Celebrating the Jimmy Watson: A Triumph in the Vineyards of Barossa Valley’s Hentley Farm

The Australian wine industry is a realm of passion, dedication, and craftsmanship, where winemakers like Andrew Quin of Hentley Farm have pursued excellence year after year.

In 2022, Quin's dedication bore fruit in the form of the coveted Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy, awarded for his exceptional 2021 Old Legend Grenache.

As we gear up for the 60th awarding of this prestigious award, Andrew Quin's story serves as an inspiration for both established and aspiring winemakers across the country.

Hentley Farm - meticulous viticultural planning and modern winemaking

Hentley Farm was established in 1997 by Keith and Alison Hentschke, who had a single vision to craft exceptional single estate wines from the Barossa Valley.

Keith’s experience and expertise as an agricultural scientist drove him to explore and understand the land before planting could begin.

Using an old soil map from the 1950’s to strategically locate the best parcels of land, Keith discovered a mixed farming property set among the rolling hills on the banks of Greenock Creek in Barossa’s west, with remarkable diversity of soil types, and varying aspects and altitudes.

In 2004, the estate was extended with the purchase of a neighbouring vineyard which shared the treasured natural amphitheatre of rolling hills that surround Hentley Farm and resultant diversity of site. This single estate of 150 acres is the Hentley Farm we know today.

Since 2008, Head Winemaker Andrew Quin has influenced the evolution of the vineyard with a focus on crafting modern wines from traditional Barossa varieties.

The Jimmy Watson Dream Realised

Andrew Quin's journey as a winemaker has been nothing short of remarkable. The Jimmy Watson Trophy, often described as the most sought-after prize in the Australian wine industry, was a dream that had lingered in his mind since his early days in the field.

Reflecting on this achievement, Quin shared, "It took months to sink in and still feels like a dream one year on. We live in the small community of the Barossa, and the excitement and congratulations that followed for months after our win was a real highlight."

For Quin, the Jimmy Watson win represented not only a personal triumph, but also a testament to the passion and dedication of the entire Hentley Farm team. The small community of the Barossa Valley was buzzing with pride for their local winemaker.

The Impact of a Jimmy Watson Win

Winning a Jimmy Watson Trophy is more than just a moment of glory; it's a game-changer for the winery itself Quin explains.

"This trophy puts you at the forefront of the minds and hearts of wine consumers across the country. While it results in immediate sales, the biggest impact is on overall brand awareness and perception of quality."

The Jimmy Watson has a storied history, having been claimed by some of the most celebrated figures in the wine industry. Being associated with these greats elevates a winery's reputation and image, a significant boost for any brand.

Influence on Winemaking Practices and Philosophy

To further enhance his winemaking prowess and the quality of Grenache wines, Quin embarked on a study tour in the Rhone Valley with the prizemoney associated with the Jimmy Watson Trophy. The experience opened up a world of new techniques and philosophies.

"The use of large format oak and concrete to retain freshness, the increased use of whole bunch, and earlier harvest, were all interesting learnings," said Quin.

This commitment to continuous improvement and the willingness to learn from different winemaking traditions exemplify his dedication to the craft.

For someone who didn't grow up in the traditional winemaking regions, Quin's journey into the industry is nothing short of a fascinating tale.

"I grew up in the bayside suburbs of Melbourne, so a career in winemaking certainly wasn't the standard path to travel," Quin says.

After completing his university studies and gaining experience through overseas vintages, Quin found himself in the Barossa for a vintage winemaking role. His serendipitous encounter with Hentley Farm marked the beginning of a remarkable journey.

"Once vintage was done, I stumbled across the Hentley Farm vineyard and discovered that they needed a winemaker!

“15 years later I am still there, and I continue to be amazed by the quality of the site I am working with and honoured to continue achieving success with the wines it produces," Quin shared.

Quin's tenure at Hentley Farm has been marked by significant achievements and accolades.

He recounted, "The most memorable moments in the industry for me have been the awards and trophies we have won. The excitement and recognition of the team's hard work make it all worthwhile."

These achievements include best red wine at the Barossa Wine Show in 2013, James Halliday Winery of the Year in 2014, 2017 Barossa Winemaker of the Year, Wine of Show at the Barossa Wine Show in 2019, and Best SA wine at the Royal Adelaide Wine Show in 2022.

Yet, the Jimmy Watson Trophy undoubtedly crowns the list of accomplishments.

Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Winemakers

When asked about advice for aspiring winemakers looking to attain similar recognition, Quin emphasised the value of early career experiences.

"I think for young winemakers, the key is working at as many wineries as you can early in your career.

“There are lots of approaches to winemaking out there, and establishing your own style comes from seeing these techniques and taking on the ones you like.

“Great wines are complex, and winemakers have the capacity to add this complexity through smart fruit handling and thinking outside the square."

In the lead-up to the 60th awarding of the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy, Andrew Quin's journey serves as a testament to the transformative power of passion, hard work, and a willingness to learn and adapt.

The Australian wine industry is richer for his dedication and commitment to excellence, and his story is one that continues to inspire a new generation of winemakers as they strive to leave their mark on the world of wine.

As we anticipate the next Jimmy Watson Trophy recipient, we look forward to the inspiration and innovation their success will undoubtedly bring to the industry.