On Monday, Brokenwood Wines Chief Winemaker and Managing Director Iain Riggs was named as a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his significant service to oenology as a Winemaker, to the development of the Australian wine industry, and to the promotion of the Hunter Valley region.
After 47 vintages, including 36 with Brokenwood Wines, Iain has had a wide and varied career in winemaking, judging, mentoring, educating, and as a thought pioneer in Australian wine.
At a time of great development for the Brokenwood Wines brand, with a highly anticipated new Cellar Door, tasting and dining complex due to open in December, it is full steam ahead for Iain and his team, with recognition like this as a surprising cherry on top.
“I’m incredibly honoured to receive such a recognition, although it feels somewhat odd for doing a job that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to each day. Mentoring and giving back to the industry gives me great enjoyment, I’m just glad to be part of it” says Iain.
Born in Burra, South Australia, Iain took an early interest in winemaking. He studied at Roseworthy College between 1972 and 1975, followed by stints at both Bleasdale and Hazelmere in McLaren Vale. It was here that sparked his interest in varietal blending, soon becoming a pioneer of the now famous combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. At Hazelmere, the ambitious winemaker focused on white wines, and was crowned McLaren Vale Bushing King in 1982 with his multi trophy winning Chardonnay.
Iain’s strong interest in ‘improving the breed’ of Australian wine has seen him in many judging and chair roles. Some of his past highlights include Chairman of the Hunter Valley Wine Show, having taken over from Len Evans in 2002. Iain was honoured with the naming of the Iain Riggs Wine of Provenance Trophy. In 1990, starting as an Associate Judge with the Sydney Royal Wine Show, Iain quickly worked his way up to Chairman of Judges, a role that he held for six years. The Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales awarded Iain with their 2014 Contributors Award for Services to the RAS.
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 as Deputy Chair of the Domestic Wine Promotion of Wine Australia until the early 2000’s. 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 is also immediate past Chairman of the Wine Show of Western Australia.
In 2003, Iain was awarded the Graham Gregory Award for outstanding service to the NSW wine industry, and at the 2013 Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine Winemaker of the Year Awards honoured Iain with the Len Evans Award for Leadership. In late 2016, the Australian Women in Wine Awards recognised Iain and Brokenwood Wines as the Workplace Champion of Change for a long history of promoting women within the workplace.
Today, Iain is Chairman of Trustees of the Len Evans Foundation that conducts the prestigious week-long Len Evans Tutorial, and current Chairman of the Shanghai International Wine Challenge.
We have kicked off with yet another great vintage this year, all the fruit has been picked in the Hunter Valley and we’re now getting fruit in from our other regions such as McLaren Vale, Beechworth, Margaret River, Orange, Cowra, and Canberra.
See below for an update from our Chief Winemaker and Managing Director, Iain Leslie Riggs on this years' vintage.
- 25th January 2018
At the time of writing, all our Hunter Valley whites, (all but 2 tonne being Semillon) has been picked. In terms of weather, Hunter Valley vignerons are happy when it doesn’t rain and we certainly haven’t had much in the past 10 months.
The Hunter Valley had 41mm on the 31st March 2017 and then 45mm on the 23rd October and the middle 6 months April – September saw only 124mm of rain and only just better than the dry winter of 2002 where we had 120mm in the lead up to the hot dry 2003 vintage.
Picking got underway on the 15th January compared to our earliest vintage in 2014, which was the 9th January. Brokenwood will start picking reds on Monday 29th January. Comparing other hot, dry years, we started processing our red fruit on 31st January in 2007.
Therefore we had a dry lead up and while we have irrigation to keep the vines alive, nothing beats nature’s own. The canopies have not been affected by the constant run of 30C+ days but it is easy to see the vines are sick of the heat and dry. Sugars have stayed low, meaning typical vibrant Semillon with maybe just a lick more colour. Certainly 2003 springs to mind as a very similar vintage and style of wine. The reds wines will be generous but well balanced as there has been a slow rise in sugar.
We could see the red harvest extend past the 9th February, which will still be an early finish. The last Shiraz in 2003 was picked on the 28th February, the 5th March in 2005 and the 17th February in 2017.
Our other regions are in great shape, especially Beechworth, although not without loss of grapes to sunburn on the west facing slopes and McLaren Vale yet again is having a burst of 40C+.
- 12th February 2018
The last big pick of our Shiraz was completed on the 10th February being the last of our Hunter Valley fruit sources to come in. Semillon ferments smell and taste terrific and the red wines are truly impressive. Comparisons to the 2014 vintage will be plentiful as they have at this early stage intense colours and beautifully ripe tannins. A run of 30C-35C days and cooler nights allowed the grape sugar to ease up to 14 baumé unlike 2017 where temperatures of 45C were common. Exciting times ahead.
Beechworth has come on with a rush with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir all being harvested this week. Umpires Vineyard at Cowra had a significant hailstorm in late November 2017, so a much-reduced crop. We’ll be closely monitoring the Forest Edge Vineyard following the Mount Canobolas bush fire over the past few days. Other regions are in good shape.
- Iain Riggs, Managing Director & Chief Winemaker
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We hope you have a great Australia Day filled with friends, fun, and of course, delicious food and wine!
*Offer ends midnight 26 January AEST. Not valid on Icon Range or in conjunction with any other offers.
My first vintage at Brokenwood in 1983 saw the introduction of our Single Vineyard wines, starting with the Graveyard Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and a bottling of Hermitage. The latter being 100% from the Graveyard Vineyard but we didn’t label as such. It was however labelled Graveyard Vineyard from 1984.
Iain Leslie Riggs - First vintage,1983.
Of the 35 vintages since, we have declassified 6 vintages. As the only Hunter Valley red wine on the Langton’s Classification of Australian wine (and at the highest rating – Exceptional) our goal is to maintain the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz as one of Australia’s very best.
After a difficult 2015 vintage the decision to declassify was easy but we felt with strict barrel selection there would be a small amount of 2016 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz. At the time of writing, the wine has been in bottle for approximately 9 months and after retasting and considerable discussion, we again feel that the superb lineage we’ve built since 1983 would be compromised if we released it. Especially as the next release, now the 2017, will become the 30th vintage. Quality is paramount and the 2017 is an outstanding Hunter Valley Shiraz that will stand comfortably alongside the multi-award winning 2014 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz.
So what becomes of the 2016 wine?
The 1968 plantings of the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz comprise of 4 blocks, one of which is known as “7 Acre” and a label we have previously used for a Shiraz from this vineyard. We typically release the Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz at the end of May, so this year in its place will be the 2016 7 Acre Shiraz. Additionally we will be releasing the 2016 Tallawanta Vineyard Shiraz. This hallowed and heritage-listed vineyard is 98 years old and has produced some of the finest wines in the Hunter Valley; Brokenwood became the “honoured custodian” in 2014.
Both wines are available for pre-order, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
We trust you will enjoy the wines to be released this year, and we look forward to seeing you at our wine club events.
Iain Leslie Riggs
Chief Winemaker and Managing Director