Winning ride for Agnew

NSW Wine of the Year 2008 - Audrey Wilkinson

By Winsor Dobbin
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Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard

Leading Sydney litigation lawyer Brian Agnew completed a rare double when he added the New South Wales Wine of the Year award to his previous triumph of breeding a Melbourne Cup winner.

Agnew only purchased the historic Hunter Valley winery Audrey Wilkinson four years ago, but his investment paid off when the 2006 Audrey Wilkinson Hunter Valley Museum Reserve Semillon was recently named the best in the state for 2008.

It also won the Trevor Drayton Trophy for Best Young Dry White (Semillon) at the NSW Top 40 awards.

Audrey Wilkinson Winery is one of the oldest continuing wine brands in Australia - dating back to 1866 - and Agnew is rebuilding the brand.

He’s no stranger to success, however, having bred the 1992 Melbourne Cup winner Subzero, one of Australia’s most popular racehorses.

Subzero, a grey, was trained by Lee Freedman and ridden by Greg Hall in 1992 Cup and recently retired at a clerk of the course’s horse. He is still used as an ambassador for Racing Victoria.

The winning wine retails for $50 and Agnew paid tribute to the Wilkinson family, founders of the winery, in his acceptance speech.

“This honour goes to the vineyard, the site of which was chosen by the Wilkinson family over 140 years ago," he said. “The Wilkinsons were true pioneers of the Hunter Valley and indeed of the Australian wine industry. Audrey Wilkinson and his family chose well because this vineyard has been producing award-winning wines since 1866.

“Everyone engaged at Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard is totally committed to honouring the culture established by Audrey Wilkinson and his family, and our success in claiming the 2008 NSW Wine of the Year Award is testimony to that commitment.”

“Each vintage of the Audrey Wilkinson Museum Reserve Semillon has been created by a different winemaker and has won numerous trophies and gold medals. To me, this speaks volumes of the quality of our soil and vineyards.”

More than 800 wines from the state’s 14 wine regions were tasted by 23 judges before the decision was made.

The awards were made at a presentation dinner at Coast restaurant in Sydney – a night in which the message was rammed home that the New South Wales wine industry needs to do more to create awareness of its quality product.

“There is no excuse for apathy - we simply have to do everything we can to grow our local wine industry,” chairman of judges Lester Jesberg said. “I recently surveyed the wine lists of six of the top restaurants in Sydney. Of the approximately 2250 wines listed, 55% were imported. Of the 45% of Australian wines listed only 7.6% were from NSW.

“This is not acceptable given the quality and variety of NSW wine. “But, on a positive note, these statistics are indicative of the massive growth potential that the NSW wine industry can harness.”


  • Lower Hunter (NSW)
  • Hunter including Newcastle (NSW)
  • Hunter Valley (NSW)

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