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Tuesday 25 July 2023

Briar Ridge: a quiet Hunter achiever, spreads its wings

There are big name wineries in the Hunter Valley that tend to be the focus of attention: Tyrrell's, Brokenwood and Mount Pleasant come to mind.

But there are also dozens of smaller, lower-profile producers worthy of attention.

One of the lesser known gems is Briar Ridge, tucked away in the picturesque hills of Mount View.

This boutique winery, helmed by rising winemaking star Alex Beckett, sources fruit from around Australia in addition to showcasing its own terroir.

Three new premium releases are a case in point: the trio uses fruit from the Hunter, the Hilltops region outside Young and far away Wrattonbully in South Australia's Limestone Coast.

These new releases are the 2021 Single Vineyard Dairy Hill Shiraz from the Hunter, the 2021 Single Vineyard Big Bully Cabernet Sauvignon from Wrattonbully and the 2022 Single Vineyard Hillrose Shiraz from the Hilltops.

All are reds substance; ideal for enjoying over the winter months.

Hunter locals look away now: the Wrattonbully wine was my favourite for immediate consumption, big and bold with intense blackberry and blackcurrant flavours. Full of personality; this is meaty, beaty, big and bouncy with a nod to The Who.

The Dairy Hill was the runner up, although I'm sure it will be the best wine down the road; a classic medium-bodied lifted and savoury Hunter style. This one has a long way to go.

Briar Ridge last year celebrated its 50th birthday and its estate vineyard has altitude to allow it to avoid temperature extremes - not unknown in the Hunter.

Briar Ridge was recently being shortlisted for the 2024 Halliday Wine Companion Awards for 'Best Value Winery, although these new releases are priced at $65 a bottle.

“We not only have this strong history and tradition at Briar Ridge Vineyard but also all this tremendous excitement around new grape varieties, modern viticultural practices and winemaking techniques," says Beckett.

"To me, it’s the melding together of the old and the new that makes Briar Ridge wines so interesting - it’s certainly why I enjoy doing what I do.” 

My only quibble. All three are bottled under cork.  

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