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Our history brokenwood wines

Our History

The Establishment
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’.

Building Brokenwood
1991 - 2004

The first 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) - named after the Chief Winemaker/General Manager at the time and pioneer of white wine at Brokenwood Iain Leslie Riggs (ILR).

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 AM 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.

A New Era
2004 - 2015

In 2009, Stuart Hordern joins the winery team.

P-J Charteris moves on from Brokenwood in 2011, after 12 years.

Iain Riggs AM celebrates his 30th vintage in 2012 with Brokenwood.

Stuart Hordern is announced as Senior Winemaker in December of 2014.

Kate Sturgess joins the winery team as assistant winemaker in July of 2015.
Brokenwood Wines win big at the 2015 Hunter Valley Wine Show going home with 5 trophies and 20 out of 22 wines entered receiving a medal. 

Monumental Steps
2018 - 2023

Brokenwood Wines celebrates the grand opening of the new cellar door and The Wood Restaurant building in December 2018.

In 2019 after only being open for five short months Brokenwood took out best Cellar Door of the year at the Hunter Valley Legends Awards. Kate Sturgess is promoted to Winemaker. Brokenwood installed LED Lighting across the entire site, and supplemented onsite energy usage with a 99kW Solar PV array, this has reduced energy usage by 23%.

Iain Riggs AM retires in 2020 as Managing Director and Chief Winemaker, with Stuart Hordern taking over as head of the winemaking team.

Amongst the Covid-19 challenges of 2020 Brokenwood Wines reach a milestone, turning 50 years old!

Brokenwood's two flagships wines win major awards in the 2021 Halliday Wine Companion, with the 2018 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz winning the 'Wine of the Year' trophy, and 2014 ILR Reserve Semillon ranking #1 in the 'Best Semillon' category!

The varietal Hunter Valley Semillon takes out the best current vintage Semillon three years in a row at the Hunter Valley Wine show awards for vintages 2020, 2021 & 2022.

The Hunter Valley vineyards; Graveyard, Tallawanta, Mistress Block, and Verona achieved a Sustainable Winegrowing Australia (SWA) certification in June of 2021, with the Oakey Creek Vineyard being certified in December of 2022. Read more about our sustainability journey here.

Brokenwood launches the Twenty70 brand on the 1st of December 2022, paving the way for a new sustainable style of wine, led by Winemaker Kate Sturgess.