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Q&A: James Halliday on Bordeaux, the Hunter Valley, and more

Q&A James Halliday on Bordeaux, the Hunter Valley, and more

It’s hard to put into words the scope and nuances of Australia’s most important cellar but, as its owner and curator, James Halliday does it best. The inimitable icon is revealing and divesting of his treasures via The James Halliday Collection auction series. This event, significant in scale, has now launched with four auctions, divided by region: NSW & ACT, New Zealand & Tas, WA, and Bordeaux.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to secure a piece (or several) of Australian wine history. In conversation, the great man himself reveals insights into the wines you will find in these launch auctions, and traces part of his rich wine journey. Browse and bid on The James Halliday Collection today. 

On New South Wales

NSW is where your wine journey essentially started. What was your first vintage at Brokenwood like, and did everything go as planned?
Yes, pretty much. We made 15 dozen each of Hermitage (Shiraz) and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Are you excited to share such a brilliant, historic collection of Brokenwood wines with the public?
Yes, of course.

James Halliday and Tamara Grischy

You have a lot of Rothbury Estate wine in the cellar. What does Rothbury Estate mean to you?
Everything. It was where we carried out our winemaking in the first vintage (using our own equipment).

The Hunter Valley produces Semillon unlike anywhere else in the world, what do you love so much about this style?
Its ability to grow within 10 years, and flourish for 20 years or more.

How has the Hunter Valley changed in the last 40+ years?
From a desolate place without a single shop or petrol station outside Cessnock, to one of Australia’s most visited tourist destinations.


On New Zealand & Tasmania

What is your first memory of the New Zealand wine trade?
I was chief judge at the Auckland Wine Show circa 1983 with endless classes of progressively sweeter Müller-Thurgau. No Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, just Müller everywhere, and not a drop to drink.

Sauvignon Blanc made the NZ industry world famous. Do you delight in the fact that Kiwi reds are now world beating in their own right?

Whoa there! They make a great deal of Pinot Noir, some of which is very good.

As an avid Champagne drinker, how do you think the sparkling wines of Tasmania compete on a world scale?

Very convincingly.

Who is doing great work in Tasmania at the moment? Who should Langton’s customers be looking out for?
Sinapius, Chatto, Tolpuddle, Dawson James, and Stargazer.


On Western Australia


Bordeaux blends have taken Western Australia by storm – how do the local versions rate against the originals?

Margaret River makes truly great Bordeaux blends that are far better value than most Bordeaux blends.

These days, world class whites and reds are made across the state – what exactly makes it such a successful wine region?

Margaret River, in particular, has a superb climate and great soil. It is air-conditioned by the interplay between the Indian and Southern oceans, it is incredibly reliable, never scorched by heat nor threatened by vintage rain.



On Bordeaux

What's the most memorable bottle of Bordeaux you have ever tasted?

A double-magnum of 1865 Château Lafite.


If you had to choose one, would you choose to drink Right Bank or Left Bank?

Right Bank.


What can customers who get to taste your Bordeaux's from the mid-50s expect on the palate?

Wines that are fully developed, the tannins softened to the point where they can be sensed but not felt


Further Reading

Who is James Halliday?

Who is
James Halliday?

James Halliday is Australia’s undisputed ‘Mr Wine’. Nobody else comes close...

Q&A James Halliday’s favourite Penfolds bottle of all time

Q&A: James Halliday’s favourite Penfolds bottle of all time

From his favourite bottle of Penfolds ever, his dark horse favourite variety, and oldest wine tasted...

FAQ: Bidding on the James Halliday Collection

FAQ: Bidding on the James Halliday Collection

With so much interest comes plenty of questions. Before you bid take a moment to browse our FAQs…


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