The 2015 Wine Honours List

Neil Paulett's Polish Hill River in Clare Valley.
Neil Paulett's Polish Hill River in Clare Valley. Photo: Supplied

Here's our Post-Australia Day Honours List, recognising the special contribution our wines, and the people behind them, make to our great nation

We may not have a long winemaking history in this country, not compared with the Europeans, but we have something they will never have, that true blue, dinky-di never-say-die spirit that is distinctly, utterly Australian.

It's as Australian as a glass of hot red on a 40-degree day, as inflating your empty wine-cask bladder for a game of pool volleyball, downing a rizza while your hubby cooks the barbie or ordering a "pig" when you simply can't be bothered sounding out a few extra syllables for a p-i-n-o-t g-r-i-g-i-o. So let's celebrate all that's great in our wide, sunburnt land of wine.

For services to wine-tasting: Sue Bell of Bellwether Wines.
For services to wine-tasting: Sue Bell of Bellwether Wines. Photo: Graham Spring

Companions of the Order of Australian Wine (AWC)

Our greatest honour awarded for achievement and merit of the highest degree.  

Professor Snow Barlow: For Services to the Climate Change and Wine Debate

He might raise an eyebrow but never his voice. He is patient – extremely so – despite the desperate nature of the news he is imparting. He is never too busy to talk and never too shy to stand up when something needs to be said. And he's a damn hard worker. Professor Snow Barlow – plant physiologist, agricultural scientist, lecturer at Melbourne University (retired), winemaker – has spent decades gathering and dispersing information about the effect of climate change on Australian vineyards. He is the first – and last – word on the subject.

For services to Australian wine: Wolf Blass.
For services to Australian wine: Wolf Blass. 

Australia's First Families Of Wine: For Services to the Wine Drinker

If you have never enjoyed an evening with Australia's First Families of Wine, you are in for a real treat. They laugh, they poke fun at each other, they engage with wit and sincerity and amid all the frivolity they'll drop in a few truly great Australian wines for your tasting pleasure. The 12 family winemakers banded together to present a different picture of Australian wine to the world – not that of big corporates but of families who had been on the land for generations. Bravo Brown Brothers, Campbells, d'Arenberg, De Bortoli, Henschke, Howard Park, Jim Barry, McWilliam's, Tahbilk, Taylors, Tyrrell's and Yalumba. More tastings will be held this year, see

Wolf Blass of Wolf Blass Wines: For Services to Australian Wine


If Wolf Blass had not migrated to Australia and made his way to the forefront of Australian winemaking, we would surely have had to invent him. He was a man for his time, a catalyst for change (still is through his Wolf Blass Foundation), a daring, bold, confident winemaker and possibly even a greater wine marketer.  At 80, he's just hitting his stride as a major activist for the wine industry and as a force for change.

Officer of the Order of Australian Wine (AWO)

For outstanding achievement and service.

McWilliam's Wines & Briar Ridge: For Services to Our Idiosyncratic Wine Culture

For services to The Mornington Peninsula: Nat White of Main Ridge Estate.
For services to The Mornington Peninsula: Nat White of Main Ridge Estate. Photo: Simon O'Dwyer

Shiraz and pinot noir together? Who would dare? In France, the two grapes live separate lives, never mixing in the same circles. Australia – or, to be more precise, the Hunter Valley –has a history of blending both dating back to the 1920s and the great Mount Pleasant winemaker, Maurice O'Shea. Today, McWilliam's Mount Pleasant and Briar Ridge continue to bless the marriage. Pinot soothes, shiraz purrs, resulting in a delightful, elegant wine. Strange bedfellows, yes, but it works.

Neil Paulett of Paulett Wines: For Services to Aged Riesling

We drink riesling, if we drink it at all, when it is young. An aged riesling in this country is increasingly a curio, sad but true, which makes the good works of Clare Valley winemaker, Neil Paulett, worthy of celebration. He believes in riesling and more to the point, in most years he sets aside some of his Polish Hill River riesling, to be opened when the citrus tang of youth is gone, replaced by an engaging developing honey nougat richness. It's a revelation. Thank you, Neil.

Jacob's Creek Barossa Pearl: For Services to Australian Wine History

Barossa Pearl, now there's an Australian wine name for you. Grapey sweet, lightly fizzy, its launch, coinciding with the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, created immediate popularity, setting many an Australian drinker on the road to wine. Its work done, it was retired decades later. But Barossa Pearl is back, and aren't we loving it? Very retro.

Medal of the Order of Australian Wine (AWOM)

For service worthy of particular recognition.

Nat White of Main Ridge Estate: For Services to the Mornington Peninsula

Nat White is a pioneer, a modest one too. He and his wife, Rosalie, have given four decades to growing, understanding, cajoling and making chardonnay and pinot noir at Main Ridge Estate on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula. Through his errors and his successes, others learnt. Main Ridge Estate The Acre and Half Acre pinot noir have consistently been at the top of their game for years but now he's calling it a day. Farewell.

Syn Cuvee Blanc sparkling: For Services to Sex and Wine

Back labels are there to provide information about the contents of a wine bottle. Sometimes, they can provide way too much information. Sex and wine? Syn's got it covered, as you can see. "Be seduced! Gently remove her stylish black gown to experience this blonde bombshell in all her glory, but be careful ... she is known to explode in throes of passion! With her captivating perfume of freshly picked peaches, lively pineapple and exotic tropical fruits; every mouthful this temptress offers is pure enjoyment. Immerse yourself in Syn ..."

Sue Bell of Bellwether Wines: For Services to Wine Tasting

A vegie garden at the front, fireplace inside, comfy old leather chairs for lounging, a long table for tasting and the feel, smell and taste of a seemingly outdated concept. Coonawarra winemaker Sue Bell is bringing hospitality back to the cellar door. She's there to greet visitors – now there's a concept! – and take them through a tasting, with a platter of local foods if they fancy, all within the stone ruggedness of Glen Roy Shearing Shed built in 1868. Wine tasting for today.