Of all the winners at James Halliday’s Wine Companion awards, Shaun Crinion is the most unlikely. Winner of the Best New Winery category with his label Dappled, Shaun is a stay-at-home dad and part-time winemaker.
“Most of my time is spent doing the wines and juggling the kids, who are two and five. We’ve got a fairly good routine now,” says Shaun. “My wife [who owns an IT marketing company] and I are just constantly playing tag team – I’m running out to the Yarra and she’s running home from the city.”
The wine vintage is the busiest time of year for any winemaker, with long days picking grapes and making wine. “Vintage is hard. Pretty much I tell my wife we need to get a nanny for the next three months, or we get her mother down from the Gold Coast.”
Shaun doesn’t make a lot of wine – around 800 cases of pinot noir, shiraz and Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula, with a focus on single vineyard wines.
“Pretty much everything I do, I do myself – I hand bottle everything, I hand label everything. I think that’s going to have to end at some stage because it’s taking toll on my back and my time,” he says.
James Halliday, the revered wine writer and judge behind the awards, says winemakers such as Shaun “come around once in a metaphorical blue moon”. Still, Shaun admits he had to be convinced by a winemaker mate to enter the awards.
“I didn’t think I’d be good enough to make it,” says Shaun, who was assistant winemaker at Rob Dolan Wines until last year. “James Halliday asked me, ‘Where have you been? I’ve never heard of your wines. I tried them and they’re amazing. Why haven’t you brought them in before?’.”
Originally from the Gold Coast, Shaun fell into wine at 19, when he interrupted a surfing holiday to Mexico to help out a winemaker uncle to help out in his Californian winery during vintage.
“I had just completed a horticulture degree and was doing landscaping when my uncle offered me a job to help cover some of the surf trip,” he says. “The wine became more part of it than the surf trip. I’d work with the assistant winemaker, my uncle, and a couple of Mexican guys. I did everything and I just loved it.”
- Related: The passion of two mates who make wine
- Related: 10 of Australia’s best gourmet getaways
- Related: What is in red wine these days?
Dappled Appellation Chardonnay 2016 (Yarra Valley)
Sourced from two vineyards in the yarra Valley – Gembrook and Steels Creek – this wine spends 10 months fermenting and maturing in oak barrels before being bottled and released into the wild. It’s a stunning chardonnay, all layered and complex, but equally effortless in its drinking. Green melon, lemon and grilled peach aromas set the tone, before the tang of green apple and grapefruit combine with a chalky, mineral character. It’s focussed, but generous on the finish. 95/100
Dappled Appellation Pinot Noir 2016 (Yarra Valley)
No single vineyard wines were made by Dappled in 2016, so this contains parcels from several Upper Yarra vineyards that would normally be single-vineyard releases. There’s a wonderful array of flavours on display here – from blood orange, cherry and rhubarb, plus stalky spice and undergrowth – that are equally elegant and concentrated. Savoury, rather than sweet, it’s juicy, structured and delightfully easy to drink. 94/100
There’s no greater authority on Australian wine than James Halliday, who rates more than 9000 Australian wines in his Wine Companion each year. High scores and ratings are the most sought-after accolades in Australian wine.
This year’s top honours went to:
- Wine of the Year (sponsored by Qantas epiQure): 2012 Henschke Hill of Grace
- Winery of the Year (sponsored by Wine Australia): Mount Mary
- Winemaker of the Year (sponsored by Wine Australia): Paul Hotker, Bleasdale Vineyards
- Best Value Winery of the Year (sponsored by Thomas Foods International): Grosset Wines
- Best New Winery: Dappled Wines
- Dark Horse Winery of the Year: Boat O’Craigo