Iain Riggs, Managing Director, Chief Winemaker and part owner of Brokenwood, has taken Brokenwood from a small 'hobby' winery and into the national and international arena. Iain’s skills in white winemaking revolutionized Brokenwood, which, when Riggs joined, produced only red wines. A year into his tenure, with the 1983 vintage, production levels changed to 70% white wine and 30% red.Iain is immediate 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 Macquarie Group Sydney Royal Wine Show after six years in the role and 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.
His 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.
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, Ian 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.Born in Burra, South Australia in 1955, Iain’s first insight into the wine industry was through relatives who lived in the Riverland region of South Australia. These were very much ‘brandy and dry’ times, but the allure of table wine drew the young Riggs. 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.The owners of Brokenwood, keen to grow their business and expand into white wine production, offered Iain the job of Chief Winemaker in 1982. His first Brokenwood vintage was 1983. The just completed 2013 Brokenwood vintage marks the 31st with Iain at the helm.Brokenwood’s committed to a program of regional blending from 1978 in an attempt to even out some of the more difficult Hunter Valley vintages as well as continuing a long held tradition in Australian winemaking. As such Beechworth was identified as one of the most exciting up and coming regions with Riggs and Brokenwood assisting in the establishment of the Indigo Vineyard in the late 1990s. The Brokenwood winemaking team now has premium Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris and newer varietals that include Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Rousanne and Viognier available. McLaren Vale and the Orange region add more quality fruit.Iain is known as the force behind the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz and its promotion as a unique single vineyard Shiraz. Recently elevated to the top level – Exceptional, on the Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, it is still the only Hunter Valley Shiraz to feature. A number of other premium Shiraz feature in the portfolio including Mistress Block, Verona, Wade block 2 and the Indigo Vineyard Shiraz. Riggs is also a great promoter of Hunter Valley Semillon with the ILR (Iain Leslie Riggs) Reserve Semillon the flagship.As vintage 2013 is the 31st with Iain at the helm, the premium region focus and Single Vineyard philosophy is as strong as ever.