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The Young Guns of Wine – Part 1

By Marcus Braid on February 25, 2015 in

Photo: Massena

Photo: Massena

Since 2007, the Young Guns of Wine Awards ( has highlighted some impressive winemakers coming through the ranks. If you follow this column, you will have seen me mention some of them in the past. This article is part one of a five part series about these so-called ‘young guns’.

Franco d’Anna (Hoddles Creek)

If you’re a Victorian Pinot or Chardonnay fan and you haven’t tried the Hoddles Creek stuff, you’re missing out on some of the best value plonk on the market. The regular Pinot and Chardy go for around $20 (and you can save a couple of bucks in six packs at most retailers), while the top tier stuff (called ‘1er’) goes for around $40. There is also a slightly cheaper label called Wickhams Road (around $16-17, again with discounts available on packs). All of these wines are regularly cited for their value by pretty much every critic.

Matt Gant (First Drop)

I met Matt a few years ago and this guy really knows his stuff. It’s no wonder he was the first to be awarded the Young Gun of Wine in 2007. First Drop has a wine for everyone, with drops like an Adelaide Hills Pinot Grigio through to something a bit more interesting like an Arneis (recommended with salt and pepper squid).

The reds include some great expressions of Cabernet and Shiraz, including a juicy Barossa Shiraz that’s worth a look if that’s your thing. You’ll also find some fascinating drops like a Montepulciano, a Touriga Nacional and a Nebbiolo Barbera blend – all top quality offerings. I’ve noticed First Drop wines on a lot of wine lists in those fancy wine bars that are popping up everywhere. Don’t hesitate to give one a go.

Pete Schell (Spinifex)

Yes, I bang on about Spinifex wines all the time, but for good reason. The first wine I tried from them was the 2007 Esprit (about $35). You can think of Esprit as a GSM blend (with a couple of hitchhikers), but it’s not quite like any other Barossa GSM blend. The Papillon ($26) is also a GSM, but a much lighter style – as close to Beaujolais as you’re likely to find from the Barossa. I’ve given a few bottles to friends and they love them.

Since then, new wines have been released over time, including some rare drops that are particularly hard to get (which is a pain in the arse for me because I love the wines). The Lola white and the rosé are brilliant wines for the mid-$20 price point, especially in summer with food. The more rare drops include the Indigene (think Esprit’s big brother) and the Shiraz Viognier, plus others depending on how the year goes.

Many of the wines are available through Look at some of the other offerings while you’re there – all are great winemakers.

Dan Standish & Jaysen Collins (Massena)

While you’re grabbing some Spinifex from Aritsans, consider some Massena too. Dan and Jaysen have their hands on some pretty good vines and make a bunch of fascinating wines. If you like Barossa reds, the ‘Moonlight Run’ blend ($30) and ‘Eleventh Hour’ Shiraz ($40) are some of the best examples of their style that you will try. Their ‘Surly Muse’ Viognier ($25) is also incredible value.

Want to try something different? How about a Primitivo (Zinfandel) or a Tannat? Both are fascinating wines and for $27.50, they’re hard to go past for a wine explorer. They suggest opening the Tannat and serving it blind to your guests – they reckon many will think it’s a ripe and powerful Cabernet.

Tune in next month for the second instalment of my Young Guns of Wine series.