Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year 2018

Janice McDonald (pictured) has been chief winemaker at Burch Family since 2013, before which she was at Stella Bella and Devil’s Lair. (Photo: Howard Park Wines)

Janice McDonald of Burch Family Wines/Howard Park is the 2018 Winemaker of the Year. She was presented with her award by Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine at its annual awards dinner last Tuesday at Black restaurant at The Star, Sydney.

McDonald has been chief winemaker at Burch Family since 2013, before which she was at Stella Bella and Devil’s Lair after starting her career in the fermentation business as a brewer – at Little Creatures, Fremantle. She has worked 28 years in the wine industry.

As chief winemaker, she is in charge of all the Howard Park, Marchand & Burch and Mad Fish ranges, and the Jeté sparkling wines. Her relatively humble non-vintage Jeté Brut took out the trophy for best Australian entry at the World Champagne and Sparkling Wine Championship in London in 2017. The top of the tree quality-wise are the Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon and Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay – although the Marchand & Burch Chardonnay often vies for the distinction of the best of no fewer than eight chardonnays McDonald makes every year for Burch Family.

The magazine gives four awards each year. The 2018 Young Winemaker of the Year is Owen Latta of Ballarat-based Eastern Peake and Latta Vino. Latta Vino is his own brand for ‘hands-off’ and sulfur-free wines.

Viticulturist of the Year is Fred Peacock of Bream Creek Wines, East Coast, Tasmania. And the Len Evans Award for Leadership goes to Judi Cullam of Frankland Estate.

Each year the magazine’s judges (of which I’m one) nominate eight finalists for the Winemaker of the Year, who are profiled in the magazine in the lead-up to the announcement. This year’s seven other finalist nominations were Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy of Quealy Wines, Mornington Peninsula; Willy Lunn of Yering Station, Yarra Valley; Paul Hotker of Bleasdale, Langhorne Creek; Chris Derrez and Lucy Maddox of Madrez Wine Services, Orange; Frank van de Loo of Mount Majura Vineyard, Canberra; Anna and Matt Pooley of Pooley Wines, Tasmania; and Franco D’Anna of Hoddles Creek Estate, Yarra Valley.

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