SHE was the first woman admitted and to graduate at Roseworthy Agricultural College as a winemaker, the first female to head a major wine brand and to become a wine show judge and Pam Dunsford OAM now has won Australia's premier wine prize the Maurice O'Shea Award.
The award recognises individuals, groups or organisations for service through winemaking, cultivation, innovation and technology. It honours the man acclaimed as one of the greats of Australian wine who for 35 years grew grapes and made wine at Mount Pleasant estate in Pokolbin.
Last year's sale of McWilliam's Wines saw the Medich family group acquire Mount Pleasant for $14 million and Calabria Family Wines take over McWilliam's for $32 million. Both new owners wanted to maintain the Maurice O'Shea Award, which began in 1990 and was first won by the creator of Penfolds Grange Max Schubert, with later winners being Len Evans, Wolf Blass, Brian Croser and David Wynn.
Pam received her O'Shea prize at an Adelaide dinner at which a new award, the McWilliam's Excellence in Action Award, was presented to the Australian Women In Wine Awards for its championing of women in Australia's wine industry.
Pam told the gathering: "I've always been pleased that I chose the profession of winemaking, rather than a lawyer or doctor, as the clients of my friends who are lawyers or doctors are unhappy to see them. But everyone is happy to see a winemaker."
She has been a trail-blazer for women in wine since 1972 when, armed with an Adelaide University degree in bio-chemistry and horticulture, the 22-year-old applied to become first female wine science student among the "180 testosterone-pumping young men aged 16 to 19" at SA's residential Roseworthy College.
She recalled that Roseworthy's head was not welcoming, saying no one would employ a woman and a woman couldn't do the job. He said he wasn't going to put a six-foot fence around her room or give her an Alsatian guard dog.
As it turned out, she was accommodated in the infectious diseases ward of the college's sick bay.
What followed was a triumphant 40-year wine career in which she oversaw 19 vintages as chief winemaker at McLaren Vale's Chapel Hill Wines, became the first woman employed in vintage at France's Krug champagne house, won a Churchill Fellowship and a master of science from Davis University, California's famous wine school, and became a sought-after consultant and wine educator.
MOUNT Pleasant chief Adrian Sparks, who was at the O'Shea ceremony, has this 14% alcohol, bright garnet, potpourri-scented Mount Pleasant 2021 Single Vineyard Rosehill Shiraz at the swish new Pokolbin cellar. It shows vibrant front-palate blackcurrant flavour, a middle of Satsuma plum, spice, mint and mocha oak and a finish of earthy tannins.
DRINK WITH: paella.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 5 stars (out of 6)
ADRIAN Sparks, maker of the green-tinted straw, honeysuckle-scented Mount Pleasant 2021 Estate Grown Chardonnay, told the presentation dinner that Pam Dunsford embodied all Maurice O'Shea Award stands for. This has elegant nectarine on front palate, nashi pear, lemon zest, almond and cashew oak on the middle and a finish of flinty acid.
DRINK WITH: scallops.
AGEING: seven years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
PRAISE is due to Calabria for giving O'Shea Award new life and for this lush McWilliam's Aged 20 Years Rare Tawny. It has 19.5% alcohol, deep amber hues and rancio scents. The front palate shows pecan pie flavour, the middle fruitcake, raisin, licorice and walnuts and the finish chocolate nuances. At mcwilliams.com.au and bottle shops.
DRINK WITH: aged cheeses.
AGEING: 15 years.
RATING: 5.5 stars
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