The fruits of their labour

The award-winning 2021 Sevenhill ‘Open Range’ Grenache comes from historic vines that are more than a century old.


By Sarah Lavelle

On 17 August, the 2021 Sevenhill ‘Open Range’ Grenache was awarded the George Mackey Memorial Perpetual Trophy for Best Grenache at the prestigious 2023 Royal Sydney Wine Show. The award was accepted by Sevenhill viticulturist Craig Richards and Br Ian Cribb SJ at the Show, which is the industry benchmark for excellence, recognising personal dedication, ability and uncompromising diligence.

The award-winning Grenache from Sevenhill Cellars is a celebration of the impressive balance between traditional winemaking and modern style. Hand-picked and selectively harvested from historic old vines planted in 1920, only 240 dozen bottles of this wine were produced.

Sevenhill general manager Jonathan O’Neill said: “The entire Sevenhill Cellars team, board and the Jesuits are thrilled by this outstanding achievement. It’s a wonderful honour for this Grenache to be considered amongst Australia’s best. As the Clare Valley’s first winery, our commitment to producing wines that express our unique estate is unwavering, and this award is a tribute to the dedication of our winemakers, viticulturists, and everyone who contributes to the journey of our wines from vine to bottle.”

Winemaker Will Shields said: “Being a part of Sevenhill’s significant legacy is a privilege. This prestigious trophy reaffirms our commitment to expressing the exceptional vineyards that define Sevenhill. The Open Range Grenache is a medium-bodied style, with our winemaking focusing on fruit vibrancy and purity to showcase the outstanding old vines”.

The award-winning 2021 Sevenhill ‘Open Range’ Grenache wine from Sevenhill Cellars.

Will chose to use one third whole bunches in the ferment which were cold soaked for three days. The wine was then hand-plunged twice daily in the historic slate fermenters before being basket pressed to ensure gentle extraction.

Having been appointed Sevenhill Cellars’ Chief Winemaker in 2019, Will has worked to continually modernise the wine styles in line with industry demand, continuing the Cellars’ rich heritage and reputation for quality. Having seen how the wine industry has diversified globally, Will acknowledges how leveraging his knowledge of multiple regions and their wine styles has helped to shape his own winemaking style and ethos.

Today at Sevenhill, he is highlighting Grenache as one of the hero varietals of the region, utilising the pinot noir style of winemaking learnt through his time in New Zealand to continually elevate quality. His philosophy of allowing expression of fruit and region to be seen through the wines is shown through the balanced and elegant continuation of the Sevenhill portfolio.

Shortly after the award was announced, the ABC South Australian Country Hour presenter Selina Green said: “The judges for the 2023 Royal Sydney Wine Show do blind tastings, so they don’t know where the wines come from. Decisions are based on taste alone. This year’s show featured 1800 wineries from around Australia. There were a number of South Australian winners. One major winner was Sevenhill Cellars in the Clare Valley, which took home the trophy for best Grenache of the show.”

She then interviewed Jonathan O’Neill, who said: “We’re so proud of Sevenhill and the team and the Clare Valley as well. It’s very pleasing for winemaker Will Shields and viticulturist Craig Richards and everyone in the vineyard. It shows such dedication and amplifies the work they’ve put in to create this history piece. The Grenache vines are 103 years old and of course Sevenhill was the first winery in the Clare Valley.”

In recent years, the Board has focused on expanding and reinvigorating the vineyards, wine styles and labelling, a continuation of their long legacy and reputation for quality. Craig focuses on maintaining sustainable practices, working to have minimal environmental impact and enhancing the natural balance and soil health. His passion is producing grapes that are an expression of the Sevenhill subregion and unique estate, continually looking at ways to improve practice through innovative techniques and technology.

Today, some 172 years after the establishment of Sevenhill Cellars, the winery continues to produce sacramental wine, representing 30% of its production. It is available to all denominations throughout Australia and is exported to Borneo, East Timor, Indonesia, India, Papua New Guinea and Singapore. The remaining capacity of fruit is devoted to producing an extensive range of premium table wines produced from estate-grown fruit and which are highly regarded in the domestic and select export markets.

Sarah Lavelle is Direct to Consumer and Wine Club Manager at Sevenhill

Award-Winning Sevenhill Wine

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Craig Richards and Br Ian Cribb SJ receiving the Best Grenache Trophy. Photo courtesy of Sevenhill Cellars.

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