wines of Brokenwood, Hunter Valley, Australia
A visit to one of the Hunter Valley's top wineries
got some history with this winery. When I was first getting into
wine, a good friend who was acting as my unofficial wine mentor
poured me some Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Hermitage. I was taken.
It was being sold by our local independent, the Wine House in
Wallington, who were stocking the 1991. At £13.49 a bottle, this
was my first serious splurge, and I bought three bottles. Alas, they
are all now gone, and Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz (Hermitage has long
since been dropped from the label) is now £40+ a bottle.
group of three wine-loving Sydney-based lawyers—James Halliday,
John Beeston and Tony Albert—established Brokenwood back in 1970.
They’d decided to start a winery in the Hunter Valley, which was
geographically the closest wine region, and after a couple of years
searching, they bought a 10 acre block near the intersection of the
McDonalds and Broke Roads in Pokolbin. This was to become Brokenwood.
Iain Riggs, Brokenwood's chief
winemaker for almost 30 years
first acre and a half was planted in 1971, and the three lawyers got
their hands dirty doing a lot of the tractor work and planting
themselves, as well as the pruning and picking. The first wine was
made in 1973, from a ton of Shiraz and half a ton of Cabernet, at
Rothbury. Halliday, who went on to become Australia’s most
celebrated wine writer, was involved with Brokenwood for just over a
decade, but had to leave when he moved to Melbourne in 1983.
their beginnings, Brokenwood have expanded their production well
beyond their Hunter homeland. Grapes are now sourced from all around
South eastern Australia, with emphasis on McLaren Vale, Padthaway
and even the Yarra in Victoria.
first visited as an enthusiastic amateur in 2000, and then returned
in June 2009 for a ‘professional’ visit with chief winemaker
has been at Brokenwood since the early 1980s. He studied at
Roseworthy from 1972–75, and did his first vintage in the
Riverland in 1972. Then in 1974 and 1975 he did vintage at Bleasdale
in Langhorne Creek, South Australia, taking a job there as winemaker
at the end of 1975. Brian Croser and Tony Jordan head-hunted him for
a job at Hazelmere Estate in the McLaren Vale, where he started in
1980. Then, in 1982, he was offered the job of chief winemaker at
Brokenwood, where he has been ever since. When he joined Brokenwood
was a red wine only winery; Riggs brought his white winemaking
skills and now the emphasis is firmly on whites here.
is a major focus here. 12 000 cases of regular Hunter Semillon are
made each year, plus four single-vineyard wines totalling 2000 cases
altogether. Semillon here is crushed rather than whole-bunch
pressed: Iain feels that a little bit of oxidation at juice stage
isn’t a bad thing.
is a 100% screwcap winery, an issue Iain feels strongly about. He
recalls how they recently colour sorted 48 000 bottles of reserve
Semillon from 1998–2002, all under cork. They ended up with four
grades. The lightest colour, grade A, was kept for museum stock.
Grades B and C were released for sale. Grade D, the darkest wines,
were scrapped, representing some 30% of production. Riggs feels that
the widespread adoption of screwcaps in the Hunter ‘will be a boon
for us; especially for the whites.’
long term Hunter position is pretty sound,’ says Riggs. ‘We have
such a long history of specializing in Semillon, Chardonnay and
a tough climate and the soils are tough here,’ he adds. ‘You can’t
go planting all sorts of things to see what will happen. From our
point of view it is about promoting what we do best, raising the
profile and hence raising the price.’ He’s encouraged by the
fact that there are many good young winemakers making the Hunter
their home at the moment.
Semillon, a reserve block – luminous green; amazingly vivid and
intense with high acidity. Beautifully tight and lemony.
Semillon – single vineyard, reserve – very focused, pure and
limey with lovely freshness and acidity.
Indigo Chardonnay, from Beechworth in Victoria. Mendoza clone, free
run juice. Lovely rich, taut wine with a little bit of reduction.
Bready, rich and complex.
Indigo Viognier, Beechworth. Incredibly rich and exotic with strong
varietal characer – peach and pear fruit.
Indigo Pinot Noir, Beechworth. Beautifully rich dark cherry
aromatics. Amazingly vivid palate with freshness and elegance.
Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, Hunter. Wonderfully intense dark cherry
and berry nose. Beautiful focus, intensity and elegance. A lovely
McLaren Vale Wade Block Shiraz pressings. Concentrated and dark with
black fruits, spice and chocolate. Concentrated rich and sweet.
Semillon 2008 Hunter Valley
10% alcohol. Taut, fresh and lemony with crisp, bright lemon and
herb fruit. High acidity. Lean and pure with lovely freshness.
ILR Semillon Reserve 2003 Hunter Valley
A hot, dry year. Taut, herby and lemony with some lemon oil
notes and richer spicy notes, as well as a hint of toast. The palate
is concentrated and bold with lovely lemon and lime fruit. Intense
with some herby depth, and hints of vanilla and lanolin on the
Cricket Pitch Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2008
Two-thirds Sauvignon, a third Semillon, mainly from Cowra and
King Valley. Open and sweetly fruited with a range of fruit
characters from lemon to tropical. Attractive and subtly grassy.
Forest Edge Chardonnay 2007 Orange
From a vineyard at 1100 m planted in 1998. Full yellow/gold
colour. Toasty and nutty with lovely broad fruit. Warm yet savoury
flavours with nice oak use. Sophisticatd. 92/100
Cricket Pitch Red 2007 South Australia
Multiregional blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Shiraz. Sweet berry
fruited nose. The palate is ripe, open and quite elegant with some
spicy structure. Red berries and blackberry fruit. Very appealing
and drinkable. 88/100
Wade Block 2 Shiraz 2005 McLaren Vale
This vineyard was 10 years old in 2005, planted with cuttings
from Kays Block 6. Sweet, ripe chocolatey nose. Vivid and spicy with
some pastille character. The palate is ripe and generous with spicy,
chocolatey richness as well as nice focus and structure. Finishes
From McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley and Beechworth. Cherry, smoke
and spice notes on the aromatic nose. Fresh with nice lift: hints of
greenness, but in a nice way. The palate has lovely freshness and
elegance with dark cherry and spice character. 92/100
Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 2007 Hunter Valley
Fresh and aromatic with dark cherry, blackberry and
sophisticated roast coffee notes. A really elegant style. The palate
is midweight with black cherry fruit backed up by spicy richness in
the mid palate, and sweet red fruits. Long spicy finish with
elegance combined with power – this will last for a long time. It’s
not a totally obvious wine but the length on the palate and
mid-palate concentration of flavour suggest this will age
Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 1998 Hunter Valley
Evolved nose showing beautifully floral, earthy, spicy notes and
a hint of medicine. The palate is broad, warm, earthy and spicy with
lovely earthiness and a touch of iodine. Just lovely, with real
complexity and some elegance. Apparently this isn’t as fresh as
this wine typically shows. 93/100
Hermitage Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz 1986 Hunter Valley
A truly great wine. Fresh nose with lovely focus and intense
red/black fruits. Very focused with lovely fruit quality. Complex.
The palate is fresh with spicy, earthy red fruits and amazing
acidity and structure. Superbly elegant and fresh with beautiful
intensity and concentration. The freshness here is amazing with
beautiful acidity and complexity. 97/100
notes (from January 2005)
Pitch Sauvignon Semillon 2002
Comes fom Cowra, McLaren Vale and King Valley. Ripe, fruity, fresh
and correct. Nice weight and balance. Very good+ 85/100
Valley Semillon 2003
21st vintage of this classic. Really nice lemony fresh white. It’s
a little simple and fruity at the moment. Light and zesty. Very
Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 1998
Nice nutty and honeyed fruit with a fresh lemony twist. Soft,
rounded, nutty palate is evolved but still displaying plenty of
freshness. Very good+ 88/100
Edge Vineyard Chardonnay 2002 Orange, New South Wales
Barrel fermented with wild yeasts. Rounded, rich toasty nose is very
full and classy. Lovely savoury rich nutty palate with rich texture.
Lots of complex ripe fruit here. Delicious and integrated. Very
Pitch Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz 2001
Also has a bit of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc in it; origins are
McLaren Vale, Padthaway and Yarra Valley. Rich chocolatey fruit.
Ripe and rounded. The palate shows ripe chocolatey black fruits –
a tasty wine. Very good+ 86/100
A multi-tegion blend with contributions from McLaren Vale, Padthaway,
Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley and King Valley; aged in a mix of
American and French oak. Tasty ripe and smooth, this is showing some
evolution. Rich, ripe chocolatey nose dominated by sweet berry
fruits. The palate displays smooth, rich spicy fruit. Quite soft.
Very good+ 88/100
Vineyard Shiraz 2000 McLaren Vale
From a single 2 acre vineyard. Lovely ripe, intense nose is bold and
full with a spicy undercurrent. The palate is very ripe, spicy and
concentrated with smooth rich fruit. Great concentration, lots of
fruit and some evolution already. Very good/excellent 90/100
Vineyard Shiraz 2001 Hunter Valley
Aged mostly in new French oak after fermentation in two ton open
fermenters. Nicely defined spicy nose is intense and rich. The
palate shows a good concentration of well-defined rich fruit with a
rich spiciness and some earthy elements under the fruit. Good
acidity. Very good/excellent 92/100
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