The 2023 Shortlist

Best New Winery: The Finalists

By The Tasting Team

We present to you the 2023 Shortlist for Best New Winery. This category celebrates the finest wineries submitting to the Companion for the first time. With over 50 new inclusions this year, we are proud to introduce the 10 top wineries swinging into our lineup. Meet our finalists below.

Adam Clay, Arila Gardens in the vineyard

Arila Gardens, Barossa Valley

With 20 acres of prime viticultural real estate in the northern Barossa parish of Moppa, Arila Gardens produce a range of outstanding wines with a focus on shiraz and grenache from this slice of the valley that has a long history of producing exceptional grapes and wines. It’s a family-run affair with winemaker Adam Clay and his wife Marie, joined by Adam’s parents David and Cheryl farming the property according to holistic and sustainable viticultural practices. Their vineyards are split into 'gardens' according to soil type – sand, quartz and ironstone – each imparting particular characters in the wines. The vine age runs back to the early 1900s for the grenache plantings and 1940s for the shiraz. These are deep, soulful wines that resonate strongly of a sense of place, true to their regional roots and represent an exciting addition to the Barossa winescape – NG.

Winemakers from Chance Encounter in the vineyard

Chance Encounter, McLaren Vale

Expressions of indelible regional clarity, without extraneous clutter, Chance Encounter avails the drinker with a potpourri of McLaren Vale spice aside the fecund richness of Barossa and the altitudinal freshness of the Adelaide Hills. Accessibility to South Australia’s holy triumvirate at a fair price. What’s not to love? – NG.

Leigh Clarnette

Clarnette, Grampians

The name Leigh Clarnette is well-known in Victoria, one half of the Grampians wine duo, Clarnette & Ludvigsen. This year, Leigh Clarnette decided it was time for a "new chapter." Since the death of his dear friend and mentor, Kym Ludvigsen in 2013, he had been resolute in keeping the Ludvigsen name on the label. This year, no more. Clarnette is born. So, it’s a new name, a new start, but the quality of Clarnette’s winemaking craft and attention to detail in the winery that stamped the C&L wines of old, remains. And that’s a good thing – JP.

Sebastian and Colleen

Living Roots, Adelaide Hills | 2023 Best New Winery

As they themselves say "Living Roots is an urban winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York and a not-so-urban winery in the Adelaide Hills region of South Australia." It was founded by husband-and-wife team Sebastian (an Adelaide, South Australia native and sixth generation winemaker) and Colleen (a Rochester, New York native and marketer) Hardy. There’s more skin in the game than 400 dozen production of eight wines. The range of the Australian wines includes some very smart offerings – JH.

Mabenki owners

MBK, Barossa Valley

MBK (and parent company, Mabenki) is derived from the names of the three founders: Mario and Ben Barletta and Kim Falster. Brothers Ben and Mario came from a retail background (Walkerville Cellars, Adelaide) and Kim is their wine-loving friend. The company started in 2014, but its genesis was back in 1993, making ‘house wine’ to sell in the store. They have never missed a vintage, but wines were sold exclusively to a private customer base, until now. Splashing into the Companion for the first time this year, it’s in the running for Best New Winery – EL.

Montague Estate cellar door outside

Montague Estate, Margaret River

Montague Estate has burst onto the scene with a range of wines in the first two vintages that show brilliant quality and great expression of terroir. Sourcing fruit from Margaret River (the home vineyard) and Frankland River, the wines speak volumes. We have only seen the beginning of Montague Estate – EL.

Rod Roberts and wife Cecile

Ossa Wines, Tasmania

Ossa Wines is emblematic of the hectic rate of the ever-increasing size of the Tasmanian wine industry, fuelled by investment on a grand scale by the Fogarty Wine Group and Tasmanian businessman Rod Roberts and wife Cecile, joint 50/50% owners of Tasmanian Vintners, the largest contract winemaker in the state. Fogarty has a significant number of other assets in Tasmania, and the Roberts own the real estate on which the 20 hectare Ossa vineyard is situated. It is run off-grid (solar), as part of a sustainable platform eradicating noxious plant species, and fencing wildlife zones. The multi-award winning wine was made by Liam McElhinney. Watch this space – JH.

Ryan Horaczko in the vineyard

Solum Wines, Mornington Peninsula

It’s exciting to include fledgling Solum Wines in this auspicious line-up, the brainchild of 31-year-old Ryan Horaczko. While immersed in all things vinous from a young age, Ryan only enrolled in Viticulture and Winemaking studies in 2017; he also works part-time at Principia with Darrin Gaffy on the Mornington Peninsula. That in part gave Ryan the confidence to make his inaugural Solum Wines from vintage 2020, just two – a gentle yet impressive pinot noir from fruit grown in Red Hill and a savoury, Pyrenees syrah. A Peninsula chardonnay will be the next addition. I can’t wait – JF.

Tractor in the vineyard

Trait Wines, Margaret River

A winery doesn’t need to be large scale to be eligible for this award, and Trait wines is the perfect example. Husband and wife Theo Truyts and Clare Trythall's quest to revive a vineyard in Margaret River (planted 1988) has led to beautiful things in their wines. They are working on regenerating and restoring the land in order to produce elegant and expressive wines of variety and place. We’ve barely even begun to scratch the surface of potential of this winery – EL.

Usher Tinkler and winemaker enjoying a wine by the fire with the vineyard in the background

Usher Tinkler Wines, Hunter Valley

Tinkler is a maverick. In a region that boasts a patrimony of long-lived, savoury reds and tensile whites, often perceived impregnable in their youth, Tinkler respects tradition while dabbling far and wide. His Nose to Tail line serves up value, while the Reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz are modern in the best sense. His play in the minimal arena, too, loads of fun: 'Death by Semillon' is an ironic turn of phrase as much as handling, shifting the traditional obsession with retaining fruit on its head with extended skin maceration and brief oak maturation – NG.

*This is an edited extract from the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion, with reviews by Dave Brookes, Jane Faulkner, James Halliday, Erin Larkin, Ned Goodwin MW, Jeni Port, Philip Rich and chief editor Tyson Stelzer. Cover illustration by David Lancashire.

The winner of each category will be announced at the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion Awards. Save the date to watch the live stream on Wednesday August 3, 2022.

The 2023 Halliday Wine Companion is available from August 4. You can pre-order your copy of Australia's most comprehensive wine guide here