After 47 vintages, including 36 in the Hunter Valley, Iain Riggs still looks forward to work every day.
Mr Riggs was today named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in recognition of his significant service to oenology as a winemaker, to the development of the Australian wine industry, and to the promotion of the Hunter region.
Surprised by the honour, the Branxton resident said: “It does feel odd getting such an award for doing a job that you thoroughly enjoy and look forward to each day.
“Mentoring and giving back to the industry gives me great enjoyment.”
The managing director and chief winemaker at Brokenwood Wines, Mr Riggs arrived at the Pokolbin winery in 1982 after starting his career in the Riverland of South Australia.
“James Halliday was looking for Brokenwood's first employee, as they did it all themselves from October 1970,” he recalls.
“I was working as winemaker in McLaren Vale and decided to move at end of ‘82.
“Brokenwood was very small and the idea of building it up was appealing – plus working with Halliday.
“I got part-ownership in ‘85 and we've continued to grow ever since.”
Mr Riggs is currently the Chairman of Trustees of the Len Evans Foundation, and the chairman of the Shanghai International Wine Challenge and the Wine Show of Western Australia.
He previously chaired the Hunter Valley Wine Show (2002-2011), the Macquarie Group Royal Wine Show, (2008-2014) and the Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Awards from 2006 to 2016.
He was a judge for the Sydney Royal Wine Show from 1990 to 2007, a member if Winemakers Federation of Australia board from 1989 to 1995 and is a former president of the Australian Winemakers Forum.
He has been recognised by the wine industry with the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Graham Gregory trophy for outstanding service to the NSW wine industry in 2003; the Len Evans Award for Industry Contribution from Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine in 2013; a Contributors Award for services to the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales in 2014 and as a Workplace Champion of Change in the Australian Women in Wine awards in 2016.
Mr Riggs said he has seen numerous changes in the Hunter Valley, and broader wine industry, throughout his career.
“The wine industry has embraced chardonnay big time, even Tyrrells were making it from early ‘70s,” he said.
“Hunter Semillon is a world-class wine and we're taking it to the world.
“The unification of the wine bodies under the Winemakers Federation in ‘89-90 was important and I’m proud to have been part of that.”
The export boom, the EU Wine Trade Agreement in ‘93, the rise of new wine regions like Canberra and Beechworth and continued innovation like screw caps also are among the changes that stand out to him.
And as for the future, he is excited about the construction of the new cellar door and restaurant at Brokenwood, which is set to open at the end of the year.
“It will greatly enhance the Hunter Valley and we're all very proud of accomplishing it,” he said.