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 - 1991
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’.
1993 - 2004
The first, and only, vineyard manager is appointed - Keith (KB) Barry, in 1991. The Cricket Pitch label is extended with the return of a red wine, the 1991 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 1995, The first Rayner Vineyard Shiraz, the 1993, is released and wins the Restaurant and Catering Trophy at Royal Sydney Wine Show for Best Wine from a Small Producer.
In 1997, the first ILR Aged Semillon is released (the 1992).
Brokenwood initiates the prize for Dux of Second Year at the University of Adelaide winemaking degree course. The first recipient is Michael Sykes.
The year of 2003 saw Brokenwood's Semillon win Trophy for Best Australian White Varietal under £10, and Best International Dry White under £10 at the inaugural Decanter World Wine Awards. Iain Riggs is presented with the Graham Gregory Award for services to the New South Wales wine industry and Brokenwood releases the first wines from the Indigo Vineyard, Beechworth.
The new barrel shed is completed in 2004, allowing high quality controlled maturation for whites and reds, and greatly expanded party space.The last chardonnay vines receive their marching orders from the Graveyard. The vineyard is now entirely planted to shiraz.
Brokenwood completes the move from cork-to-screwcap finished closures.