29 November 2023

Hamish's award-winning wines a nod to depth of quality of greater Capital Region vineyards

| Edwina Mason
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a winemaker taking a sample from a vat

Award-winning Canberra winemaker Hamish Young has long championed the potential of the Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba wine regions. Photos: Mada Wines.

Three vastly different geographic locales in the greater Capital Region, known traditionally and in equal measure for reefs of gold and profitable agriculture, are blazing daring new trails nationally through the alchemy of that rich earth and the fruit of their vines.

Hamish Young, a Canberra winemaker, has long championed the potential of the Canberra, Hilltops and Tumbarumba wine regions, his recent triumph at two major wine shows giving rise to even greater reverence.

The 2023 NSW Wine Show Best White Blend Trophy was awarded to Hamish’s Mada Blanc on the same day he was awarded Best Rosé for his Mada Wines 2023 Nebbiolo Rosé at the Royal National Capital Agricultural Society 2023 Canberra and Region Wine Show.

Wins, Hamish says, that made for a nice day but also saluted Hilltops vignerons Brian Freeman and Brian Mullany.

The Mada Blanc is a multiple-white blend sourced from Freeman Vineyards, while Mada Nebbiolo Rosé originates from Brian Mullany’s Grove Estate.

New Zealand-born and educated, Hamish landed in South Australia’s Barossa Valley before his winemaking began in earnest at Murrumbateman’s Eden Wines.

His story is no secret but it was the potential of the Canberra region that cemented his determination to establish Mada Wines, which took root in 2016, operating out of the Hall valley, near Canberra.

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Hamish was strongly influenced by a youth spent in the glorious Hawke’s Bay region, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, its gravelly soils producing internationally renowned reds and whites, which this year earned it the title of 12th Great Wine Capital of the World.

“That’s where I spent a lot of my time and it was kind of my entry to wine, so moving to Canberra, with its cooler style of wines, was obviously more in keeping with my upbringing,” he said.

But, soon, what lay beyond in the vineyards of the Snowy Valleys and Hilltops roused his imagination.

“When I hit Canberra properly in 2007, I just could not fathom the different parcels that were coming into the winery,” he said.

Alternative grape varietals grown in new terroirs seldom seen on Australian wine lists had piqued the interest of local enologists keen to experiment and innovate.

From that springboard Hamish, driven by a relentless passion, has carved out a unique style that’s as much generous as it is diligent and complex, but also pays homage to the source of the fruit.

“The climate, geography and mineral composition of the soil determine the character of the fruit – and ultimately the wine,” he explained.

“It’s incredible now the strength our region’s got to over the last 15 years that I’ve been here, not just the quality of wines, but also the breadth of the varieties that we’re seeing as well.

“Tumbarumba, for me, is incredible for chardonnay, Murrumbateman for riesling and shiraz and then the Hilltops, primarily the Italian varietals.

winemaker shovelling grapes

“Good people grow good fruit,” says award-winning Canberra winemaker Hamish Young.

“The Hilltops is such an exciting and diverse viticultural area and the passionate growers are producing such incredible-quality grapes, a terrific asset for winemakers seeking to make prestige wines.

“With the fruit harvested, we get down to the business of making wine. We divide the grapes into several batches, each of which adds a layer of complexity to the finished product. Through a careful, measured approach, we then mix these batches together. We keep tweaking the blend until we arrive at something that deserves to wear the Mada label. The result is an eclectic range of wines, each with its own idiosyncrasies and personality.”

For Hamish, success isn’t so much measured in awards.

“All the fruit we source from all three sites is one part of the equation, which obviously I find interesting, but at the end of the day it’s about working with good people and there are some incredible people managing those vineyards – they’re just amazing, and those relationships are a huge part of my work ethos,” he said.

“Good people grow good fruit.”

He knew his Mada Blanc had struck a chord when it was snapped up as soon as it was being released.

“That white blend has always had an incredible following amongst people that know the white wines in Canberra, especially,” he said.

”It’s such a beautiful aromatic wine, nice texture, that people just jump on it and for me that’s kind of how you gauge success, in a way.”

The judges at the 2023 Canberra and Region Wine Show awarded eight trophies to Hilltops wines, 11 gold medals and 15 silver medals.

Moppity Vineyards walked away with several gongs, scoring three trophies alone for Moppity Lock & Key Shiraz 2022, winner of the highly contested Shiraz Trophy.

The 2023 Canberra Show results are the region’s best ever, according to Hilltops Wine president Brian Mullany of Grove Estate.

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“For such a small region to score eight trophies ranging across widely diverse classes, from dry-white varieties and blends to rosé, sangiovese, tempranillo and shiraz, posts notice that the NSW Hilltops is evolving to one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions,” Brian said.

“These accolades endorse both the foresight and commitment of Hilltops vignerons and other regions’ winemakers, who increasingly are sourcing top-quality grapes from our vineyards.”

Hunter Valley’s Hungerford Hill winemaker Bryan Currie said he was particularly excited about the quality of Hilltops tempranillo and graciano grapes.

”There is a pristine flavour intensity and balance in these grapes that need little winemaking intervention to show their delicious true character,” he said. ”It’s such an inspiring region!”

Trophy-winning Hilltops wines at the 2023 Canberra & Regional Wine Show:

  • Hungerford Hill Fiano 2023
  • Mada Wines Nebbiolo Rosé 2023
  • Grove Estate Sangiovese 2022
  • Hungerford Hill Tempranillo 2022
  • Moppity Vineyards Lock & Key Shiraz 2022.

Moppity Vineyards also received the Wines of Provenance Trophy for three vintages of its Reserve Shiraz (2009, 2015, 2022), and the Most Successful Exhibitor Trophy.

NSW Wine Awards 2023 Hilltops region gold medal recipients:

  • Collector 2022 Cherry Orchard Shiraz
  • De Iuliis Wines 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Hungerford Hill 2022 Tempranillo Graciano
  • Lark Hill Winery 2023 ‘Regional’ Riesling
  • Moppity Vineyards 2022 Lock & Key Shiraz
  • Mada Wines 2023 Blanc
  • Mercer Wines 2022 Joven Tempranillo.

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