The winners of the prestigious Maurice O’Shea Award and the new McWilliam’s Excellence in Action Award were unveiled in a special ceremony on Sunday evening 26 June, marking a new era for the triennial industry event.
Winemaker and consultant Pamela Dunsford OAM received this year’s Maurice O’Shea Award in honour of her 40-year-plus contribution to the Australia Wine Industry. For the new McWilliam’s Excellence in Action Award, the trophy went to the Australian Women In Wine Awards (AWIWA) – which is owned and operated by The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society – for their dedicated focus on championing the work of women in the Australian wine community.
Upon accepting the Maurice O’Shea Award, Dunsford said: “I’m honoured to be in the company of past winners of this award. 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.
“I want to pay tribute to the great Len Evans (always Mr Evans to me), a past winner of this award and who, in the late 80s, wrote a reference for me to Krug, which opened the doors of the champagne houses to me, and of course, the rest of my story is now history.”
The award recognises Dunsford’s selfless contributions to the Australian wine industry spanning four decades in addition to blazing a trail for women in the wine industry, since first finding her passion for winemaking while studying at the University of Adelaide in 1973. Dunsford later became the first woman admitted to study Oenology at Roseworthy Agricultural College.
Her string of firsts also includes being the first female winemaker to become a wine show judge, the first female to hold an important winemaking position at a large company, one of the first women in the country to be a wine educator and consultant, and the first woman to be employed at vintage at the renowned champagne house, Krug. Her consulting work led her to Chapel Hill where she oversaw an impressive 19 vintages as chief winemaker.
In addition to the Maurice O’Shea Award, the new McWilliam’s Excellence In Action Award was also presented at the ceremony. The new award was created by McWilliam’s Wines’ new owners – the Calabria Family Wine Group – as part of the new collaboration with Mount Pleasant to focus on the many current challenges facing the wine industry and the people or organisations tackling the key issues head on for the betterment of the industry.
On accepting the award for the AWIWA, Founder Jane Thomson said: “It is a great honour to be the inaugural winner of this new and important industry award, and I want to thank McWilliam’s, the Calabria Family Wine Group and the judges.”
“The AWIWA is enormously proud of the impact we have made on gender equality in our industry, but there is still so far to go. Whilst the wine industry is currently facing challenges on many fronts, this remains the issue of our time and we urgently need more resources, funding and energy to be directed towards increasing equality in the workplace for the betterment of the entire wine community.”
The AWIWA was founded in 2015 with the aim to support and mentor women, share experiences, encourage, inspire and action change. The awards play a critical role in recognising positive female role models and leaders in the sector, which the industry needs more of.
On recognising the AWIWA for its first McWilliam’s Excellence in Action Award, Third-generation Sales & Marketing Director of Calabria Family Wine Group Andrew Calabria said: “There was an incredible selection of finalists considered for this new award, but the action demonstrated by Jane and the wider Australian Women in Wine Awards Advisory Board in mobilising the community to celebrate and recognise the female leaders in our industry stood out in the final selection.
“Diversity, equality and fairness for all in the workplace is not a challenge isolated to just the wine industry, but it’s one we recognise is moving in the right direction thanks to this incredible organisation and the work they do to inspire change across the category.”
The inaugural Australian Wine Industry Awards was presented at an invite-only ceremony and dinner at Aurora Restaurant in Adelaide. Leaders across the industry, media, producers and industry body representatives gathered to find out who would receive both awards on the night, followed by a special dinner matched with Mount Pleasant and McWilliam’s Wines.