Tired of New Zealand sauvignon blanc getting all the praise, Australia's McGuigan Wines decided to create an alternative white wine, which has led to them being hailed the 'world's best winemaker'.

At the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London this week, McGuigan Wines was named International Winemaker of the Year as well as Australian Producer of the Year - the second time in three years the Hunter and Barossa Valley-based winery has won the prestigious title.

"We've had a fantastic show," said chief winemaker and CEO Neil McGuigan.

"We won 34 medals out of 37 entries, so a 92 per cent strike rate, which is just incredible.


"To have won International Winemaker of the Year once is phenomenal, but to be recognised by our industry peers as International Winemaker of the Year twice in just three years is mind blowing. It's a truly once in a lifetime event," he said from London.

Central to this achievement is the McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon, with the 2006 vintage winning the International Semillon Trophy for the world's best semillion. In addition, the 1997, 2003, 2004 and 2005 vintages of this wine also won gold and best in class awards.

McGuigan credits the winery's achievements to its innovative approach to semillon.

"What we did is created a semillon and called it semillon blanc and we've created this wine style which is rich, full-flavoured and intense but we've given it some aromatics.

"It's the new Millennium white burgundy with aromatics.

"What we are trying to do is give people an alternative to New Zealand sauvignon blanc, when they've had enough of Lantana.

"We're trying to fight back for Australia with white wine," says McGuigan, who runs the family business with his brother, Brian.

"It's a wine that is very very approachable for people who like a flavoursome yet non-complex white wine."


The chief winemaker says this new award will do a lot for the Australian wine industry.

"It shows the world what fantastic wine comes from Australia."

The McGuigan brothers' grandfather, Owen McGuigan, who started the family business in the late 1800s in the NSW Hunter Valley, would be very proud of what his original plantings have grown into.

In the past only two other Australian wine companies have won the IWSC award, Rosemount and Wolf Blass.

However McGuigan is realistic about the Australian industry, saying that it's going through a tough time with the current grape glut.

"There's still an over production of grapes in Australia, there's no two ways about it. We need to be very careful how we handle this.

"We need a long-term approach. If the dollar changes all of a sudden a lot of grapes could be sold in places that they're not being sold now."

With tough competition from the New World wine countries such as Chile and South Africa - and the Old World such as France and Germany trying to fight back - the Australian wine industry has to be creative, says McGuigan Wines general manager Paul Schaafsma.

"The South African winery Spier won a lot of awards too and was our hottest competition internationally," he says of the IWSC.

Because the overseas market is such a big part of the Australian industry - the UK alone is 21.3 per cent of the market - Australian wine must continue to be innovative, says Schaafsma.

"Neil's mantra has been 'create the quality, and the awards and customers will come'."