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Young sommelier awarded coveted judging spot

ABOVE: Category Winners from the 2021 Australian Organic Wine Awards

The 2023 Australian Organic Wine Awards will showcase the highest quality organic and biodynamic wines in the country, with one of the industry’s rising stars set to take her place on the judging panel.

West Australian sommelier Sophia Gannon has been named as the recipient of this year’s Associate Scholarship for the Awards, which aims to promote female talent and leadership in the organic wine industry.

The 23-year-old said she was “shocked and thrilled” at the news she’d been awarded the coveted Scholarship spot on this year’s judging panel.

“I was actually telling a friend about the scholarship that morning and was assuming it had been awarded to someone else, so to say I was excited at receiving the news is an understatement,” Ms Gannon said.

“The scholarship really intrigued me when I saw it on social media, because it focuses not only on women in the industry but organic practices as well.

“It is helping to create a safe space for women to be heard and show their capabilities within the industry. While female representation is on the rise, there’s still only a handful of women in Western Australia who are known in the industry.

“I’ve always viewed wine as a creative. It’s art, and I can’t think of a better career than helping someone to sell their art and make a name for themselves. Also, the industry is full of such fun and vibrant people!”

Growing up on acreage in the rural locality of Moonyoonooka, east of Geraldton, had a profound impact on Ms Gannon.

“My parents both passed on their passion for the environment and organic practices,” she said.

“Mum owned an organic health food shop in Broome, and after they moved to Geraldton Dad opened a garden nursery where he made a very conscious effort not to sell synthetic fertilisers but to instead educate his customers on organic practices in the home garden.

“They taught us kids the value of permaculture and living off the land. My eldest brother has continued sustainable farming in Mingenew and my two other brothers are highly skilled horticulturalists in Perth who continue with organic practices.”

Ms Gannon’s passion for environmental advocacy led her to study a Bachelors of Agricultural Science, during which time she began working in a small wine store and discovered her love for the industry.

She also worked on a winery in the Swan Valley, gaining deeper understanding of organic and sustainable vineyard practices, which was further developed through a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 qualification.

“I’ve now completed my Level 3 WSET intensive course as well, and begun working at Wines of While, a small bar in Perth with a huge focus on minimal intervention wine,” Ms Gannon said.

“I believe organics is the most sustainable option for all industries, but wine in particular is one which can really inspire people to make better choices.

“Plus, I think organic wine just tastes better!”

On top of mentoring sessions from industry leaders covering the Australian organic and wine industries, wine tasting and judging, Ms Gannon will join the judging panel for the 2023 Australian Organic Wine Awards. The panel also includes renowned wine expert Mike Bennie, Negociants Key Account Manager, Ramon Arnavas, Group Beverage Director at STK Group, Alexandra McPherson, and the previous recipient of the Associate Scholarship, Olivia Evans.

Hosted by Australian Organic Limited (AOL), applications for the Awards are open to all commercially available certified organic wines across red, white and sparkling varieties.

AOL Chairman, Mike Brown, said the Awards are a chance to celebrate the rich array of talent across the industry.

“The quality of entrants really highlights the quality and variety of home-grown organic wines that our thriving industry is producing,” Mr Brown said.

“Organic wines are highly sought after around the world and this competition allows our hard-working producers to benchmark their best drops in competition.”

Last year’s event drew a record number of entries, with 238 bottles submitted by 58 producers from around Australia, as Ngeringa’s 2019 Single Vineyard Iluma Syrah from the Adelaide Hills took out the coveted Cullen Wines Trophy for Wine of Show.

Applications for the 2023 Australian Organic Wine Awards close on Friday 9 June, with the winners announced in September.

For more information on the competition and how to apply, visit the AOL website.

Media enquiries:

Matt Wordsworth
0404 029 241

Tim Vetter
0439 681 793