A Conversation With Stephen Pannell, Winemaker and Bushing King of the McLaren Vale
Stephen Pannell is one of Australia’s premier winemakers, being two-time Jimmy Watson trophy winner and reigning McLaren Vale bushing king. Additionally, he is widely respected as both an educator and judge of wine.
He possesses an affinity for Mediterranean varieties and believes they flourish well in McLaren Vale’s mild climate. By practicing better viticulture techniques and using less new oak barrels in his wines, he achieves an authentic varietal “stamp”.
Early Life and Education
Stephen Pannell was raised on a wine farm in Margaret River and began his winemaking career working with some of Australia’s leading producers such as Seppelt, Andrew Garrett and Wirra Wirra. Additionally he spent several vintages working in Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo before joining Hardy’s Tintara as chief red winemaker, where he established an enviable reputation.
At SC Pannell, they produce wines from McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills that specialize in Grenache and Shiraz varietals, using open fermenters with minimal new oak usage for maximum expression of their vineyard and region.
His pursuit of wines that reflect their environment led him to explore alternative grape varieties like Touriga nacional, Tempranillo and Nero d’Avolo as well as non-mainstream classics such as Mataro, Nebbiolo and Barbera which better suit McLaren Vale climate. He also prioritizes food-friendly wines with plenty of structure and personality.
Pannell presents as being friendly and affable; an industry’s go-to “nice guy”. But underneath his smiles lies an efficient and secure professional who masters his trade without needing to show off.
On any ordinary day, an unbeaten light heavyweight was hitting his punching bag at Holiday Health Spa on Melrose Avenue. A couple of cars passing by saluted with their horns.
He was an ardent supporter of the Seattle Seahawks, Mariners and hockey. Additionally, he enjoyed boxing, anything on ESPN, 70s rock n roll music and all animals. Furthermore, he was very giving and generous with his time; spending it with family, friends and mother were his priorities.
Achievement and Honors
He has won two Jimmy Watson Trophies and was selected by Decanter Magazine as one of their Faces to Watch in the wine industry. He hones his skills working at Australia’s premier wineries such as Wirra Wirra and Hardy’s Tintara (where he served as Chief Red Winemaker) as well as overseas harvests such as Burgundy, Bordeaux and Barolo.
He currently makes wine under the S.C. Pannell label in McLaren Vale and employs vineyard-driven winemaking techniques that limit chemical products; his approach has garnered numerous awards including being named 2015 Australian Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine.
Student-athletically, he earned four first-team All-Ivy League selections and holds Cornell’s single season records for points and assists. Additionally, Face-Off Magazine selected him as a preseason All-American player.
Stephen Pannell is one of Australia’s acclaimed winemakers. As two-time Jimmy Watson Trophy winner and WINE Winemaker of the Year 2015 from Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine, his wines have received considerable acclaim across Australia and overseas. Operating his S C Pannell label from Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale regions respectively.
He was previously the Chief Red Winemaker for Hardy’s Tintara and has worked across Europe, such as Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Aldo Vajra in Barolo. With an eclectic winemaking approach encompassing alternative varieties such as Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo as well as Greek varieties Assyrtiko and Xinomavro; as well as exquisite parcels of old vine Shiraz and Grenache for his winery.
Steve Pannell is an award-winning English journalist and serves as senior foreign correspondent for ABC News, stationed at their London Bureau. Over time he has reported from many dangerous environments – Crimea during Ukraine conflict; Gaza in Hamas-Israel war; Nepal after 2015 earthquake.
His work has earned him numerous accolades, including being awarded two Jimmy Watson Trophies. Together with his wife, SC Pannell winery was established in 2004 with an ethos that wines should be “grown and not made.” Their cellar produces various varieties – shiraz, Grenache, rose and an Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc which can be found all around the world. Jack, Charlie and Alfie complete their family.