Ben (Mr.) Riggs
Ben Riggs’ winemaking career is coloured by stints abroad and time tending his own turf, getting to know the lie of the land that is McLaren Vale. But head back to 1985, when Ben was a wee lad (figuratively speaking as size has never been an issue for Ben) and you’ll see he graduated from Roseworthy Agricultural College in Adelaide, what some call Australia’s Oxford of the wine world. Notable alumni include Peter Gago, the current craftsman of Penfolds’ Grange.
Since then, Ben has clocked 42 vintages, 14 of which were spent at the helm of Wirra Wirra in McLaren Vale. He also wears the rather mystical badge of Flying Winemaker. There’s no magic carpet involved, only frequent flying across the Northern Hemisphere, consulting to wineries of all shapes and sizes. Destinations include: France (south of), Napa Valley (west of US of A), Greece and Italy (before they broke the bank).
Ben still works in a consulting capacity, sourcing top-notch fruit and producing big batches of wine for wholesale and retail entities, mainly Down Under. But in 2001, he turned the focus inwards and put his own name (and produce) in lights, under the moniker of Mr. Riggs. The first few vintages were kicked off with fruit from local McLaren growers with whom Ben had built a magnificent rapport over the years. These days these relationships still exist along with plenty of other new kids on the block. Mr. Riggs’ wines also feature fruit from Ben’s own vineyard Piebald Gully, located at Kangarilla on the edge of McLaren Vale.
Ben’s wines have pleased many palates over the years including those of judges, winning 44 trophies and titles. He has also been nominated Gourmet Traveller WINE Winemaker of the Year in 2005 and 2013. Shiraz is Ben’s first love, having invested hours of hard yakka sculpting and perfecting the Angelina Jolie of varietals – complicated and needy yet incredibly alluring. McLaren Vale, Shiraz’s spiritual home, is Ben’s other first love, and it is this dual passion that drives him to champion McLaren Vale Shiraz on a global scale.
Ben also keeps it local by serving as chairman and board member of McLaren Vale Winemakers Inc, and has chaired the McLaren Vale Wine Show over a five-year period. When time allows, Ben is husband to Annie and father to Baxter, Austin and Nelson.