A Brisbane-based wine writer has been named International Wine and Spirit Communicator of the Year at Italy's biggest wine fair, Vinitaly, in Verona this week. The award, which highlights "an individual who demonstrates exceptional contribution to increasing awareness of wine and/or spirits", was given to Tyson Stelzer alongside US restaurateur and MasterChef judge Joseph Bastianich.
"It's a tremendous honour," Stelzer says. "It's certainly not something I take lightly – especially as I've only been writing about wine professionally for around 12 years and some of the past winners have been incredible people who have inspired me.
"As a communicator I am just a voice for the great stories of the people behind the wines, and it's to them that the true honour is deserved."
Stelzer, a former science teacher, may have only been writing about wine for a dozen years, but he's packed a fair amount in, as the author and publisher of 14 wine books, including The Champagne Guide – considered by the industry as the benchmark global reference to champagne. He's also host of the television series People of the Vine.
While at Vinitaly, Stelzer challenged the perception of some Old World wine countries who still believe screwcaps to be inferior to cork. At a gala opening dinner, he presented five mature flagship Australian red wines, including Henschke Hill of Grace Shiraz 2004, Cullen Diana Madeline Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2004 and 2005, Yalumba The Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2003 and Brokenwood Rayner Shiraz 2001 under both cork and screwcap in a blind tasting. The screwcaps were voted ahead of the cork by the panel of international wine professionals.
"The result was ground-breaking for Italy, where screwcaps remain controversial and until recently have been prohibited on the country's top wines," Stelzer said.
"It's significant for Australia to be able to demonstrate that wine can age well under screwcap given most of our premium wines are under screwcap."
Stelzer's not resting on his laurels, with a deadline looming for the second edition of his champagne guide, and a second People of the Vines series in the works.