Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Burnbrae: One of Mudgee's Foundation Winegrowers


Mudgee is one of Australia's oldest wine growing regions. Wines have been made in this NSW region continuously since 1858. It was however during the 1960s that a renaissance took place, with the establishment of a number of family owned brands that extended the plantings.

The Burnbrae site was identified in 1968 for its viticultural advantages. Translating as 'the sloping field down to a stream', Burnbrae sits at 600 metres elevation, with good seasonal rainfall and well-drained soils derived from the shale and slate.

The current Burnbrae winery sits beside the original site of the open-air winery, which was arranged beneath an established peppercorn tree. The peppercorn tree is still a key feature of the picturesque Burnbrae cellar door and cottages.

The Burnbrae vineyard was planted in 1968 and at the time, was one of only a handful of families making wine in Mudgee. 40 years later, the Australian wine industry has expanded ten fold, however it is these older plantings that can't be replicated.

The current custodians of Burnbrae are Tony and Jill Bryant, who sold their broad acre farm after identifying the vineyard as a special piece of Mudgee's winegrowing history.

Situated on the outskirts of the Mudgee township in the Erudgere Valley, the Burnbrae winery is overseen by one of Australia's most experienced winemakers, Frank Newman. After working for sixteen years with Penfolds and then twelve with Angove, Frank moved to the lesser-known Mudgee region, after seeing the quality of fruit being grown on these aged vines.

Two of the latest wines to be released from Burnbrae comprise the 2011 Burnbrae Pinot Gris and their signature wine, the 2008 Burnbrae Shiraz.

The 2008 Burnbrae Shiraz is made from grapes grown on the estate's 40-year-old vines. "2008 was one of the best vintages we have had in a decade," commented Burnbrae winemaker Frank Newman. "We had great soil moisture from the winter rains, and coupled with the long cool ripening, resulted in great depth of flavour in the fruit."

The Shiraz was handpicked and plunged for the first week after harvest in open fermenters and basket pressed. 90 per cent of the wine underwent secondary malolactic fermentation in barrel prior to the total blend undergoing a further two years maturation in a combination of a tightly grained American and French oak.

"2011 was a fascinating vintage in Mudgee. Many vignerons didn't harvest any grapes. Our Pinot Gris was sourced from a cooler sub region in the valley, with vintage somewhat earlier than usual. The Mudgee crop was well down from previous years, however the wines that were made are proving to be of a considerably high quality. The earlier harvest resulted in lower alcohols, great natural acidity, whilst maintaining plenty of flavour," concluded Frank.

Pricing and Distribution: The Burnbrae wines are distributed through select NSW outlets as well as from the Cellar Door and online at www.burnbraewines.com.au

2008 Burnbrae Mudgee Shiraz $28.00

2011 Burnbrae Mudgee Pinot Gris $18.00

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