A ray of silent sunlight shines on flourishing verdant vines that roll up and over, across Briar Ridge's relatively elevated vineyard in Mount View, in the Hunter Valley.
Fresh shoots of the Spanish wine grape, albarino grow just few feet over from rows of fiano, an intriguing Italian wine grape from the coastal region of Campania.
More often, these two Mediterranean descendants are finding favour among the palates of Hunter Valley wine lovers, freely intermingling on benchtops and tables with more traditional varieties, like semillon.
"Taking a leaf out of Chris Tyrrell's book, the Hunter Valley is one of those wine regions where the winemakers understand that to make the best you must know the best, and I think that sentiment really applies to our vineyards here in Mount View," Briar Ridge's winemaker Alex Beckett says.
Born and bred in the Hunter, Beckett has spent years learning the ins and outs of the wine industry. From sales in the cellar door to vineyard practices and winemaking in the cellar itself, earning a winegrowing degree from the University of Adelaide, and winning multiple scholarships and awards along the way.
As winemaker for Briar Ridge, Beckett is dedicated to pushing the progression of winemaking quality with a fervent focus on changing the fundamentals of their production style.
"In seeking to capture the essence and character of the vineyards and vintage, I've drawn inspiration from some of the great European producers who are leading the charge into authenticity without sacrificing quality," he says.
"Recently, we've introduced the use of ambient yeast (rather than cultured yeast from a packet), to really let the site express itself, and made a point of letting the wines age longer in tanks or barrels in order to shape them more, and eliminate a reliance on fining agents."
The result is a recent release of white wines right on time for longer, hotter, and more humid days. Zesty lemon with a crisp nectarine crunch lashed by the salty spray of the sea brings a fresh feeling to Beckett's 2021 Briar Ridge Albarino ($30).
"For me," Beckett says, "so much of the character of the variety is unlocked from the skins, which give such intense perfume and texture."
Likewise, the 2021 Briar Ridge Fiano ($30), more unctuous than others, yet retaining that lean acid restraint tinted by orange and honeysuckle, pear and freshly grated ginger spice.
"The point here was to really develop that lovely honey, waxy character, whilst using fiano's natural phenolics to shape the wine and provide structure."
An eye for the future means nothing without a trained eye on the past. The 2021 Briar Ridge Stockhausen Semillon ($35), made in honour of Hunter Valley winemaking legend Karl Stockhausen, is a classic thirst-crusher, cut along lines of fine acid laced with lemony floral blossom and lingering lime.
"'Sem' is all about purity, for me," says Beckett. "Similar to '16, the '21s are great now, but I reckon they'll really hit their stride within four to six years."