Every time you take stock of a wine list or your local bottle-o’s shelves, new producers are vying for your attention. For the past 14 years, the Young Gun of Wine Awards have been pinpointing the emerging winemakers – and regions, grape varieties and wine labels – that drinkers need to be watching.

As one of the judges at this year’s awards in Brisbane, I can vouch for the process – in particular the utility of tasting wines unmasked (in conventional wine shows, which I’ve also been involved in, wines are judged “blind” or with their identities unknown).

Just as valuable is the opportunity to discuss the wines among a group of equally enthusiastic wine geeks, and share knowledge and anecdotes – much like what happens when sampling wine at a cellar door or when a sommelier pours you a taste of something at a restaurant. After all, other than drinking the stuff, talking about wine is the best way to learn about it. In that spirit, Broadsheet tapped 2020’s Young Gun of Wine winners and asked them to talk about their wines and tell us what they’re drinking.

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Chris Dilworth and Loique Allain: Dilworth & Allain, Macedon Ranges
Best New Act, 2020

Sum up your winning wines:
“The two wines [Dilworth & Allain Cope Williams Vineyard Chardonnay and the Dilworth & Allain Doug’s Vineyard Pinot Noir] represent the Macedon Ranges. There’s texture and power, but it’s all balanced with the flavour and the acidity. There’s a fist of power in them. They carry a weight: something that strikes you. They’re well suited to this place and they tell a story. You open a bottle and it speaks of somewhere.”

What would you eat with them?
“We really like having chardonnay and roast chook. For the pinot, it’s so versatile. It would go great with pasta or something simple, but you can also have it on its own.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re seeing happening in Australian wine?
“There’s been a real diversification over the past decade. I know that’s been happening for a while, but we’re seeing so much variety in so many different producers doing excellent things. What we’re drinking now is so far away from what we were drinking 10 years ago. It’s exciting to think about what’s going to happen in the next 10, 15 and 20 years.”

What are you drinking right now?
“We love the pinot and chardonnay that John Nagorcka is making at Hochkirch, down near Henty. We also really like Cobaw Ridge. And we’re blessed to have so many different imports to choose from. You can go for something loose and natural or you can go something classic like a burgundy or super tuscan.”

Justin Purser: Dhiaga, Great Western
Danger Zone (awarded to the most adventurous wine), 2020

Sum up your winning wines:
“The moscato [Dhiaga Swan Hill Moscato Gordo Blanco, a white wine infused with hops and the winner of the Danger Zone award for this year’s most adventurous wine] is spicy, fruity, cloudy and fizzy. You can try to get some clear wine out of it, but just shake it up and go fizzy. It’s a fun drink. The idea of dry-hopping the wine came from Alsace, where they put grape skins into beer. That’s what triggered the idea for me. The [Dhiaga] arneis is more of a food wine. It’s much more saline, savoury and nutty, which are the characteristics of the grape variety, but it’s still fresh and vibrant.”

What would you eat with them?
“You have to think of the moscato almost like a beer. You can drink it by itself but it goes great with something like bar snacks, chips and nuts. Don’t take it too seriously. The arneis has a real saline nuttiness to it, so things like seafood, ham, pork or anything that accentuates those nutty characters.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re seeing happening in Australian wine?
“It’s really interesting to see what people are creating in terms of different varieties and not just making your classic Australian shiraz or cabernet. They’re really trying to come up with wines that promote these new varieties and find out what regions they’re suited to.”

What are you drinking right now?
“We’ve just bottled our rieslings so I’m into riesling at the moment. Another thing I’ve tried recently which I really enjoyed was an Etna Rosso Nerello Mascalese from Sicily. Far out, it was good. I love rustic Italian reds and that gravelly, almost volcanic flavour that comes through the wine.”

Will Gilbert: Gilbert Wine, Orange
People’s Choice, 2020

Sum up your winning wines:
“The [Gilbert Petillant-Naturel Orange] Riesling is fun and lively, but it’s still a very pure and varietal expression of riesling and that natural acidity we’re lucky to have in Orange. The [LCR Orange] Pinot Noir is a delicate, light and fine-boned pinot noir.”

What would you eat with them?
“Pet-nat and fried chicken is a pretty winning combination, then anything duck with the pinot noir. Nothing too bold or over the top.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re seeing happening in Australian wine?
“There are no rules and everyone’s doing very unique things. The collaborative nature of things is pretty special. You’ve got collaborations happening all through the country, and friends supporting friends and friends supporting new friends.”

What are you drinking right now?
“I’ve got a bottle of Dune on the kitchen table for dinner tonight. They’re a bunch of all-round good guys in Blewitt Springs in McLaren Vale who are doing some fun, interesting things. I’m looking forward to trying their blend of touriga nacional, mourvèdre, grenache and montepulciano.”

Steve Crawford: Frederick Stevenson, Adelaide
Winemaker’s Choice, 2020

Sum up your winning wines:
“The [Frederick Stevenson Eden Valley] Montepulciano is a bold, rich alternative to Barossa shiraz. It’s got that deep, rich colour that everyone expects from Barossa Valley wine, but it feels lighter than it appears. The [Frederick Stevenson Barossa Valley Hongell] Grenache has nice acidic drive and is a little fresher than what most people might expect from a Barossa Valley wine.”

What would you eat with them?
“The acid and the tannin in the montepulciano would stand up to pork shoulder ragu or anything slow-cooked, really. The grenache is a little less bold. I’d match it with salumis and cold-cuts and anything that has a little bit of char and smokiness.”

What’s the biggest thing you’re seeing happening in Australian wine?
“I think new-wave winemaking has matured a little bit. Producers are finding their own space and rhythm. Consumers had been taken on a pretty wild ride but they’re starting to pick apart what they like and why they like it. There’s never been a better time to drink Australian wine.”

What are you drinking right now?
“I try to keep it pretty varied. I got a mixed box of wines from an importer called Quel Vino that’s got a few older Langhe producers, plus some malvasias and trebbianos. I’m enjoying exploring the aromatic and textural varieties of Italy – wines I’ve always been a fan of.”