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Brokenwood Wines
1 July 2023 | Cellar Door, Vineyard, Winemaking | Brokenwood Wines

From Vine to Glass: The Journey of Brokenwood Wines

Guests tasting wine in the Brokenwood barrel room

Have you ever wondered how your favourite wines go from being grapes on a vine to a deliciously vibrant drink? Winemaking is an art form, but it's not a practice that's very well-known outside of industry professionals and vineyards. 

If you've ever been interested in the winemaking process here at Brokenwood, from harvesting right through to bottling and serving at our Cellar Door, then you're in for a treat. 

In this blog, we explore the vine-to-glass process with a focus on some of our most popular Brokenwood wines. Join us as we uncover the beauty, craftsmanship, and dedication that go into every bottle of our award-winning wines.

Oakey Creek Vineyard in the Hunter Valley

Hunter Valley Vineyards

At Brokenwood Wines in the Hunter Valley, our extensive winemaking process begins with a deep appreciation for the land and the vineyards. Our commitment to producing outstanding wines is the driving force behind every step we take, from nurturing the vines to the final moment when our wines are poured into your glass.

Renowned for its rich soils and ideal climate, the beautiful Hunter Valley is home to our picturesque vineyards. Bathed in warm sunlight and cooled by gentle breezes, these vineyards provide the perfect growing conditions for our grapes to flourish. 

Graveyard Vineyard

When you cruise into the rolling hills of Pokolbin and turn into our Cellar Door, keep a lookout for our flagship Graveyard Vineyard. Aptly named after its original intentions, the vineyard paved the way for our consecutive award-winning Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz.

In a twist of fate back in the 70s, what was once intended as a cemetery for the Parish of Pokolbin became the birthplace of extraordinary wines. Instead of tombstones, rows of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted, transforming the land into a vineyard that would leave an indelible mark on the world of winemaking.

The vineyard's heavy clay soil presented challenges, resulting in lower yields. However, this seemingly daunting obstacle proved to be a blessing in disguise. The clay soil, known for its moisture retention properties, provided the perfect environment for the vines to thrive. 

This unique characteristic of the vineyard's terroir became the hallmark of Brokenwood red wines. Each vintage showcased the unmistakable intensity and depth of flavour that could only be achieved through the marriage of the vines and the clay soil. 

The resulting wines bore the signature style that has come to define Brokenwood's winemaking legacy.

Oakey Creek Vineyard

Planted in 1982 under the watchful eye of the esteemed Drayton winemaking family, Oakey Creek Vineyard has become a symbol of excellence in the Hunter Valley. Additional plantings in 1984, 1986, and 1989 expanded its footprint, solidifying its status as one of the region's most esteemed sites.

For over three decades, Brokenwood Wines has fostered a special relationship with this vineyard, particularly with its prized Semillon grapes. Since the early 1990s, we’ve been sourcing Semillon from Oakey Creek. 

This enduring partnership has been instrumental in crafting our acclaimed Semillon wines, including our Oakey Creek Vineyard Semillon and our iconic ILR Reserve Semillon.

The vineyard's unique composition is a key factor in its success. The combination of free-draining alluvial soil layered over clay creates an ideal environment for Semillon cultivation. 

Coupled with a gentle easterly facing rise, the vineyard benefits from near-perfect growing conditions. This terroir imparts a distinct character to the Semillon grapes, contributing to the exceptional quality and flavour profile of Brokenwood's Semillon wines.

Budburst Season: A Pivotal Stage in Grape Growing

Budburst is a crucial period for our winemakers and the winemaking process itself, as the health and vitality of the vines at this time greatly impact the quality of the grapes. It's during this stage that the vines prepare themselves for the upcoming harvest, setting the stage for a successful winemaking process. 

Budburst typically occurs during early spring, which is coincidentally an ideal time to visit the Hunter Valley with its blue skies and mild to warm weather. Witnessing this natural phenomenon of budburst first hand provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into the meticulous care and dedication that goes into crafting our exquisite wines.

Our viticulturists in particular love this pivotal season. Each day in the vineyards is like stepping into a vibrant tapestry of flourishing vines, alive with the energy of the new season. The air is filled with the sweet aroma of blossoms, and the vineyard comes alive with the hum of activity and the promise of a delicious new vintage.

Brokenwood Wines Hunter Valley vineyard during harvest season

The Harvest

This is probably a term you’re more familiar with, and it’s definitely one of the most exciting yet crucial times for our winemakers. Our skilled vineyard team, guided by years of experience, carefully hand-picks or machine-picks the grapes at the peak of ripeness. 

This meticulous process ensures that only the finest fruit is selected, preserving the integrity and flavour of each varietal. 

Harvesting at our Hunter Valley vineyards is a warm summer affair. Our vineyards team, led by expert Hunter Valley Vineyards Manager Kat Barry, hand-picks grapes for the season anywhere between November and May. 

This period is when the fruit reaches peak ripeness and freshness, but there’s a lot of variation during that window in which we can carefully select the exact right timing according to the wine we’re trying to create.

Late Picked Wines

Late-picked wines involve grapes that are left on the vine beyond their peak ripeness, resulting in a truly distinctive flavour profile. This deliberate decision by winemakers to extend the harvest allows the grapes to undergo a remarkable transformation, intensifying their sweetness and concentration.

Late-harvest wines are crafted from grapes that remain on the vine, benefiting from extended hang time. As the grapes hang, they naturally undergo a process of dehydration, causing the sugar content to become more concentrated. This gradual loss of moisture intensifies the flavours, creating a lusciously sweet and rich wine.

Harvested approximately 1-2 months after the regular harvest time, these late-harvest grapes offer our winemakers a unique opportunity to produce wines with higher residual sugar and potential alcohol content compared to standard table wines. 

Weather also plays a role in when our grapes can be harvested. Periods of rainfall can delay harvesting, and dense smoke caused by bushfires can also set things back as we wait for the grapes to reach their prime. 

One of our most popular late-picks currently in stock is the aptly-named 2021 Late Picked Semillon.

The allure of late-harvest wines lies in their complexity and balance. The heightened sweetness is expertly balanced with natural acidity, ensuring a harmonious and enjoyable tasting experience. 

Inside the Barrel Room: Brokenwood Wines Ageing Process

Once the grapes have been harvested, they embark on a transformational journey in our barrel room known as vinification. Here, the wines rest in carefully selected French oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, where they evolve and develop their distinctive character. 

This is where the real magic of our winemakers’ expertise comes into play. The alchemy that occurs as flavours mingle and complexity deepens with time is subtle and exciting to witness. 

Our winemakers draw on their expertise to monitor and guide this process, ensuring that every sip of Brokenwood wine is an expression of excellence.

The concentrated flavours of ripe fruits and honeyed notes create a captivating sensory journey, with each sip offering layers of depth and indulgence.

The Unique Production of Different Brokenwood Wines

Depending on the wine being crafted, the vinification process will look quite different. Generally, white wine grapes will get immediately crushed, chilled, and pressed before fermentation; red wine grapes, on the other hand, may go through a cold soak for a few days to preserve fruit character.

Discover the unique production variations in these popular Brokenwood wines:

  • 2019 Oakey Creek Vineyard Semillon: After hand-picking, the fruit for this vintage was crushed, chilled, and pressed straightaway. Neutral yeasts were used for the fermentation process.
  • 2022 Pinot Gris: These grapes were machine-picked and then top tipped into the press at Oxley just down the road from us. This pressing component was fermented in old French oak barrels. The racked juice was then moved to our Cellar Door for fermentation in stainless steel.
  • 2022 Chardonnay: After harvesting in late February, this fan-favourite wine saw oxidative handling which resulted in low phenolics and a lovely complexity. A combination of pure yeast ferments with small parcels of wild ferments was used in the vinification process.
  • 2021 Indigo Vineyard Pinot Noir: Hand-picked from our Beechworth vineyard in Victoria, this wine’s processing involved cold soaking the must for a few days to retain fruit character. We included 30% whole bunches in the ferment, and no post-ferment maceration was done. Being a richer red wine, we chose oak maturation in French oak barriques for 10 months before bottling.
  • 2022 Sangiovese: Processing started with a 3-4 day cold soaking of the fruit and then a cooler 6-day ferment to retain the fruit's purity. The oak regime with this wine matured in older French oak puncheons for 6 months.

Winemakers Stuart Hordern and Kate Sturgess with Hunter Valley Vineyards Manager Kat Barry in Oakey Creek Vineyard

Winemaker’s Styles

Behind every great wine is a winemaker with a unique style and vision that forms and shapes the wine into its end result. At Brokenwood, our winemakers are artisans who infuse their passion and expertise into every bottle. Each one brings their own flair, shaping the flavour profiles and personality of our wines. 

We can’t help throwing the spotlight on our incredible winemaking team. Led by Senior Winemaker Stuart Hordern and Winemaker Kate Sturgess, the Brokenwood winemakers infuse every drop with passion and dedication. 

Stuart’s extensive experience with Tyrrell’s Wines honed his talents for crafting Hunter Valley varietals of Semillon and Shiraz, two of the most popular wines in the region. 

His time abroad in Sonoma at the acclaimed Williams Selyem allowed him to work with multiple Pinot Noir clones. Working alongside Executive Chef Sean Townsend, Stuart knows exactly what makes a wine tick with its precise food pairing.

Kate has revitalised Brokenwood Wines since her appointment and specialises in both red and white Hunter Valley varietals while displaying her flair for creativity with brand new wines. After a slew of milestones and then being named in the 2021/2022 cohort of Wine Australia Future Leaders program, Kate was selected to take the lead in crafting Brokenwood’s Twenty70 range of red and white blends. Here, Kate showcased her prowess and intuition for this exciting new chapter of Brokenwood.

The Bottling Process

The moment of bottling is a culmination of the meticulous work and attention to detail that defines Brokenwood. In our state-of-the-art facility, the wines are carefully prepared for bottling, ensuring that they retain their integrity and expression. 

Our team takes great pride in ensuring that each label represents the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship. Now as an SWA Certified Sustainable Winery, you might also notice an exciting addition to some of our labels – a trust mark that shows our commitment to sustainability in the longevity and eco-friendliness of our vineyards and growing practices.

Whether you visit our Cellar Door or purchase a bottle of our wine, you can gain a sense of the precision and care that goes into each bottle as our wines are prepared to be shared with wine lovers around the world.

Brokenwood Wines Cellar Door team member serving wine

Pouring a Glass at our Cellar Door

The final stage of the winemaking process is, of course, that anticipatory moment when the wine we’ve worked so hard on is poured into your glass at our Cellar Door. 

Here, you'll find yourself immersed in the world of Brokenwood Wines in the Hunter Valley, surrounded by the sights, scents, and flavours that define our winery. 

Engage with our knowledgeable staff, who are passionate about sharing the stories and nuances of our wines. 

Experience the joy of tasting the fruits of our labour, and discover the profound connection between the vineyard, the winemaking process, and the final glass of Brokenwood wine.

Experience our vine-to-glass process in the best way possible with a visit to our Cellar Door. Browse our offerings and book your tasting or dining experience.


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