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Br John May receives Queen's Birthday honour

13 Jun 2016

One of the Clare Valley’s most respected wine industry figures has been named in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

Sevenhill Cellars’ Jesuit Winemaker Emeritus, Brother John May SJ, has been admitted as a member in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his significant service to winemaking, through contributions to professional associations, to regional tourism and to the Catholic Church in Australia.

Br May, who came to Sevenhill and the Clare Valley in 1963, said he was “deeply honoured” to be made a member of the Order of Australia.

“It is a great privilege to recognised in this way, as there are many other people in the community who deserve to be acknowledged because of their contribution and commitment,” he said.

“I have been fortunate to be part of the development of Sevenhill and the Clare Valley’s wine industry and to be closely involved with the parish and the community. Along the way, I have received wonderful support from many people and I hope that I have been able to contribute in the same way.

“We are all given gifts by God and, when I was sent to Sevenhill, my commitment was to exercise all my talents for the greater glory of God.

“Being a Jesuit, our motto Ad majorem Dei gloriam (For the greater glory of God) has been my guiding light. Having devoted my life to the Lord, I do not expect to be honoured for my work which, for me, has always had its own rewards.”

Br May’s first vintage at Sevenhill in 1963 came soon after he arrived from Melbourne as a young Jesuit Brother to work as an assistant to the then Jesuit Winemaker, Brother John Hanlon, SJ.

Br May’s first year at Sevenhill coincided with the start of a new era in wine production. The first hydraulic wine press was installed at Sevenhill in 1963 and in 1968 the first dry white table wine was made from Crouchen (Clare Riesling) grapes.

Br John, who was born in Sydney and became a carpenter after leaving school, joined the Jesuits in 1949, training at Loyola College in the Melbourne suburb of Watsonia. After working at Sevenhill from 1963 to 1969, he returned to Loyola College in 1969 where he was manager of a large retreat house and novitiate.

However, when Br Hanlon died suddenly in February 1972, Br May was recalled to Sevenhill to become the seventh Jesuit Winemaker in challenging circumstances on the eve of vintage.

In his early days as winemaker, Br May was supported by the tight-knit Clare winemaking community, whose co-operative spirit ensured that one of the region’s valued wine assets was guided and supported through a difficult time. However, Br May soon embraced the role of manager of winemaking and viticulture and he set about a determined and energetic program to guarantee the sustainability of Sevenhill.

This strategy involved improvement of the winery buildings and equipment and the vineyards were expanded using the best clones of varieties suitable to the Clare Valley in conjunction with the then Department of Agriculture (now Primary industries). Br May also devoted considerable effort to developing Sevenhill’s sales network through expansion of the Cellar Door operation and interstate and international distribution of Sevenhill wines through Sevenhill partner distributors.

In addition to his work at Sevenhill, Br John contributed to the community in many ways, including chairmanship of the Clare Valley Tourism Association and membership of the Clare Valley Winemakers’ Association, Clare Region Winegrape Growers’ Association, and Vine Improvement and Landcare organisations.

He was a keen sportsman, playing tennis and table tennis and he “trod the boards” with local theatre group, the Auburn Players, for 14 years.

Br John retired from winemaking in early 2003, with his stellar career distinguished by the emergence of Sevenhill’s reputation for quality table wines, the growth of its cellar door and visitor recognition of Sevenhill as an important location of religious and heritage character.

Br John received the Jubilee Medal from the Australian Jesuits in 2006 and his contribution to the wine industry was recognised with life membership of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia in 2004. In 2014, he was named as an inaugural member of the Clare Valley Wine Hall of Fame as one of six recipients of Legends Awards, presented by the Clare Valley Winemakers’ Association. He also received the Harry Dowling Award for excellence in regional tourism at the 2005 South Australian Tourism Awards.

His contribution to Sevenhill was recognised with the launch in 2008 of the 2004 Brother May Reserve Release Shiraz to coincide with the completion of his 45th vintage at Sevenhill. Made from premium fruit in limited quantity, the fifth vintage of this highly sought-after wine, the 2010 Brother John May Reserve Release Shiraz, was released in early 2016

Br John’s passionate advocacy of Sevenhill and the Clare Valley continues through his active role in the winery’s activities, including hosting visitors who are enthralled by his vast knowledge of Sevenhill’s winemaking and spiritual heritage.

Sevenhill's Cellar Door a star performer

11 Apr 2016

Sevenhill Cellars has been named as the Clare Valley’s Star Cellar Door in Gourmet Traveller Wine’s 2016 Best Cellar Door Awards.

The annual awards are based on the opinions of the magazine’s national wine writers who visit Australia’s wine regions to assess star performers, best tasting experiences and who serves the finest food.

David Brookes, who visited the Clare Valley, described Sevenhill as “something very special”.

“Driving in is awe-inspiring. The grounds, the vines, and the incredible sandstone buildings create an atmosphere that is quite unlike any other winery visit in the region,” he said.

The wines have been traditionally made by Jesuit Brothers, but today Liz Heidenreich is the winemaker in charge, still working closely with Jesuit Winemaker Emeritus, Brother John May, SJ.

“the cellar door itself is a rustic affair but it isn’t about shiny décor. Taste the wines, learn about the history, visit the wine museum and underground cellar and spend some time wandering the grounds. In fact, I’d highly recommend hitting some of the Clare valley’s fine providores for supplies. Settling for a post-tasting picnic on the lawn and soaking it all in.”

The Gourmet Traveller Wine Award followed Sevenhill being named in March as one of the top 10 winery experiences in South Australia by The Guardian (UK) in its travel section.

Grenache and Rieslings strike gold

10 Oct 2015

Sevenhill Cellars Inigo Grenache and Riesling have been performing well, with gold medals on the wine show circuit in Australia.

At the 2015 Royal Adelaide Wine Show, Sevenhill’s 2013 Inigo Grenache was the only Gold Medal awarded in Class 35 (2013 Grenache and older), competing against some highly regarded Grenache producers, such as Turkey Flat, d’Arenberg and Chapel Hill.

At the 2015 Rutherglen Wine Shows, Riesling was prominent with Gold Medals for the 2014 Inigo Riesling in Class 12 (Dry White Riesling) and the 2010 St Francis Xavier Single-Vineyard, Museum-Release Riesling in Class 22 (Dry White Riesling 2013 and older).

The 2014 Inigo Riesling was the only gold in its class and the 2010 St Francis Xavier shared top gold points with the Tahbilk 2012 Riesling.

Inigo reds head Halliday ratings

6 Aug 2015

Seven current-release wines from Sevenhill Cellars received 90 points and above in the latest ratings by leading Australian wine critic and author James Halliday in his 2016 Wine Companion.

The top-rated wines were the 2013 Inigo Shiraz (94 points) and the 2013 Inigo Cabernet Sauvignon (94 points). This rating refers to wines considered on the cusp of gold medal status, virtually indistinguishable from those receiving 95 points.

Halliday described the 2013 Inigo Shiraz as “dense, inky purple-crimson”. “This is a vinous black hole in space, fruit, oak and tannins implacably welded together, not allowing the alcohol to make a mark.”

Of the 2013 Inigo Cabernet Sauvignon, he said it was an “awesomely powerful wine” despite its modest alcohol. “Layer upon layer of midnight black fruits, black olive and gnarly tannins lay foundation for a life as long as that of Brother John May (Sevenhill’s Jesuit Wimemaker Emeritus).

Other wine ratings were 2010 St Francis Xavier Single Vineyard, Museum-Release Riesling and 2013 Inigo Grenache (93 points), 2012 St Ignatius and NV Classic Topaque (91 points) and NV Fine Old Tawny (90 points).

Sevenhill centre stage for Sunrise weather

4 Mar 2015

The giant satellite dish sitting on Sevenhill’s lawn signalled how breakfast television can bring far flung parts of Australia into the living rooms of thousands of Australian households every morning.

The satellite link was set up for Edwina Bartholomew, the weather presenter for Channel Seven’s top-rating Sunrise program, to undertake six live crosses at various locations in Sevenhill’s winery and vineyards in early March.

Winemaker Liz Heidenreich, who is also accustomed to early-morning starts during vintage, and Jesuit Winemaker Emeritus, Br John May SJ, were interviewed during the weather segments, which took in Sevenhill’s Underground Cellar, Winery Museum, Cellar Door, vineyard and St Aloysius’ Church and the winery grape crusher.

As the Sunrise visit coincided with vintage in the Clare Valley, viewers were able to see a load of freshly picked grapes tipped into the crusher, as Liz explained the process to Edwina.

The final segment, at Sevenhill’s Weikert Cottage ruins, featured the Executive Officer of the Clare Valley Winemakers’ Association, Tania Matz, who was able to speak to the national audience about the Clare Valley’s upcoming Gourmet Weekend on May 15-17.

Cellar Door wins regional award

3 Nov 2014

Sevenhill Cellars was named Cellar Door of the Year at the 2014 Clare Valley Regional Wine Show in November.

It is the second time Sevenhill has won the award, the first being the inaugural title in 2011 when the award was introduced by the Clare Valley Winemakers Inc to recognise outstanding presentation and service.

Sevenhill’s Jane Dawson was also a finalist in the 2014 Cellar Door Person of the Year.

Sevenhill’s Cellar Door is considered one of busiest in the Clare Valley, regularly attracting more than 50,000 visitors each year.

Br John May inducted to Clare Valley Wine Hall of Fame

19 May 2014

Sevenhill Cellars’ Jesuit Winemaker Emeritus, Brother John May SJ, has been named as an inaugural member of the Clare Valley Wine Hall of Fame.

Br John was one of six Legends Awards presented at the Black Tie & Pearls Gala Dinner on Friday, May 16, to celebrate the Gourmet Weekend’s 30th anniversary and launch of the 2014 event.

More than 300 people attended the dinner, which featured a stunning video presentation for each of the six recipients before they received their Legends Award.

Br John, who came to Sevenhill and the Clare Valley in 1963, was typically modest in his acceptance speech.

“Life is full of surprises and this Legend Award is certainly that,” he said.

“I have only been in the Clare Valley for the past 50 years, but I am delighted to receive this honour.”

Other recipients of the Legends Award were: The late Carl Sobels (Quelltaller Winery), the late Mick Knappstein (Stanley Wine Company, later known as Leasingham Wines), the Late Jim Barry (Jim Barry Wines), Jane Mitchell (Mitchell Wines) and Jeffrey Grosset, (Grosset Wines).

The launch of the Clare Valley Wine Hall of Fame is an initiative of the Clare Valley Winemakers Inc to recognise those who have made a significant contribution to long and proud history of grapegrowing and winemaking in the Clare Valley.

Brother May's first vintage at Sevenhill in 1963 came soon after he arrived from Sydney as a young Jesuit Brother to work as an assistant to the the then Jesuit Winemaker, Brother John Hanlon, SJ.

John’s first year at Sevenhill coincided with the start of a new era in wine production. The first airbag wine press was installed at Sevenhill in 1963 and in 1968 the first dry white table wine was made from Crouchen (Clare Riesling) grapes.

John joined the Jesuits in 1949, training at Loyola College in the Melbourne suburb of Watsonia. After working at Sevenhill from 1963 to 1969, he returned to Loyola College in 1969 where he was manager of a large retreat house and novitiate.

However, when Brother Hanlon died suddenly in February 1972, John was recalled to Sevenhill to become the seventh Jesuit Winemaker. As manager of winemaking and viticulture, John embarked on a program to improve the winery buildings and facilities, and the vineyards were expanded using the best clones of varieties suitable to the Clare Valley in conjunction with the then Department of Agriculture (now Primary industries).

In addition to his work at Sevenhill, John contributed to the community in many ways, including chairmanship of the Clare Valley Tourism Association and membership of the Vine Improvement and Landcare organisations,

John retired from winemaking in 2003, with his stewardship distinguished by the emergence of Sevenhill’s reputation for quality table wines, the growth of its cellar door and visitor recognition of Sevenhill as an important location of religious and heritage character. His contribution to the wine industry was recognised with life membership of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia in 2004.

John’s passionate advocacy of Sevenhill and the Clare Valley continues through his active role in the winery’s activities, including public tours and hosting visiting media.

Inigo Riesling strikes gold in Melbourne

29 Nov 2013

Sevenhill Cellars’ newly released 2013 Inigo Riesling is already making its mark on the Australian wine show circuit.
The wine received a Gold Medal at the recent Royal Melbourne Wine Awards where it was one of nine wineries to receive the top rating in the 2013 Riesling class. The judges awarded the 2013 Inigo Riesling 95 points, one of five entries to receive this assessment.
Sevenhill was one of three wineries from the Clare Valley to receive gold in Melbourne for the 2013 Riesling class, which attracted 116 entries.
The 2013 Inigo Riesling also received a Bronze Medal at the Royal Perth Wine Show and this year’s Canberra International Riesling Challenge.
The awards continue the consistent high ratings for Inigo Riesling in recent years, with the 2010 vintage receiving 96 points from noted wine critic and author James Halliday, the 2011 (93 points) and 2012 (95 points).
According to Winemaker Liz Heidenreich, the 2013 Inigo Riesling underlines wonderful varietal character from a vintage in which Riesling was picked earlier than normal because of the rapid ripening of many varieties in the warm, dry conditions. Despite the drier weather, Riesling produced above-average yields and good quality in the Clare Valley in 2013.
“The palate reveals prominent grapefruit and orange blossom, followed by the zestiness of lime citrus on the finish,” Liz said.
“Enjoy this wine while young and fresh, however it will increase in complexity with some short-term ageing.”

 

New Inigo labels

14 Sep 2013

A new look for Inigo’s classic varieties

Sevenhill Cellars Inigo range has a stylish new look, but the wines remain as classic single-varieties that are estate grown in South Australia’s Clare Valley.

The new Inigo branding has been launched with the release of the 2013 Inigo Riesling, 2013 Inigo Verdelho, 2013 Late Harvest Gewürztraminer and a further release of the 2010 Inigo Shiraz.

The Inigo label was developed in 2006 in recognition of St Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which established Sevenhill in 1851 as the first winery in the Clare Valley. Born in the Basque country of Spain and baptised ‘Inigo Lopez de Loyola’, he devoted his life to improving the spiritual life of others.

Having established a strong presence, it was considered appropriate in 2012 to embark on further development of the Inigo label in response to the ever-changing requirements of the wine market.

The new label continues the recognition that the Sevenhill brand is built around its connection to the Jesuits and a respected winemaking heritage. The spiritual and heritage values that are inherent in this connection are represented in the new packaging.

The new label strengthens the Inigo name through its prominence on the front label and capsule, and the hand-written font in the background gives a subtle personal touch.

The deep slate-grey of the labels and capsule was adopted because of its strong connection with Sevenhill through the winery, College building and St Aloysius’ Church. Slate is widely used as a building material at Sevenhill and in wine production through the historic wine tanks and open-top fermenters.

The label’s intense slate colour also links to the traditional style and quality of black tones, further reinforcing the premium quality of the Inigo wines and Sevenhill’s winemaking style.

In addition to the new branding, Sevenhill’s Inigo Shiraz and Grenache are being bottled in a Burgundy-style bottle and all wines from the Inigo range will be available in six-packs, rather than dozen cartons.

The remaining wines in the Inigo range – Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Merlot will be released under the new label with the change to the 2012 vintage.