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Australian winemakers in 2023 King’s Birthday Honours

Josef Chromy, Dr John Kirk and Vanya Cullen are among the leading Australian winemakers celebrated in the inaugural King’s Birthday Honours list.

More than 1,000 Australians were recognised in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours list, which has just been announced by Governor-General David Hurley.

They include the late comedian Barry Humphries, who was posthumously made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) – the nation’s highest honour, for his ‘eminent service to the arts as a comedian, actor, author, satirist and entertainer’.

Josef Chromy, who founded his eponymous winery in Tasmania in 2007 after arriving on the island as a refugee from Soviet-occupied Czechoslovakia, led the charge for the wine trade.

He already held the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM), but has now been elevated to Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) – the second-highest honour bestowed.

Chromy initially made his fortune in the meat industry, but starting in the mid 1990s, invested in several wineries and vineyards before launching his own brand, and he is now renowned as a key driving force behind the Tasmanian wine scene.

2023 King's Birthday Honours - Dr John Kirk - Clonakilla

Dr John Kirk, founder of Canberra winery Clonakilla, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours. Credit: Clonakilla

Dr John Kirk, who founded Clonakilla in New South Wales’ Canberra wine region in 1971, was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM), which is the nation’s third-highest honour.

He emigrated to Australia from the UK in 1968 to work as a research scientist, and remains a leading authority on how light behaves in water and its impact upon photosynthesis.

The Cambridge University graduate is known as a visionary and a pioneer within the Canberra wine district. He has also written several books, while crafting handmade musical instruments in his spare time.

Kirk has now successfully disengaged himself from the day-to-day running of the business – his fourth son, Tim, is the CEO and chief winemaker – but he can still be found pruning and monitoring the progress of his beloved vineyard.

Vanya Cullen was awarded the OAM in recognition of her service to viticulture and oenology.

She has been the chief winemaker at her family’s eponymous Wilyabrup estate in Margaret River since 1989, and she also took on the role of managing director in 1999.

Cullen has transformed the business into one of the country’s pre-eminent biodynamic boutique wineries, racking up a host of awards in the process. Her parents Diana Madeleine and Kevin John – after whom the winery’s top Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay respectively are made – had each previously been awarded the AM.

2023 King's Birthday Honours - Vanya Cullen

Vanya Cullen of her family winery in Margaret River, received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours. Credit: Cullen Wines

Other 2023 King’s Birthday Honours

John Ellis, the founder of the cool climate Hanging Rock Winery in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges, was also awarded the OAM for service to the oenology industry.

He set up Hanging Rock with his wife, Ann, in 1983, and it is now run by their children, Ruth and Robert. Ellis is a former vice president of the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, and he has also received several awards throughout his distinguished career.

Ken Pocock, an established wine scientist and researcher who has regularly been published by the Australian Wine Research Institute, received the OAM too.

Jane Thomson, founder of The Fabulous Ladies’ Wine Society and Australian Women in Wine Awards, was awarded the OAM for ‘service to women within the oenology sector’.

Thomson is a three-time former winner of Australia’s Digital Wine Communicator of the Year award and she is famed for championing women in wine.

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