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Virginia Willcock wins Winemaker of the Year at 2017 AWIWAs

Virginia Willcock wins Winemaker of the Year at 2017 AWIWAs

The 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards were announced in London last night, with Virginia Willcock from Vasse Felix taking out Winemaker of the Year.

“This is a pivotal day in Australia’s proud wine history,” said AWIWA founder Jane Thomson, who hosted the ceremony. “Today we not only recognised the depth and breadth of female talent in our own wine community, we did so on a global stage and showed the world that Australia values and champions the many and varied roles of women in wine.”

The awards were held in London as part of a partnership with Wine Australia, and opened a day of Women in Wine trade and consumer tasting events.

The winners are:

Winemaker of the Year – sponsored by WineArk - Virginia Willcock, Vasse Felix

Viticulturist of the Year – sponsored by Wine Australia - Jennifer Doyle, Jansz

Owner / Operator of the Year – sponsored by - Sarah Collingwood, Four Winds Vineyard

Workplace Champion of Change – sponsored by Winemakers Federation of Australia - Professor Eileen Scott, Adelaide University

Cellar Door Person of the Year – sponsored by Platinum Bags - Jasmine Morgan, Caudo Vineyards

Researcher of the Year – sponsored by Inkwell Wines - Christine Böttcher, CSIRO – Agriculture & Food

Marketer of the Year – sponsored by Brown Brothers - Ebony Tinkler, Usher Tinkler Wines

Woman of Inspiration – sponsored by Irvine Wines - Sue Hodder, Wynns

Honorary Australian Woman in Wine – sponsored by Wine Australia UK - Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective

Virginia Willcock flanked by previous winners Rose Kentish and Emma Norbiato

Virginia Willcock was presented with her award by Chair of Wine Australia, Brian Walsh. She said: "I do believe it doesn't matter what sort of minority you are, it's what you do that really matters. Philosophy, passion and being able to work really bloody hard because making great wine is not that easy. So if you are driven by all these things you can do something great."

Jennifer Doyle said: “It is such an incredible honour to have been recognised as Viticulturist of the Year 2017 by such an inspiring and uplifting community of women. 

“My viticultural journey began 25 years ago in my home state of New South Wales, however my wine compass has been resolutely fixed on a southerly bearing. Whilst my career has seen me traversing cool climate regions of Orange, Pemberton and Margaret River, the last nine years have found me firmly planted in the Jansz Tasmania vineyard in the Pipers River region of northern Tasmania. 

“Tasmania’s Pipers River region is a very special place - the close-knit community that live and work on the land and the unique terroir that influences our award-winning sparkling wine has rewarded me with some of the most fruitful years of my career to date." 

Wine Australia fears macho culture is holding our industry back 

Brian Walsh said he hoped the awards would provide inspiration to women considering a career in wine.

“Wine Australia is proud and excited to be co-hosting the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards. We hope that the recognition of the stellar contributions of women in the research, growing, making, marketing and selling of Australian fine wine will provide an inspiration for women anywhere in the world to seek a long-term career in the sector.”

Walsh told ABC News the industry is losing talent and valuable skills because it is still driving women out, with many women who study viticulture and wine production leaving the industry within a decade.

"There are a lot of clever people going through university but within a decade they're slowly disappearing and we think 'what a waste'," he said. "It's making us a less robust wine and grape community."

Walsh was optimistic about the future of the industry, but said change had to begin with the men.

"We have to make sure we don't inculcate a macho culture where you have to work 18 hours a day and prove you're a 'man' or prove yourself by some old-fashioned method of measurement," he said.


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