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Top honours for Coonawarra winemaker

Coonawarra winemaker, Sue Bell (Bellwether Wines) has received one of the industry’s top honours, with the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology naming her Winemaker of the Year at a gala Awards for Excellence dinner in Adelaide. The ASVO Winemaker of the Year Award aims to recognise a winemaker who demonstrates technical mastery over various aspects of winemaking. ASVO newly-appointed president, Dr Mardi Longbottom, says the accolade acknowledges Sue’s enthusiasm, community involvement, leadership and passionate advocacy of women in wine.

“It also acknowledges Sue’s commitment to honouring the classics in cool climate Australia and trialing new grape varieties that are suited to dry regions, such as Nero d’Avola and Vermentino,” says Dr Longbottom. “These have been well received, winning awards and establishing a model for new thinking as the industry prepares for the impact of climate change.”

Judge Wendy Cameron described Sue’s role in the industry as inspirational. “She has shown how much can be achieved with passion and commitment even without much financial backup,” she said. “I think the mix of industry and community is really needed.”

Fellow judge, Paul Henscke, said Sue’s popularity lies in a particular combination of important qualities and strong leadership skills, which are viewed with credibility. “Bell’s contribution is likely to benefit a significant group of industry people in strong need of new direction,” he said.

Sue was senior winemaker at Stonehaven, Padthaway, before making the bold leap to establishing her own label, Bellwether Wines, in 2009. She now produces award-winning wines at the historic Glen Roy Woolshed for herself and other growers.

“It’s very basic style winemaking; I’m essentially working out of a shed compared to what I’ve had in the past, relying on my palate and very small, high quality parcels of fruit,” she explains. “Going out on your own is tough – you can’t do it without the generosity and support of your community, which Coonawarra has in spades. I would particularly like to acknowledge the Redmans, Pete Weinberg, Bill Brand and the staff at Brands, along with my mum and business partner who have shown extraordinary faith in me.”

Prominent Riverland grape grower Ashley Radcliffe, from Ricca Terra farms, is among Sue’s valued suppliers, and nominated Sue for the award.

“I’m very grateful to him – and very fortunate to work with some amazing people who grow great fruit in the Riverland, Coonawarra, Tasmania, Wrattonbully, and Heathcote,” Sue says.

Coonawarra viticulturist Ben Harris, who works for Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate, finished runner up to Pyrenees viticulturist Matthew Bailey in the ASVO Viticulturist of the Year Award.

ASVO was established in 1980 to encourage exchange of technical information in the wine industry. It runs seminars, co-hosts the triennial Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference with the AWRI, and publishes the world’s highest ranked, peer-reviewed viticulture and wine scientific journal, the Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research.

For more information, please contact Sue Bell 0417 080 945 or Dr Mardi Longbottom 08 83136834.

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