When Nick Glaetzer’s Glaetzer-Dixon Family Winemakers MON PèRE Shiraz 2010 became the first Tasmanian wine to win the fabled 2011 Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show, it brought back memories of another equally historic win. Back in 1983, David Hoehnen, then of Cape Mentelle, won the trophy for the winery’s 1982 dry red claret. It was the first time a Margaret River region cabernet sauvignon had won the coveted award, which was first established in 1963 by Jimmy Watson’s family and friends to honour his legacy of promoting fresh, young Australian reds.

In a fascinating article on the history of the Jimmy Watson in the second issue of James Halliday’s Wine Companion magazine, Hoehnen told wine writer Jane Faulkner that winning the Jimmy Watson was not only life changing for Cape Mentelle but for the Margaret River region in general: “The most telling achievement of the award was not just about getting the name Cape Mentelle out and better recognised, which it did and that was wonderful for us, but more so it was critical Margaret River. From then on people took notice.” (“Just Rewards” by Jane Faukner, James Halliday’s Wine Companion, Feb/Mar 2012)

Only time will tell whether Glaetzer’s win will be equally as significant for his fledgling young winery and for Tasmanian shiraz in general. But the win has already generated a fair amount of publicity, with many commentators noting that for a Tasmanian shiraz to beat out 1,249 other young red wine entries is nothing less than extraordinary.

When it comes to red wine production, Tasmania is far better known for pinot noir than  shiraz. All up less than five hectares of shiraz vines are planted in Tasmania, and as a whole Tasmania accounts for less than 1 per cent of Australian wine production! But Glaetzer, a fourth generation member of the famed Barossa Glaetzer family, recognised that the cool climate shiraz vines, first planted in the 1970s in the Coal River and Upper Derwent valleys, had the potential to create elegant, complex shiraz wines with finer flavour profiles and more evocative in style of the Northern Rhône valley wines, particularly from the Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Côte-Rôtie appellations.

Like Hoehnen before him, Nick Glaetzer can be considered as somewhat of a pioneer. Hoehnen said that winning Jimmy Watson gave him the confidence and credibility to start up Cloudy Bay in 1984 – the winery that transformed world-wide perceptions of sauvignon blanc and firmly established New Zealand as a serious wine making country! The Mon Père shiraz (named in honour of Nick’s father, Baron of Barossa Colin Glaetzer), has already demonstrated Glaetzer’s passion for experimentation and challenging convention. His next moves will be fun to watch!

Photo Credit: Son of the Barossa plonks wine award by Emma Hope, The Advertiser, 28 October 2011