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Tuesday 28 May 2024

A very big month for the wine team at Brokenwood

 

It has been a big month for Hunter Valley wine icon Brokenwood with chief winemaker Stuart Hordern collecting a major award and then the high-profile launch of the new vintage Graveyard Shiraz, celebrating 40 years of the flagship wine.

Hordern was earlier this month awarded the First Creek Winemaking Services 2024 Winemaker of the Year at this year's Hunter Valley Legends Awards.

He has done 15 vintages at Brokenwood and 10 in charge and was promoted recently to the role of chief winemaker, only the second person after Iain Riggs in the 54-year history of the company to hold this position. 

Under his leadership, the Brokenwood Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz has maintained its position as the highest level of Langton's Classification of collectible Australian wines - the only red wine from New South Wales to hold this position.

Hordern was on hand last weekend for the release of the beautifully balanced - almost mellifluous - 2022 Graveyard ($350), an impressive affair for 350 guests held in the Brokenwood cellars, hosted by Riggs and catered by Hunter legend Robbie Molines. I was fortunate enough to attend. 

My wine writing colleague and good friend Rick Allen from the Newcastle Herald (the pair of us are indulgently pictured here at the launch) wrote a few words about Graveyard this week. 


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Did you know the first ever vintage of Brokenwood’s iconic Graveyard wine in 1983 was, in
fact, a cabernet? And the price a rather enticing $8? 

“Cabernet was all the go back in the early ’80s,” now retired long-time Brokenwood chief
winemaker Iain Riggs (below) said. “Everyone drank cabernet and Bordeaux back then - fashion
and trend play a part in wine.”


The first Graveyard shiraz came the following year in 1984 when they released both a Graveyard shiraz and a Graveyard cabernet.

Which means this month’s release of the Hunter’s most renowned shiraz - one of only 21 wines from right across Australia to earn the highest ranking in the prestigious Langton’s Wine Classifications - marks 40 years since the inaugural Graveyard shiraz.

“I had no idea back then that Graveyard would evolve to be the flagship,” Riggs said.

“For me it was just a new single vineyard shiraz, obviously with very good fruit.”

If the first couple of vintages were promising, 1986 changed all that.

“Without a doubt the best Graveyard I made in my time,” Riggs said. “Before that we’d had
bad weather or I’d picked too late, but in 1986 I nailed it. It put us on the map.”

Three successive “cracker vintages” followed soon after in 89, 90 and 91 and Graveyard’s
place in Australian wine’s highest echelon was unchallenged.

What other vintages does Hordern put up there?

“After ‘86, it’s the ‘98, then a matter of personal preference between 2014 and 2018,” he
said, with Riggs nodding in full agreement.

The price tag these days is hefty - $350. And yet people queue for it every year.

“Over the last 10 years Graveyard has been consistently better than before,” Riggs said.

“We’re under screwcap, the vines are now 50 years old, better oak and we cull a lot more
these days. Plus Stu’s doing a great job.”

And then of course there’s the vineyard itself, planted in four core old-vine parcels.

“It’s a unique site, only 10 hectares, on a gentle east slope and even in a good year we only
do about 700 cases,” Hordern said.

“Three of the parcels are planted north-south and one east-west. I think that’s what drives
the consistency – every vintage one of the two will handle the conditions a bit better.

“Obviously with wines of this quality, we don’t produce it every year.”

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The 2022 is a cracker, well worth purchasing if you have a lazy $350 in your wallet. 


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