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Grape expectations for Hunter Valley winery after prestigious win

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A boutique Hunter Valley winery will kick-start its 50th birthday celebrations earlier than expected after toasting success at the Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

Briar Ridge Vineyard, located in the Cessnock LGA, won the Other White (& Blends) Wine of the Year for its 2021 Limited Release Albariño by winemaker Alex Beckett.

The prestigious ceremony, which took place in Melbourne on Wednesday night, sets the industry benchmark for Australian wines annually.

And, eight judges including wine critic, founder and vigneron James Halliday AM and Halliday Wine Companion Guide chief editor Tyson Stelzer tempted their palates more than 8,000 times, from 50 different wineries, in their search for the “best of the best”.

Briar Ridge Vineyard’s 2021 Limited Release Albariño secured the gold medal with a score of 95 points.

It was another triumph for Mr Beckett, who also recently took out the Riedel 2022 Hunter Valley Young Achiever of the Year award, which recognises exceptional talent and contribution to the wine industry by winemakers under the age of 35.

Currently studying in the Institute of Masters of Wine Study Program (one of only 13 students in the country), he is passionate about his innovative work at Briar Ridge.

“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 outfit,” Mr Beckett said.

“The past few years have seen our team put tireless work into evolving the viticulture and winemaking behind our wines.

“So, to have that quality acknowledged 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.”

Judge Ned Goodwin MW (Master of Wine) originally reviewed the 2021 Limited Release Albariño in October last year and had this to say in praise:

“Maker Alex Beckett has a good handle on this… Everything done right… Albariño’s pithy stone, frangipani, saline oyster shell to white pepper riffs are not subsumed, but accentuated. Fine textural detail, energetic trajectory and succulent length, the whirl of acidity whetting the palate for the next glass. This is exceptional. Kudos!”

GM Michael Bentley, owner Jaclyn Davis and winemaker Alex Beckett at the Halliday Wine Companion Awards.

Considered a niche variety with less than 10 producers in Australia, Albariño is from the northern part of Spain in an area called Rais Bixas where it is one of the country’s most fashionable white wines.

“It has all the aromatics, texture, weight and flavour concentration yet always finishes very clean,” Mr Beckett said.

“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 is 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.”

Briar Ridge Vineyard owner Jaclyn Davis was excited about the future of the winery with Mr Beckett 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,” she said.

“With an ever-changing climate, varieties like Albariño will be an important component of the Australian wine landscape in the coming decades.

“So, 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.”

Briar Ridge Vineyard is commemorating its 50th Jubilee this year in November with a members’ only Long Lunch in the Dairy Hill Vineyard, where it all began in 1972.

For those keen to experience everything the Mount View winery has to offer, including the award-winning Albariño, the cellar door is open seven days per week with music on Sundays.

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