Gourmet Traveller WINE NZ Winemaker of the Year

(left -right) Thibaut Caumont of Vintec, Dom Maxwell and Gourmet Traveller WINE editor Judy Sarris (Photo: Gourmet Traveller WINE)

For the past 20 years, Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine has chosen an Australian Winemaker of the Year, Young Winemaker of the Year, Viticulturist of the Year and The Leadership Award. Now it’s New Zealand’s turn to identify and reward high performers on this side of the Tasman.

I was invited to chair the selection panel and chose Cameron Douglas MS and Raymond Chan as judges. We each have a slightly different, and therefore valuable, perspective on the wine industry and its potential candidates. Cameron is this country’s only Master Sommelier while Raymond has a background in restaurants, wine retail and as a wine critic. I’ve been around a long time.

The NZ Winemaker of the Year award required a shortlist of six candidates, each of which had made an outstanding contribution to high-quality winemaking. We chose:

We then had the difficult job of selecting a winner from these six very deserving candidates.

And the winner is:

Dominic (Dom) Maxwell, Greystone/Muddy Water

The panel selected Maxwell as the first New Zealand Winemaker of the Year for his contribution toward the rapid success of Greystone Wines and its sister company, Muddy Water Wines. The award also acknowledges Maxwell’s thoughtful and often innovative winemaking practices and his contribution to the wider wine industry both directly and by example.

NZ Viticulturist of the Year was another challenging category that suffered from a surfeit of riches. New Zealand has many very talented viticulturists. It can be successfully argued that our top winemakers stand on the shoulders of skilled viticulturists. We chose not one, but a team of two viticulturists.

And the winner is:

James and Robin Dicey, Grape Vision Ltd

The father and son partnership between Robin and James Dicey has had a profound influence on Central Otago viticulture. Between them they have consulted to, developed or managed more than half of Central Otago’s vineyards. The flow-on effect of the technology and techniques they introduced to the region has also made a major contribution to the development of the region in its relatively short history.

Finally, The Leadership Award, which is given to a high-achiever working in any area of wine who has demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities.

And the winner is:

Michael Brajkovich MW, Kumeu River

Michael Brajkovich MW is an obvious candidate and a very worthy winner of the inaugural Gourmet Traveller WINE NZ Leadership Award. In addition to making a major contribution to the local wine industry, Michael has been an inspiration to winemakers, wine students and wine consumers.

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