THE FORMER national chairman of Moray & Agnew, Brian Agnew, has proven he’s a man of many talents, last week winning the 2008 NSW Wine of the Year award for his 2006 Audrey Wilkinson Hunter Valley Museum Reserve Semillon.
Agnew’s winning wine, which retails at $50, is a product of the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard in the Hunter Valley, which Agnew purchased four years ago. The vineyard is one of the oldest in Australia, dating back to 1866 when it was established by the Wilkinson family, and Agnew describes it as a “superb piece of real estate”.
“When pioneers come into an area they can pick wherever they want, and the Wilkinsons had learned the trade over in Germany and France so when they came out her they chose this spot,” Agnew said.
“For just over 140 years it’s just turned out cracking fruit ... and when you see the view, you’ll know why I had to have it.”
His decision to take the plunge and buy the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard came down to his longstanding admiration for the Australian wine industry and favourable market conditions.
“I’d always thought that the Australian wine industry is perhaps the most successful primary production of our generation — it’s gone from virtually no exports to billions of dollars of exports and it’s made this enormous cultural impact on the world
“And I was aware that there was this grape glut and people were getting down on the wine industry in Australia, so I thought ‘Well, if you’re ever going to look at it, now’s the time’,” he said.
The gamble has paid off. Audrey Wilkinson wines now retail in some Sydney stores and Agnew has begun exporting to New Zealand. He believes the award will help move things along even further.
“We’re very pleased. Of course you can tell people how good it is, but when you win a serious award like this it’s a third-party endorsement,” he said.
Agnew, who played a key role in building up Moray & Agnew’s national presence, stepped down as the national chairman in July this year, however, he still acts as a senior consultant to the Sydney office. “It was time for a change,” he said. “I’m still involved [with the firm] but the winery has been building up and it’s really interesting — it’s a whole different thing. I’ve always had other interests because I’m just that sort of guy.”
In fact this isn’t the first time Agnew’s interests outside the law have put him in the spotlight. In 1992 a horse bred by Agnew, Sub Zero, stormed home to win the Melbourne Cup, and in 2000 Agnew was awarded the Australian Sports Medal by the Federal Government for his work in setting up and co-ordinating the Equine Research Centre and Aushourse, a key body representing the Australian thoroughbred industry.
Agnew is clearly passionate on the topic of wine and he declares Semillion to be one of his favourite varieties. “I love Semillon. It’s one of the few white wines … where, as it gets older, it really talks to you,” he said. “It starts off almost like water in colour and it turns into a golden colour and gets nuances — they’re just huge. You can drink a Semillon until it’s 20 years old, or older. Now that’s a white wine,” he said.