SA is leading the way with its vines, representing 22 of the top 50 vineyards in Australia.
The inaugural Vineyard of the Year competition is a national initivative of the Young Gun of Wine, aimed at celebrating the work of grape growers.
The top 50 finalists were selected, out of 6000 grapegrowers nationally, based on the pursuit of fruit and wine quality, vine health, innovation, and sustainability - encompassing environmental, social and economic sustainability.
Wine and drinks writer and awards panellist Max Allen said it was encouraging to see such a strong back of entries.
"It's so heartening, in a year when our lives have been mired in challenges, setbacks and uncertainty, to celebrate the resilience and long-term thinking and optimism demonstrated by this group of winegrowers," he said.
"By focusing on the vineyards, on the places where wine comes from, and on the practices of sustainable grape growing, these awards can help recalibrate how we think about wine, shifting our perception of it from a liquid commodity in a glass to a cultural product of the country it's from.
"It was thrilling to visit each of these vineyards, albeit vicariously, and learn about all the hard work going into looking after the land, nurturing the health of the vines, and - most importantly - continually improving wine quality."
The judging panel was made up of viticulture, agronomy and sustainability experts, including McLaren Vale small batch winemaker Irina Santiago-Brown.
"Among the group of 50 there is a trend of going away from scheduled sprays and many of them are choosing to use less harmful chemicals to try to create a healthier environment for a more 'self-balanced' vineyard, with beneficial insects, healthier and more alive soil, as well as being healthier for the people who work there," she said.
"Many innovations are being used to reach this end... from more suitable grape varieties, to state-of-the-art technology to measure vine and soil status in order to make better decisions."
Among the finalists are a number of household names, as well as small growers, and while some make everything in-house, one finalist supplied grapes to more than 50 winemakers.
University of Adelaide associate professor in viticulture Peter Dry said this was a chance to give "well overdue" recognition of the work of grapegrowers.
"The significant advances in vineyard management over recent decades is highlighted in these finalists," he said.
"The foundation has been laid for our industry to face, with modest confidence, the many challenges of the future."
Among the 50 finalists were 15 growers from Vic, five from WA and four each from NSW/ACT and Tas, as well as 22 from SA from seven regions.
Four trophies will be awarded in February 2021.
The SA finalists:
- Adelina, Clare Valley
- Angove - Warboys Vineyard, McLaren Vale
- Bowyer Ridge, Adelaide Hills
- Cirillo Estate, Barossa Valley
- Dallwitz Block, Barossa Valley
- Eden Hall, Eden Valley
- Garden & Field, Eden Valley
- Gemtree, McLaren Vale
- Hayes Family - Stone Well, Barossa Valley
- Torbreck - Hillside Vineyard, Barossa Valley
- Hither & Yon - Sand Road, McLaren Vale
- Koonara - Ambriel's Gift, Coonawarra
- Mickan Block, Barossa Valley
- Oxford Landing, Riverland
- Penley Estate, Coonawarra
- Rayner Vineyard, McLaren Vale
- Ricca Terra, Riverland
- Shaw + Smith - Lenswood,
- Lenswood Smallfry, Barossa Valley
- Smart Vineyard, McLaren Vale
- Wirra Wirra, McLaren Vale
- Yangarra Estate, McLaren Vale
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