Take a bow, Alex Beckett.
On Wednesday night Briar Ridge vineyard winemaker Alex Beckett took home the trophy for best "Other Whites (& Blends)" at the 2023 Halliday Wine Companion Awards.
The winner of the 2023 "Other White (& Blends) Wine of the Year" with a gold medal score of 95 points was the Briar Ridge 2021 Limited Release Albarino
Winemaker Alex Beckett also recently took out the Riedel 2022 Hunter Valley Young Achiever of the Year award that 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 and excited about receiving the recognition.
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 on August 3 at an awards ceremony in Melbourne.
"It is an absolute honour to have our Hunter Valley Albarino be recognised as the best other white in Australia by James Halliday and the Wine Companion Tasting Team," Beckett said.
"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. Albarino 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 Albarino in October last year and had this to say in praise, "Maker Alex Beckett has a good handle on this ... Everything done right ... Albario'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!"
Considered a niche variety with less than ten producers in Australia, Albarino 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. Lovers of Sauvignon Blanc should enjoy Albarino.
"Albarino as a varietal has all the aromatics, texture, weight and flavour concentration yet always finishes very clean," Beckett said. "The 2021 Limited Release Albarion 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."
Jaclyn Davis, owner of Briar Ridge vineyard, is excited about the future of the winery with 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," Davis said.
"With an ever-changing climate, varieties like Albarino 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."
Briar Ridge vineyard is celebrating their 50th Jubilee this year in November with a members only Long Lunch in the Dairy Hill Vineyard, where it all began in 1972.
The cellar door is open seven days per week with live music on Sundays. There is also Osteria, an Italian home-style restaurant and winter fireside picnic packages available.
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