Byrne Farm

Pristine, High-country Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from New South Wales

In the mid-nineties, Jeff Byrne was more than content with his life on Canada’s east coast before a chance encounter changed everything. One fine, blue-sky day while on a gap year in Australia, Byrne jumped in a maxi taxi for the short drive from Broadchurch to Surfers Paradise. Sharing the ride that day was a young local gal called Bridgette. The two hit it off, and well, Byrne decided to stick around for a while.

When Bridgette’s work took her to the Hunter Valley, Byrne followed, stumbling into the wine industry. At first, he hit a brick wall before knocking on the door of the newly founded Tower Estate in Pokolbin, which was hiring cellar door staff at the time. “I had no idea who Len Evans was at the time”, laughs Byrne, “Little did I know I would end up working under the Wayne Gretzky of the Australian wine scene” (referring to the Canadian ice hockey legend also known as The Great One).

Seduced by some fantastic bottles from Australia and France and enamoured by the camaraderie in the local winemaking fraternity, Byrne began to earn his stripes. He completed his degree and began stepping his way up the winemaking ladder. In 2007 (a year after Evans’s passing), Jeff made his first, Damascene pilgrimage to Burgundy, landing in the heart of Vosne-Romanée at François Pinault’s Domaine de Eugénie. He would return for the 2014 vintage, by which time he would be heading up the winemaking for the Agnew family’s trio of properties, Audrey Wilkinson, Poole’s Rock and Cockfighters Ghost.

“I was blown away by the potential,” Byrne says of the Orange wine growing region, citing the altitude and the many aspects and microclimates created by the rippling landscape flowing down from Mount Canobolas.

Managing the Agnew portfolio exposed Byrne to a wealth of growers across the breadth of Australia’s wine regions. But there was one source he became particularly excited about: the pristine high-country Chardonnay and Pinot Noir he was getting from Justin and Pip Jarrett’s organic vineyard in Orange. So, in 2019, when the time had come to branch out on his own, he took a trip across the Blue Mountains to look deeper.

A second chance encounter, this time with a farmer in Nashdale, led to the purchase of Glenidle, an old apple and cherry orchard established in the early 1900s on the northern slope of the extinct volcano. At 900 metres above sea level and with rich chocolate/red ferrosol soils, Byrne considers Nashdale home to Orange’s blue-ribbon terroir. His first block was planted in 2020: approximately 2.5 hectares of Pinot Noir with a diverse mixture of clones (777, 115, Abel, 667 and 114) selected for complexity. A further three hectares—Chardonnay with a little more Pinot—are to follow, while the old apple shed will be converted to a winery later this year. When the Glenidle site joins the range, it will sit alongside a small collection of negoce wines sourced from the region’s top growers, which comprise Byrne Farm’s current range.

The Range

Byrne Farm Chardonnay 2023
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Byrne Farm Chardonnay 2023

Certified organic. The Chardonnay is sourced from three plots within the Balmoral block at Nashdale, with volcanic chocolate ferrosol soils at an altitude of 880 metres on the northeast-facing slope of Mount Canobolas. At almost 30 years of age, these are some of the oldest vines in the region. 2023 was another cool year for Jeff at Byrne Farm, though picking times returned to the ‘normal’ mid-March period, as opposed to the previous year’s early April harvest. For primary fermentation, the fruit was pressed as whole bunches to French oak puncheons (500-litre). Byrne used 30% low-impact new oak—very tight-grain, steam-bent barrels from the Mâconnais region of Burgundy—which he feels helps lift and focus the fruit without adding overt flavour. As in 2022, just 10% of the fruit went through malolactic conversion to give texture and to round out acidity. The wine rested in oak for 10 months, with regular stirring to add flesh before blending and bottling. Jeff’s delighted with the wine’s “great fruit purity and mineral acidity”. And, as is always the case with this talented maker’s wines, there’s serious bang for your buck here. 

Byrne Farm Chardonnay 2023
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Byrne Farm Pinot Noir 2022
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Byrne Farm Pinot Noir 2022

Certified organic. The Pinot Noir is sourced from the Springvale block, southwest of Orange just outside the town of Cargo. This is believed to have been the first certified organic vineyard in NSW and, as per the Chardonnay, the vines are some of the oldest in the region at roughly 30 years. The vineyard is comprised of Abel and 115 clones, all on their own roots at an altitude of 820m. Byrne has worked with fruit from this site for a dozen years, mostly with the Abel clone, which he prizes for its Christmas spice perfume. The fruit was hand-picked, 100% destemmed and sent to three-tonne open fermenters where it cold-soaked for four days, followed by a 10-day ferment on skins. The wine was then lightly pressed and sent to 500-litre oak barrels where it matured for 10 months (30% new) before being blended.This year’s cooler conditions have resulted in a Pinot of impressive purity, minerality and drive, redolent with beautiful red fruit power and intensity, lovely smoked meat and earth savouriness and just a touch of reduction. There was no whole bunch this year, but plenty of whole berry to chase down that pretty and airy style, and Jeff delayed sulphuring to prolong malo, to add texture to the mid-palate. The palate is densely packed, with purity and finely drawn, fleshy structure interlaced with high-grown freshness and a savoury tinged, lengthy close. Proper.

This year’s cooler conditions have resulted in a Pinot of impressive purity, minerality and drive, redolent with beautiful red fruit power and intensity, lovely smoked meat and earth savouriness and just a touch of reduction. There was no whole bunch this year, but plenty of whole berry to chase down that pretty and airy style, and Jeff delayed sulphuring to prolong malo, to add texture to the mid-palate. The palate is densely packed, with purity and finely drawn, fleshy structure interlaced with high-grown freshness and a savoury tinged, lengthy close. Proper.

“From 900m altitude, a mix of Abel and 777 clones; 100% destemmed and aged in oak for nine months. Rainier cherries, wild raspberry and goji berry tea. Rhubarb and pink peppercorn spice. Leaf litter, cumin and fresh bay leaf. Slinky in its acidity line with a crunch and freshness to the fine skin tannins. It's a delicate wine with a nice natural flow and grace. Showing great potential for its youth.”
92 points, Shanteh Wale, The Wine Companion
Byrne Farm Pinot Noir 2022
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Byrne Farm Shiraz Pinot Noir 2021
Byrne Farm Shiraz Pinot Noir 2021
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Byrne Farm Shiraz Pinot Noir 2021

Certified organic. Jeff Byrne made just one wine in the difficult 2020 season, a Pinot Noir Shiraz blend. This year sees the blend going back to what Jeff tells us should be the norm going forward, a more classic homage to his Hunter roots. The 2021 release is 90% Shiraz and 10% Pinot Noir, with fruit sourced from two sites. The Shiraz is from 22-year-old vines on a lower site in Orange (680 metres) and the Pinot Noir is from Springvale (as per Byrne’s 100% Pinot Noir).Both parcels were destemmed and cold soaked for four days before being fermented on skins for 10 days. The wine was then lightly pressed and sent to 500-litre barrels (10% new) where it rested for 10 months before blending. Full of verve, it is bright and vibrant, jam-packed with flavours of summer berries and baking spices, with a savoury, mineral edge. Pristine acidity, a slippery, mouthcoating mid-palate and perfumed length complete the pretty picture. So much to enjoy here.

Full of verve, it is bright and vibrant, jam-packed with flavours of summer berries and baking spices, with a savoury, mineral edge. Pristine acidity, a slippery, mouthcoating mid-palate and perfumed length complete the pretty picture. So much to enjoy here.

Byrne Farm Shiraz Pinot Noir 2021
Byrne Farm Shiraz Pinot Noir 2021
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Country

Australia

Primary Region

Orange, New South Wales

People

Winemaker: Jeff Byrne

Availability

National

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