For Alistair and Catherine Hicks winter means pruning in the vineyard and also some  midwinter jitters are brought on by the release of the annual Halliday Wine Companion — the holy grail of wine reviews.

An entry in this wine-lovers’ bible can elevate a small independent winery on to a bigger stage, or a decent score out of 100 from author James Halliday can steer an already-established label towards greater things.

For Gippsland couple Alistair and Catherine Hicks, seeing their Blue Gables brand listed in the new edition of Halliday, released this month, is the reward for the hard work involved in running a family wine business.

“It’s a benchmark, and it’s the most respected benchmark in Australia,” says Catherine.

“You can use that review as a talking point with wine shops, restaurants and consumers.”

“Our volumes are building each year as our vines mature and our sales grow” says Alistair

James Halliday rated Blue Gables Vineyard  5 black stars as 4 different varietals of wine scored 90 and above out of 100. Two wines , the KT RESERVE 2015 and the Pinot Gris 2016 rated 95 points which is a GOLD rating. Catherine explains “ These 5 black starts are for an

Outstanding winery capable of producing wines of very high quality, and did so this year. Also will usually have at least two wines rated at 95 points or above.”

“This an extremely difficult thing to achieve” says viticulturalist Alistair Hicks “ It’s something we have aspired to and are very proud to have achieved, especially as this is an Australia wide comparison”.

While consumers see only the glamorous end of the business — a beautiful glass of wine and an evocative review — it belies the hard slog required to promote small wine labels such as Blue Gables.

“You talk to anyone who works in wine marketing and they’ll say it’s easy to make the wine but hard to sell it,” Catherine says.

It’s hard to overstate, therefore, what a glowing review in Halliday’s guide can mean for a smaller winery without the big marketing dollars to plug its wares.

In some instances a good word from Halliday can elevate a wine into a whole new world of consumers and often recommended bottles by Halliday will sell out in a day.

If the latest edition has anything like the same effect for Blue Gables, it will benefit not just their business but Gippsland  wine tourism as a whole, suggests Catherine.

Wineries in this region have proven to be a successful way of attracting tourists and encouraging them to spend in surrounding businesses.

Mrs Hicks said she hopes to see the wine industry in the region continue to grow and prosper.

“Gippsland produces extraordinary wine and the more that we can embrace supporting the local wine industry, the more that wineries will be more profitable and be able to make better wine tourism experiences — there’s a flow-on effect for Gippsland,” Alistair says.