Maurice O’Shea Award celebrates screwcaps

The 2012 McWilliam’s Maurice O’Shea Award has been awarded to the Australian Screwcap Initiative.

The 2012 McWilliam’s Maurice O’Shea Award has been awarded to the Australian Screwcap InitiativeThe award was presented in recognition of all those involved in the successful introduction of the screwcap closure and the contribution this innovation has made to the advancement of wine quality in Australia. Clare Valley winemaker, educator and long-time advocate of screwcaps, Jeffrey Grosset, accepted the award on behalf of all supporters in front of 250 guests at a gala dinner at The Whitehouse Institute of Design in Melbourne last night.

Considered by many to be the Australian wine industry’s most prestigious honour, the Maurice O’Shea Award is presented biennially to recognise an individual, brand, institute or entity that has made a “historically significant” contribution to the Australian wine industry.

The award was established in 1990 in memory of the late Maurice O’Shea, McWilliam’s Wines winemaker and founder of Mount Pleasant winery. For the first time in 2012, nominations were invited from across the entire wine industry.

McWilliam’s Wines Group Chairman, Doug McWilliam, said the Australian Wine Industry’s widespread use of the screwcap closure throughout the 2000s was a significant achievement that advanced both the quality and standing of Australian wine.

“The initiative and introduction of screwcaps changed perceptions and showcased Australia as brave, quality focused and innovative on the world stage,” said McWilliam.

Screwcaps were trialled in Australia in the 1970s, but not widely adopted. In August 2000, a group of 13 Clare Valley winemakers, including Grosset, made a collective push to reintroduce the closure to consumers by launching their Rieslings under screwcap.

“The early trials undertaken in the 1970s were thorough and the closure was excellent, but its commercial introduction wasn’t realised because people weren’t aware of the benefits,” said Grosset.

“The introduction of screwcap remains the most significant advancement in the quality and consistency of premium wine in recent times. The challenge now is to maintain our integrity and leadership. A thorough understanding and acceptance of the closure in critical export markets, particularly China, may well determine whether we are seen as taking leadership in terms of integrity and quality of premium wine.”

The dinner was held in conjunction with the biennial Winemakers’ Federation of Australia’s Wine Industry Outlook Conference, which has been running 23-24th October 2012 at the Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre.

It’s a big week for awards dinners in Melbourne, with the Royal Melbourne Wine Show awards presentation gala dinner taking place tomorrow night, Thursday 25th October.

Previous recipients of the McWilliam’s Maurice O’Shea Award include: Philip Laffer (2010), the Australian Wine Research Institute (2002), Dr Wolf Blass AM (2000), Hazel Murphy AM (1996), James Halliday (1995), Jacob’s Creek (1994), Len Evans, OBE AO (1991) and Max Schubert AM (1990).

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