose the Riverland to champion the varieties that grow best.
"The ones that require heat to draw out the rich flavours."
Mrs Semmler, who won the best owner/operator category of the 2016 Australian Women in Wine awards, said this month's award was as unexpected as it was memorable.
The big guys need the little guys to take risks and put Riverland on the map and the little guys need the big guys to ensure the industry remains viable.
"The most recent one is special because it's my home turf," she said.
"This is bestowed, and being bestowed by the region is so special."
Mrs Semmler has served on the Destination Riverland board and is a member of the Riverland Wine Marketing group.
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Mark Lewis, from sponsor JMA, said she "strives for excellence in everything she does in the vineyard".
"But her contribution to the Riverland wine industry goes well beyond the realms of 919 Wines," he said.
"She has urged, encouraged, cajoled and lobbied other Riverland producers to have a go ... to become involved in the value chain and really push hard for recognition of the outstanding wines we can produce in the Riverland.
"Her generosity of spirit, her passion for the Riverland, her giving of time and materials to others and her energy for making things happen have seldom been recognised."
The title of Most Successful Exhibitor at the 2019 Riverland Wine Show went to De Bortoli Family Winemakers, which collected four of the 13 individual trophies, while the Best Wine of the Show was Hardys Wines' Rare Show Sweet White.
From 267 entries, judges awarded 25 gold, 26 silver and 77 bronze medals.
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