Coonawarra toasts to 2021 ASVO Viticulturist of the year

The Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology (ASVO) last night announced the Awards for Excellence winners for 2021. The Viticulturist of the year award went to Ben Harris.

Photo: John Krüger

Ben is the Viticulture Manager at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, based in Coonawarra. This role includes the management of the technical viticulture team and vineyard operations for Australia and New Zealand. Throughout his career, Ben has worked in several roles in New Zealand, Bordeaux and in Australia including technical and management roles in McLaren Vale and Langhorne Creek, managing the Penfolds vineyard at Robe and managing the Wynns Coonawarra Estate vineyards.

Ben’s vision is to continuously improve vineyard performance and sustainability while protecting the vineyards from biosecurity risks. He wants to leverage the latest R&D, innovation, and technology to create real step change, while also applying the key learnings from the past. Ben is focused on removing one of the biggest challenges in industry which is bridging the gap between R&D and the practical application of the latest knowledge and technology.

One of Ben’s innovations has involved partnering with The Yield in 2018 to leverage Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) data, along with climatic data to improve yield estimation and vineyard management decisions. Since then, this partnership has been rolled out to all TWE vineyards across Australia and New Zealand in 2020, with harvest quantity and timing predictions being generated for every block (over 9,000 hectares). Growth stage predictions, long-range weather forecasts and notifications have been established for each site to assist with management decisions and risk mitigation. Based on the success of this partnership, The Yield have now partnered with other wine companies using predictive models and data analytics to improve their businesses.

Brooke Howell, President of the ASVO said, “There was a very high standard of nominees for the Viticulturist and Winemaker of the Year awards who have all demonstrated excellence in their field. It was very pleasing to see Ben and Alex recognised as very worthy winners this year, for their significant contribution and ability to inspire others around them.”

The full list of ASVO Award categories and winners are as follows:

  • ASVO Viticulturist of the year Ben Harris, Wynns Coonawarra Estate
  • ASVO Winemaker of the Year Alex Cassegrain, Cassegrain Wines
  • ASVO Viticulture Paper of the Year Dr Marcos Bonada, PIRSA-SARDI
  • ASVO Oenology Paper of the Year Dr Martin Moran, Mordrelle Wines
  • ASVO Dr Peter May Award Dr Meg Whitener, Bell’s Brewery, Michigan

ASVO Award recipients are nominated by ASVO-appointed selection committees comprised of individuals who themselves are distinguished in the fields of viticulture and oenology and who demonstrate exceptional leadership ability and vision. For a list of previous ASVO Awards winners, please visit

The ASVO Awards for Excellence was supported by AWRI Commercial Services, Braud, CHR Hansen, EcoTrellis, Elders, Laffort, Lallemand, Pellenc, Wine Australia and Wiley Blackwell.


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