A LABOUR of love from a Yarra Valley winemaker and his family has been rewarded, receiving one of the top honours at last week’s Wine Companion Awards.
Gladysdale’s Bicknell FC (Family Company) was announced as the Best New Winery at the ceremony on Tuesday 28 July, at the Melbourne Museum.
Mr Bicknell, who has made wine in the Yarra Valley for more than 20 years, said he was “smug” in receiving the award, and attributed Bicknell FC’s success to patience – and good wine.
“I guess, perhaps the reason it’s come to the attention of the big man is that we haven’t hurried to put the wines out on the market,” he said.
“We haven’t rushed at it – we’ve been making wine under the Bicknell FC label for about four years, but it wasn’t until last year that we put any wine into the market.”
Mr Bicknell, a winemaker with Oakridge, said the adage of ‘find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life’ rang true when it came to making wines, most of the time at least.
“Well, it’s a product that people love – they truly, deeply love it – which is why you get people stupid enough to spend their entire weekends doing what they do for the rest of the week,” he said.
“There are days you’re out working in the vineyard, where you just love the solitude of working by yourself, and thinking about other stuff – it’s pretty nourishing, but not when it’s raining and not when it’s minus four degrees.”
The win for the Upper Yarra winery was complemented by another of the top awards – this one for Wine of the Year – being handed out across the valley, to Yarra Glen’s Serrat winery.
Serrat’s 2014 Shiraz Viognier was given the award after scoring a near-perfect 99 from acclaimed wine critic, James Halliday.
The winery is also a labour of love and a side project for winemakers, Tom and Nadege Carson, the latter of whom is a fifth generation French winemaker.
Mr Carson said he was “astounded” to receive the award for the wine, which he said was a good fit for the Yarra Valley.
Shiraz Viognier, he explained, is made using 95 per cent red wine grapes, with a small amount of white wine fermented in it.
“It’s a wine that I’ve always loved, always thought was well-suited to the valley,” Mr Carson said.
“We’ve been very honoured – I never imagined our place could produce something like that.”
The first vines were planted on the property in 2001, and the wines are hand-made on-site with the help of Kate Thurgood.
The winery itself is on seven acres, but has a high density of vines – four times as many as in regular vineyards, which is typical in France.
“It’s called ‘close planted’ in Australia – in France, it’s just normal,” Mr Carson said.
“The vines are much smaller, the crop load per vine is smaller, it’s more labour intensive … but we think it produces the best out of the site.
“Each vine produces less than a bottle of wine – it’s a concentration of the fruit, and less fruit on each plant means you get more flavour, more concentration in the wine.”
The Best Pinot Noir varietal award at the awards night was given to the 2013 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Pinot Noir, which achieved 98 points, while the Shiraz award went to Serrat’s 2014 Shiraz Viognier.
Some 8863 bottles of wine were tasted for the Halliday Wine Companion 2016 and the awards – some 398,835 millilitres or 6.5 bathtubs full of wine.
For more information on the awards, and a full list of winners, visit www.winecompanion.com.au/awards
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