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Monday 6 March 2023

New release to honour female winemaking pioneer

When you have been in the wine business for over a century, you have plenty of stories to tell. 

Iconic Australian winery McWilliam’s Wines this week announced a new wine will honour the family’s first female vineyard manager and winemaker, second-generation Eliza Jane McWilliam, with a special release shiraz, to be unveiled this month. 

The 2018 Eliza Jane Canberra District Shiraz celebrates Eliza Jane, who, in 1902, managed the family’s Sunnyside vineyard and winery operations after the passing of her father, Samuel McWilliam. 

The wine will be the top shiraz offering in the McWilliam’s Wines portfolio. 

“Eliza was the eldest daughter of nine children to Samuel and Martha McWilliam - that in itself came with tremendous responsibility,” said sixth-generation family member and McWilliam’s global brand ambassador Scott McWilliam. 

“While John James, her younger brother, was responsible for bringing the McWillam family to Griffith, it was Eliza who returned to Sunnyside Vineyard in Corowa when Samuel died in 1902. 

"She and her two sisters took to running Sunnyside for two solid years before it was sold off.

“She even won first place in the Sweet White Wine category at the Corowa Agricultural Show with her first vintage release in 1904. 

"I dare say she would likely be Australia’s first female winemaker, if not one of the most successful female winemakers of her time.”

The wine chosen is made from fruit grown at the Quarry Hill Vineyard, just south of Murrumbateman in the Canberra district. 

It is described as "a small, dramatic amphitheatre-like vineyard with very thin soils primarily composed of granite."

The fruit was hand-picked in the early morning, then transported to the Hanwood winery in Griffith, where it was cool stored overnight before processing the next morning. 

The winemaking saw 50% whole clusters included in the open fermenter for lifted aromatics. 

The juice was fermented for 14 days on skins and the wine was pressed off and transferred to French oak puncheons for 10 months on fine lees. 

Just 25% new oak was used, with the remainder second and third fill. 

I'm told a bottle is on the way, so will update with my tasting notes. 

“This is a modern, cool climate, shiraz. It is beautifully concentrated and fresh," McWilliam said. "I can’t think of a better wine to honour someone so prominent in our family tree.” 

The bottle is labelled with Eliza Jane’s name and signature and will be available through wine retailers and McWilliam’s online cellar door for $100.


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