James Broinowski turned out his first wine under the Small Island Wines imprint from the 2015 vintage, from Glengarry in the north. That wine went on to considerable wine show success and he was quickly talked about by some of the top critics as a maker to watch. That pinot was also the first Australian wine to be backed by crowdfunding. As Broinowski says, “I think the crowdfunders were happy!” Today, he makes pinots from various vineyards, expressing nuances of site, as well as blend of sites for his ‘Black Label’ wine. An off-dry riesling, barrel-fermented rosé and oak-free chardonnay are also made, while his Winter Release wines delve more deeply into experimental territory, with a ‘Spiced Red’, skinsy gris and a pét-nat currently on the roster.
Broinowski started his career in hospitality, and worked in restaurants around the world, including in Canada and the UK. He achieved his WSET Level 3 Certification, as well as his Advanced Sommeliers Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers while in North America. Deciding to jump the fence, Broinowski completed a Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology at Adelaide University in 2013, with the support of a scholarship from the Order of Australia Association Foundation. He has completed vintages at Gramercy Cellars, in Washington State, USA, Moorilla Estate, in Southern Tasmania, Margan Family Wines, in the Hunter, and Hazelgrove, in McLaren Vale. He has also worked vintage at Tasmanian legend Domaine A since 2015.
Broinowski has fast-tracked his on-the-job experience since 2014 by combining a vintage in the Hunter Valley (at Margan), which is the first earliest region to start picking, with one in Tasmania, one of the latest. This has meant that he has not only been able to complete two domestic vintages in the one season, but also work in two vastly different regions.
Along with a growing roster of wine, with pinot noir at its heart, Broinowski also producers a pair of gins in conjunction with Applewood Distillery (from the Unico Zelo crew). On the wine front, the making behind Small Island Wines is light-handed and classic, with some incursions into the experimental.
“My philosophy is to make wine that I’m proud of and like to drink. I don’t add anything unless I have to. For my single site wines, I like to make pure examples of what the site has to offer in that year. They are unfiltered premium examples of the region. The winter releases tend to be much more wild, as I explore techniques and push boundaries,” he says.