The Halliday Wine Companion Awards sets the industry benchmark for Australian wines each year. Eight judges from the wine industry including wine critic, founder and vigneron James Halliday AM and Tyson Stelzer, chief editor of the Halliday Wine Companion guide, tasted over 8000 wines from 50 different wineries in their search for the best of the best.
Widely considered one of the most prestigious and hotly contested awards in the country, the winners were announced last night at the awards ceremony held at the distinguished Stokehouse in St Kilda, Melbourne. And yes, our Winemaker Alex Beckett took home the trophy for 2023 Other White (& Blends) Wine of the Year and a gold medal score of 95 points awarded to 2021 Limited Release Albariño.
“It is an absolute honour to have our Hunter Valley Albariño be recognised as the best other white in Australia by James Halliday and the Wine Companion Tasting Team. The last few years have seen our team put tireless work into evolving the viticulture and winemaking behind our wines so to have that quality recognised is a wonderful feeling. Albariño is fast becoming to us, one of the key varietals for our region and we look forward to seeing the variety’s future success around Australia,” said Alex.
Judge Ned Goodwin MW (Master of Wine) originally reviewed the 2021 Limited Release Albariño in October last year. See what he had to say;
Considered a niche variety with only a handful of producers in Australia, Albariño is from a northern part of Spain called Rias Baixas where it is one of the country’s most fashionable white wines.
“Albariño as a varietal has all the aromatics, texture, weight and flavour concentration yet always finishes very clean,” said Alex Beckett. “The 2021 Limited Release Albariño in particular, is really floral and super aromatic with a freshness and vibrancy that on the palate is just incredible.”
“It’s the melding together of the old and the new that makes Briar Ridge so interesting – it’s certainly why I enjoy doing what I do. I have the creative freedom to play and experiment and build upon that tradition, respecting what has been done but also improving it as we move on.”
Owner of Briar Ridge Vineyard, Jaclyn Davis is excited about the future of the winery with Alex as Winemaker.
“This is a humbling recognition of the work our family and the Briar Ridge team have been putting into experimenting with new varieties and wine styles,” said Jaclyn. “With an ever-changing climate, varieties like Albariño will be an important component of the Australian wine landscape in the coming decades. We are proud to be part of the forefront, championing these varieties of the future as well as preserving the heritage of our country through classic varieties and wine styles.”
This year Briar Ridge Vineyard is also celebrating it's 50th Jubilee with a Long Lunch in the famed Dairy Hill Vineyard, where it all began in 1972. For those keen to experience everything Briar Ridge has to offer, including the award winning Albariño, the cellar door is open 7 days per week with live music on Sundays.
The Limited Release Albariño is one of our most sought-after wines that consistently sells out within months of release, year after year. We strongly encourage all Albariño lovers who wish to enjoy this wine in the future to register here to find out more about Club Radica.
Club Radica, launching Summer 2023, is a new and exciting wine club program that will be our ‘first in, inner circle’ for our highly hunted, small batch, rare and premium wines. More to come…
Our latest release showcases the low yielding yet high quality fruit of the 2020 vintage in Wrattonbully. Escaping affect of the east coast bushfires that plagued the vintage, our Wrattonbully vineyard commenced with cool weather during the flowering and fruit set in early Summer. This led to small yields yet fully ripened flavours and sugars which enabled us to harvest excellent fruit to utilise in the Winery.
The 2020 Limited Release 'Big Bully' Cabernet Sauvignon was our maiden submission to the International Cool Climate Wine Show based out of the Mornington Peninsula. A highly successful entry for us, it went through to take out the only award in Class 24 (2 years or younger Cabernet Sauvignon).
Alex (our winemaker) aimed to exhibit a classically styled wine that is robust yet still in balance; which he succeeded in doing with this excellent style of Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon.
Concentrated blackcurrent and blackberry fruit flavours, strongly defined tannin build and length all provided by a long mix of fermentation on skins and in a static fermenter. High quality oak character is also provided by 24 months of maturation in one year old French oak casks.
Have a bottle open and at the ready with your next lamb roast or hide some under the stairs for years to come.
The garden, the views and the wine are all factors that contribute to making Briar Ridge Vineyard a must-visit destination for your trip to the Hunter Valley.
The Winter Fireside Picnic Package is the answer to your cooler months in the Hunter Valley. Situated in the Wine Garden, be greeted with a glass of our Signature Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir upon arrival, before making your way down to your private pre-lit wood fire. Blankets, outdoor beanbags and oversized hassocks will be set up to guarantee only the cosiest of moments. Relish on some of the finest local cheese and artisan charcuterie and a bottle of wine each, chosen by you on the day.
This package runs at 2pm Thursday through to Mondays with bookings essential. Available up until September 4th 2022.
Make a reservation today.
After a two year hiatus, the National Wine Show of Australia returned to the calendar in May with the delayed 2021 honours.
There were a total of 880 entrants and only 15.3% of these claimed gold medals. Briar Ridge Vineyard were amongst the very few on show to receive a top gold and point score of 96 for the Museum Release 2013 Stockhausen Semillon which was submitted in Class 10 - 2020 Semillon and older.
But that’s not all, with an invite sent to Winemaker, Alex Beckett, he was soon on his way to attend the awards ceremony being held at the National Press Club of Australia, Canberra. The night proved to be worth the journey in a Jetstream 32 (19 seats) and the Briar Ridge Vineyard walked away from 2021 National Wine Show with the Semillon Trophy for the Museum Release 2013 Stockhausen Semillon. What a reward!
In May this year, the Hunter Valley gathered for it’s annual night of nights; The Hunter Valley Legends & Wine Industry Awards. Alex has collected a few accolades in recent years for his outstanding work in winemaking with Briar Ridge Vineyard but this night solidified his efforts. Alex received the trophy for the Riedel 2022 Hunter Valley Young Achiever of the Year.
This award is presented to an individual within the Hunter Valley Wine Industry, under the age of 35, who has most actively and vibrantly contributed to the growth of the region as well as having made considerable efforts in their career and field in the Hunter Valley wine industry. Specifically, Alex has been recognised as a strong advocate for Hunter Valley wine and tourism during his thirteen years (so far) in the industry.
Currently completing his Master of Wine at the Institute of Masters of Wine, we’re very proud and super lucky to have such a skilful, innovative and driven Winemaker.
Keep your eye out, Alex has some very exciting new wines and products in the pipeline. We’re hoping to share some of these with you very soon.
The Hunter Valley is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia, and as such Briar Ridge Vineyard has inherited a rich winemaking tradition that we try to honour with each vintage. Of our wines, there is one range in particular that expresses this heritage: the Stockhausen wines.
For over thirty years, these wines have embodied the classic, regional character of the Hunter and exemplifies Briar Ridge Vineyard’s signature style. The Stockhausen series was named and crafted tribute to legendary Hunter winemaker, Karl Stockhausen, and honours both his invaluable contribution to the success of Briar Ridge Vineyard but also the success of the Hunter Valley wine industry.
We’re thrilled with how the newest release of 2021 wines has come together. Despite an unusually cool, wet season, a break of classic warm days and cool nights in early January led to exceptional flavour development and natural acidity retention, resulting in a traditionally crisp Hunter Semillon and a lively, flavourful Chardonnay. More moderate weather for the remainder of the growing season yielded a classic elegant Shiraz, with great aromatic lift and cellaring potential.
With the latest release of Stockhausen wines, we also found ourselves reflecting on where we’ve come from and how we’ve grown, as well as celebrating the continued development and calibre of these wines. They hold a place near to our hearts, and we know that Briar Ridge Vineyard wouldn’t be what it is today without the influence of Karl Stockhausen.
Born in Hamburg, Germany, Karl came to Australia in 1955. He was sent to the old Greta Migrant Camp in the Hunter Valley, where he found work as a vineyard and cellar hand at Lindeman’s Ben Ean winery and 'stumbled into winemaking' – and we’re so glad he did!
Under the tutelage of Lindeman’s Ray Kidd, Karl honed his skills as a winemaker and went on to build a successful career in the Hunter, eventually becoming one of the most awarded winemakers in Australia.
It was in 1991 that he joined Briar Ridge Vineyard, initially as a manager-winemaker and then as a consultant to the winemaking team, with whom he has collaborated in crafting the Briar Ridge Stockhausen Signature Hunter Valley Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz wines. Thirty years on, Karl's philosophy remains front of mind for our vigneron and winemaker when selecting the best parcels of fruit for these iconic wines.
Karl's impact in the industry was recognised in 2007, when he was named a 'Hunter Valley Living Legend' by his colleagues, an honour bestowed on those who have given many years of outstanding service to the advancement of the Hunter Valley. And there’s no question he’s done that.
With the latest release of Stockhausen wines, we’ve chosen to honour Karl with a new label as a testament to his vital contributions to Briar Ridge Vineyard.
Instead of our traditional logo and cream background, we’ve designed a striking black-and-gold label featuring a portrait of Karl to launch the 2021 wines. The image comes from a series of photographs taken of the Hunter Valley legends taken by Chris Elfes. The photograph was awarded a silver distinction by the AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) for the portrait category and was one of the final five images selected for at the Australian Photography Awards Portrait of the Year.
Semillon is typically cast as the supporting actor rather than the star of the show. Its natural intensity and energy make it a natural blending partner, but its potential as a varietal wine often goes unnoticed. Here at Briar Ridge, it’s one of our favourite varieties and our winemaker Alex Beckett makes sure to cast Semillon in a leading role.
So it’s no surprise that we were absolutely over the moon to learn that Ned Goodwin MW awarded our 2021 Dairy Hill Single Vineyard Semillon 97 points in Halliday's Wine Companion (read Ned’s full write-up below). It's the highest score we've received and one of the best wines we've ever made. Our winemaker Alex is “incredibly proud of this wine and excited to see how it evolves in years to come.” This is especially gratifying considering the history and significance of semillon here in the Hunter Valley.
Originally from the south-west of France, semillon is characterised by bright citrus and tropical flavours and a generous mouthfeel, though in the Hunter it tends to display more zesty citrus and herbaceous characters along with feather-light alcohol. Frequently overlooked in favour of flashier counterparts – sauvignon blanc and chardonnay – semillon can produce wines of outstanding character in a range of styles with seemingly endless cellaring potential.
It’s widely believed that semillon arrived early in Australia’s viticultural history – possibly as early as the first fleet – and quickly found its new home in the Hunter Valley. The region’s warm, humid climate and frequent summer rains cause headaches for growers. Despite these challenging conditions, semillon has proven popular with winegrowers – its vigour, high yields and tendency to ripen early (before the summer rains) made it easy to like. And the ability to morph over time from a zesty, crisp youngster into a deep golden, nutty, honey-scented old-timer makes Hunter semillon one of Australia's truly unique styles. When given centre stage, it can deliver an Oscar-winning performance.
For semillon to truly capture the Hunter’s unique sense of place, meticulous vineyard management and winemaking are essential. And this is certainly the case for our single vineyard semillon, which is made in limited quantities from our unique ‘Dairy Hill’ block located in Mount View and is only produced in exceptional vintages with the highest quality of fruit. Our vines are cropped relatively low and the grapes are hand-picked to ensure excellent concentration and freshness. The fruit is then gently handled in the winery; chilled and pressed with minimal skin contact before the juice is fermented at 16-18°C in stainless steel. An additional four months on lees provides a soft, textural mouthfeel that complements the semillon’s freshness and lively fruit character.
The resulting wine beautifully captures semillon’s youthful exuberance. It’s light and fresh, brimming with zesty citrus fruit and lemongrass, bright acidity and great length. Crisp, clean and vibrant, it’s a serious winner on a warm summer’s day and a perfect match for oysters, seafood or antipasti on the deck this Christmas. For patient drinkers, time in the cellar will reward you with the honeyed complexity bottle-aged semillon is known for. You can expect flavours of citrus and tropical fruit to evolve and combine with toast, nuts and honey, while semillon’s bracing natural acidity adds balance and length of flavour.
"From the southeast-facing Dairy Hill site. Thinned, green harvested, hand picked and rigorously sorted, the result 37% down on usual volumes. Wild-yeast fermented warmer than the regional standard, all radical in these parts. Left on lees for 4 months post-ferment. I adore the sentiment behind this, but the textural build has been pushed radically. Watch the neighbours! But, I love this. A sign of the future rather than the past. A bright one! Scents of tatami, porcini, lanolin, citrus peel, glazed quince and gin and tonic. White pepper, again. Delicious. Rich for the idiom. Palate-staining finish. Thoroughly impressive."