Established in 1970 Brokenwood Wines is one of Australia’s most reputable premium wine labels and a must-visit in the Hunter Valley.
Consistently listed as a 5 star winery, Brokenwood is home to the famous Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz, the highly acclaimed ILR Reserve Semillon, and the popular Cricket Pitch Range.
Visit our Cellar Door for a casual, private or group tasting, or if you’re a club member try a ‘Tour & Taste’ which gives you a unique behind the scenes look at how wine is made and the opportunity to taste straight from the barrel.
1970 – 1972
Established in 1970, Brokenwood Wines has evolved from a weekend venture for self-professed hobby winemakers into one of Australia’s most reputable wine labels.
Brokenwood was founded by a trio of Sydney-based solicitors, Tony Albert, John Beeston and James Halliday, who paid a then record price of $970 per acre for a 10-acre block in the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges. The original block was destined to be a cricket ground for the local community but was instead planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.
The First Vintage
1973 – 1975
The first vintage was picked in 1973 and while none of the original partners claimed to know anything about viticulture, the wine received praise, and attracted a loyal following from the first vintage.
It was a labour of love for the partners, and the friends and family they conscripted to help who were seduced by the promise of clean country air, fine wine, food and company in exchange for help on the vineyard. Everyone pitched in to pick the grapes which were carried to the winery in buckets in the back seat of Len Evans’ Bentley. Weary bodies were put up in dorm-style accommodation which still remains today.
In 1975, a new winery was built to accommodate the growing production. Visitors helped themselves to a taste of the very limited and eagerly sought after boutique wine made by the weekend winemakers from a table standing in the shade of the first floor balcony.
Many of Australia’s most prominent wine identities ‘did their time’ in the vineyards at Brokenwood during the seventies.
The Formative Years
1978 – 1981
Growth was steady until the boom of 1978, when six new partners joined, allowing the purchase of the next door Graveyard Vineyard. Originally destined to be a cemetery for the Parish of Pokolbin, it was never used as such and instead planted with Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon.
The heavy clay soil resulted in vintages of low yield, but with extraordinary concentration of flavour in the berries, providing a distinctive wine style that is still evident in the Brokenwood red wines. The Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz is Brokenwood’s flagship wine, which is still sourced exclusively from this one vineyard.
In the same year, Brokenwood sourced fruit from outside the Hunter Valley for the first time – Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra, which was blended with Hunter fruit to make a premium red, creating the style that has been synonymous with Brokenwood for the last 20 years.
The First Whites
1982 – 1990
In 1982, the company extended its range to include white wines, notably the jewel of the Hunter Valley, Semillon. With this broadened scope, the partners decided to consolidate further growth with a Chief Winemaker/Managing Director.
Iain Riggs joined Brokenwood in 1982, introducing new winery equipment and facilities specifically for premium white wine production. Brokenwood was now capable of producing high quality white wine, which, since 1983, has been a significant part of its total production.
Brokenwood’s single vineyard philosophy has grown to capture the essence of our premium sites throughout Australia. The first single vineyard selection for the Graveyard Vineyard was in 1983. Since then our Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz has gained considerable international recognition. The Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine has it as the highest rated Hunter Valley red wine, listed as ‘Exceptional’.
OUR FLAGSHIP WINES
Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz
The Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine was first released in 1991 and honoured the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz with ‘Outstanding’. The Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz remains the only Hunter Valley Shiraz in the Classification and was elevated to the highest category of ‘Exceptional’ and has remained for each release since.
The Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine has achieved such prestigious recognition because the criteria for inclusion are objective and market-driven, and the Classification is regularly revised and updated.
The Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz was named after original plans for the site which was to be a cemetery within Pokolbin, however it was never used as such. The first single vineyard selection for the Graveyard Vineyard was in 1983.
Originally planted with Shiraz and Cabernet, the heavy clay soil resulted in vintages of low yield but with extraordinary concentration of flavour in the berries, providing a distinctive and premium wine style.
Today the 15 hectare Graveyard Vineyard comprises solely of Shiraz and is broken up into a number of blocks named in good Brokenwood fun; Pa’s, 7 Acre, Bush, Duck’s, Road, Middle, End, Kat’s and Dog’s, State of Origin, Vegas and Trees.
As Brokenwood’s flagship wine, each new release is welcomed with the annual Graveyard Launch held in May. This exclusive event in the winery barrel shed sees around 300 guests on site for a day of beautiful dining, entertainment, and the first release tasting.
ILR Reserve Semillon
The ILR Reserve Semillon is named after Chief Winemaker and Managing Director Iain Leslie Riggs, who joined the winery in 1982. Iain has taken Brokenwood from a small ‘hobby’ winery into the national and international arena, and was the driving force in Brokenwood extending the range to white wines.
The ILR Reserve Semillon is an aged white wine that receives no oak. After tasting the wine over the first three years the decision was made to release at 5 years bottle age, in other words to have some bottle development but capable of aging further. In terms of winemaking it was a case of low (and now, zero) skin contact and neutral yeast. Unfortunately it also corresponded with a decline in cork quality to the point where Brokenwood had to colour sort every bottle before release. We finally moved to screw cap for the 2003 Semillon as it took an extra year to get the Georgian Green bottle for screw cap. Sporadic oxidation robbed us of up to 40% in some years and wasn’t a case of some wines being slightly lesser quality than others, once oxidized, Semillon’s are undrinkable.
After changing to screw cap seals, we decided to increase the age on release to 6 years. There could be an argument that it should be 7 or even 8 years before release, but at 6 there is enough bees wax and toast flavours to illustrate that the wine is on its way for long term aging.
The ILR Reserve Semillon has been awarded ‘Best Semillon’ in the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion twice, most recently with the 2009 vintage released in 2015.
The Hunter Valley is famous for Semillon production, and is a perfect fit for the nearby Sydney wining and dining culture with its grassy fruit lift on both nose and palate.
Iain Riggs (ILR)
Managing Director & Chief Winemaker
Iain Riggs, Managing Director, Chief Winemaker and part owner of Brokenwood Wines, has taken Brokenwood from a small ‘hobby’ winery to the national and international arena. Iain’s skills in white winemaking revolutionized Brokenwood, which, when he joined, only produced red wines. Brokenwood Wines is in its 35th vintage with Iain at the helm.
Born in Burra, South Australia, Iain’s first insight into the wine industry was through relatives who lived in the Riverland region. These were very much ‘brandy and dry’ times, but the allure of table wine drew the young Iain. The experience that set him on the path that was to become his life was a bottle of 1970 Leo Buring DW110 Riesling – he has been tied to the power of the vine ever since.
Iain studied at Roseworthy College between 1972 and 1975, graduating with Honours. At this time, the industry was undergoing a major change, namely the emergence of white wine. He first worked at Bleasedale and Hazelmere in McLaren Vale. At Hazelmere, he sparked his interest in varietal blending and was one of the pioneers of the now famous combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. At Hazelmere, Iain, as Chief Winemaker, focused on white wines, and was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1982 with his multi trophy winning Chardonnay.
Iain is past Chairman of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, having taken over from Len Evans in 2002 and has been honoured with the naming of the Iain Riggs Wine of Provence Trophy. Iain has also stepped down as Chairman of Judges at the Sydney Royal Wine Show after six years in the role having started as an Associate Judge in 1990. The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales awarded Iain their 2014 Contributors Award for Services to the RAS.
The Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Awards was an initiative of Wine Hunter Marketing chaired by Iain until WHM merged with Hunter Valley Vineyard Association. Iain continued as Chair of the awards until he stepped down in 2016.
Iain’s strong interest in ‘improving the breed’ of Australian wine sees him as Chairman of Trustees of the Len Evans Foundation that conducts the week long Len Evans Tutorial. On the wine industry political side, Iain was an inaugural Board member of the Winemakers Federation of Australia serving from 1989 to 1995, its Vice President and President of the Australian Winemakers Forum as well as Chair of the Technical Sub-committee for many years. Iain continued on as Deputy Chair of the Domestic Wine Promotion of Wine Australia until the early 2000s.
Iain is currently Chairman of the Shanghai International Wine Challenge and Chairman of the Qantas Wine Show of Western Australia. At the 2013 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year Awards, Iain was honoured with the Len Evans Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Wine Industry. In 2003, Iain was awarded the Graham Gregory trophy for outstanding service to the NSW wine industry.
The most recent award for Brokenwood and Iain Riggs in late 2016, is the Australian Women in Wine award for Workplace Champion of Change, in recognition of Brokenwood’s history of promoting women within the workplace.
Iain is the driving force behind Brokenwood’s flagship wine, the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz and its promotion as a unique Single Vineyard Shiraz. Rated as Exceptional in the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, it is still the only Hunter Valley Shiraz to feature. A number of other premium Brokenwood Shiraz feature in the portfolio including the Mistress Block Vineyard Shiraz, Verona Vineyard Shiraz, Wade Block 2 Vineyard Shiraz and the Indigo Vineyard Shiraz. Iain is also a great promoter of Hunter Valley Semillon with the highly acclaimed ILR (Iain Leslie Riggs) Reserve Semillon as the Brokenwood flagship white.[/ultimate_modal]
Geoff Krieger, General Manager and part owner of Brokenwood Wines joined the company as their first General Manager in 2004. With over 30 years’ experience in the wine industry, Geoff oversees all facets of production, marketing, cellar door and domestic sales, and is actively involved in building export distribution and sales globally.
Geoff’s interest in wine began as a student while studying business at the University of Technology Sydney when he secured a part-time job in a retail liquor store. Since then, he has held a number of positions in the liquor industry starting as a sales representative for the Hill Wine Group and working his way up to the position of General Manager. Geoff has also served as a member for the National Independent Liquor Wholesalers Association and has helped to build brands such as McGuigan Wines, Champagne Lanson and Louis Jadot Burgundy.
Geoff is a past President of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association and sat on its Board from 2005-2011. He sat on the Executive of the New South Wales Wine Industry Association from 2006-2010 heading its Marketing Committee in 2008, and is a member of Wine Communicators of Australia (WCA).[/ultimate_modal]
A local boy and proud advocate of the Hunter Valley, Stuart has winemaking in his blood and has been working on the family vineyard since he was old enough to drive a tractor.
After numerous vintages in the Upper Hunter and a stint in France he decided to make his chosen career official and headed off to Adelaide University in 2004. Throughout this time he continued to develop his skills, working four years with Dean Hewitson in Adelaide and a placement with Tyrrell’s where he was able to focus on the classic Hunter Valley varieties of Semillon and Shiraz.
In his final year of university he successfully managed to combine his two passions, wine and rugby by heading back to France for a white vintage in the Languedoc followed by some quality time attending the 07 Rugby World Cup. He then returned to the Upper Hunter to work with Tyrrell’s for two years. While at Tyrrells he undertook another Northern Hemisphere Vintage in 2008, heading to Sonoma in the USA to spend some time working with multiple Pinot Noir clones at the acclaimed Williams Selyem. He has since joined Brokenwood in 2009.
Stuart encapsulates the new breed of young winemakers, dedicated to the region and striving to produce the best wines possible, while learning from the masters to further develop his craft. Stuart looks forwards to continuing his development under the guidance of Iain Riggs, while adding knowledge, enthusiasm and his skills to the team.[/ultimate_modal]
Kate Sturgess joined Brokenwood Wines in 2015 as Assistant Winemaker. She completed her Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Adelaide in 2011 and joins Brokenwood from Balnaves of Coonawarra.
Kate’s experience extends through a number of Australian wine regions as well as time at Culimna Estate, Okanangan Valley, Canada in 2012. Here in Australia, Kate gained experience at Wirra Wirra, De Iuliis Wines and joined Mount Langi Ghiran full time after her studies and travel before moving to Coonawarra.
Most recently Kate was Associate Judge at the 2016 Hunter Valley Wine Show and the 2016 Royal Queensland Wine Show. In 2016 she also took the Advanced Wine Assessment Course (AWAC) through the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), and was part of the 2016 Young Gun of Wine event with 50 of Australia’s finest up-and-coming Winemakers.
Brokenwood’s Chief Winemaker and Managing Director, Iain Riggs said “With the appointment of Stuart Hordern as Senior Winemaker, we were looking for an enthusiastic, qualified Winemaker to assist in all aspects of the Brokenwood winemaking operation. Kate has shown a passion for the wine industry including cellar work, laboratory, public relations and wine show judging. I have no doubt that Kate will be a great asset to Brokenwood.”[/ultimate_modal]
Katrina Barry has been working at Brokenwood Wines since the age of 12. Her father Keith Barry (KB) was Vineyard Manager for 23 years, with Kat working alongside him for 18 consecutive vintages. In 2013 they won ‘Viticulturist of the Year’ at the Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards, a well-deserved accolade with their unbeatable knowledge of the land.
Kat has now taken the reins and is leading the vineyard team into our next vintage. Brokenwood’s Kat’s and Dog’s Vineyard has been named in her honour, which is particularly fitting as KB helped to plant the original vines in 1968 when he was a young lad doing casual vineyard work.
The Brokenwood Cru and all who knew him were sad to lose KB in 2016, he will forever be in our hearts.[/ultimate_modal]