2019 Best New Winery of the Year: Mewstone Wines

James Halliday by James Halliday for The Australian Wine

Two brothers with business savvy and passion are behind this excellent Tasmanian winery.

Without wishing in any way to denigrate past recipients of the Best New Winery award, this year’s recipient has achieved a level of success we haven’t seen before, and are unlikely to see again. The winery is owned by Tasmanian-born brothers Matthew (Matt) and Jonathan (Jonny) Hughes and their respective wives Cathie and Margie. Each couple has two children.

Matt is a banker, having worked successively with Macquarie Bank, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley; he is in the process of retiring to become CFO of Mewstone. In 2000, younger brother Jonny (now 38) obtained an economics degree from the University of Tasmania, but decided that he would rather make wine than money. A one-year post-graduate degree in wine science from Lincoln University in New Zealand was the best option for his purposes.

Duly armed with his degrees, in ’03 Jonny returned to Australia to undertake vintage work at Bleasdale before going back to New Zealand’s Felton Road for its (later) ’03 vintage (thwarted by frost). In ’04 he worked at Stonier for the southern hemisphere vintage, then at Barolo during a magnificent northern hemisphere vintage, completing his flying winemaker career in the Hunter Valley, followed by Canada’s Okanagan Valley.

On returning to Tasmania in ’06, he jumped the employment fence to work in a Hobart wine bar succinctly called Grape; after one year he moved to a distributor with a who’s-who list of mainland producers. Having covered all the bases, he then became assistant winemaker at Moorilla Estate for seven years.

In 2011, the brothers purchased the land on which to plant the estate vineyard, which will eventually increase to 5ha from its present (April 2018) 2.65ha. Both now and in the future Mewstone will purchase grapes from growers in all parts of Tasmania to build a mosaic of wines under the Hughes & Hughes brand. There are no preconceptions for any of the wines in this portfolio although, as the years pass, some regional blends may establish an ongoing part of the portfolio.

At the present time, the Hughes & Hughes wines may make use of innovations in the winery drawing upon Jonny’s experiences overseas. He has also learnt much from Moorilla’s winemaker Conor van der Reest, who has made his reputation handling small amounts of many wines involving varietal and vinification practices that have successfully challenged orthodoxy.

There were 12 wines submitted for this edition of the Wine Companion, four from the ’16 vintage and eight from the ’17 vintage. They are a brilliant group, led by the ’17s, all showing a sure, delicate, precisely weighted touch. There is only one way forward for Mewstone: up.

Purchase award-winning Mewstone wine at The Australian Wine.

Explore more of the 2019 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.