Sunday, 18 September 2011

2011 Tyrrell's Private Bin releases

Tyrrells Private Bin releases - the 2011 version
2011 Tyrrell's Private Bin releases

It's always an impressive snapshot this tasting, a litmus test for the vintage if you will, illustrating with some clarity exactly what can be expected from Hunter wines from a given vintage (particularly given the array of single vineyard wines on tasting). Broad vintage generalisations are dangerous I know, but this does give something of an inkling.

(What are the Private Bin wines you ask? Have a squizz at the notes from last year's tasting for some context).

Speaking of vintages, the focus for this tasting were the 2011 white and 2010 red wine releases, with a smattering of 2009 reds thrown in the mix as well. As is the norm with the Hunter, weather has quite a say in the style of wine produced, with the wet start, warm finish (contrastingly warm considering the rest of SE Australlia) 2011 vintage producing (typically) quite open and generous wines with plenty of classic flavours. Picking dates were particularly important this year though, as the wines picked later in the piece can be just a fraction dried out (with even some old vineyards - like the 'Old Patch' Steven vineyard - struggling in the heat). A very solid vintage regardless, with Chardonnay and Shiraz the stars.

Similarly - or contrastingly depending on how you look at it - the 2010 reds are a variable lot, with the stop-start, warm-wet 2010 vintage producing reds that are occasionally a fraction light and simple. or can conversely look a little under and overripe, mirroring the rain/heat/rain harvest conditions. A fair to good vintage then, with big variations between the two.

As ever all these wines are available only via the Tyrrell's Private Bin (club) or via the Tyrrell's cellar door. Private Bin prices are listed below (More information here. Geez I deserve to be on the Tyrrell's payroll - Chris Tyrrell I'll take payment in some of those 09 Vat 9 Shiraz magnums :)).

Tyrrell's Vat 63 Chardonnay Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)

60% Chardonnay from HVD vineyard and 40% Semillon from Short Flat and Stevens. Batches kept separately until blending. 260 dozen made. 13.5% alc. $22
Generous, open style this (as always) with lovely peachy, ferment-just-finished style. Generous Chardonnay richness the star here. Easy and open, fleshy and full, yet not fat. Nice, fun juicy wine with plenty of appeal and no excess sweetness. Like. 17.1/90

Tyrrell's HVD Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Sourced from the younger HVD plantings. Basket pressed with a minimal solids ferment and extended lees contact. 250 dozen made. 13.2% alc. $35.50
Again that lovely peachy generous nose - which is very appealing indeed. Open and ripe style here with fleshy, almost tropical melon fruit and some banana esters and banana cream pie richness. Rather gorgeous soft and ripe palate with full flavours yet without excess. Chardonnay opulence, no fat. Really rather appealing and tasty. 17.5/91+

Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay 2011 (Hunter Valley) - barrel sample

This won't be released for another month or two as the Tyrrell's want to see it spend a little more time in wood. Sourced entirely from the Short Flat vineyard. 25% basket pressed. 13.5% alc. $35.50
A very attractive barrel sample. Cloudy and carrying just a little funk (and all the better for it). A much more serious nose here with sexier oak and a leaner, flintier, firmer palate. The mid palate melon is the killer here, a welcome layer of richness to contrast with the dry jolt of acidity on the finish. Speaking of the finish, it's a long one, signing everything off perfectly. Nice Chardonnay in a quite classic Vat 47 style. 18/93+

Tyrrell's Belford Chardonnay 2009 (Hunter Valley)
Already loaded with bling including Best Chardonnay at the 2010 Hunter Wine Show. Sees much more time in oak than most of these wines (mainly barriques). No malo, basket pressed. 13.5% alc. 420 dozen made. $30.00
Sandier, leaner, oakier, this smells of sexy oak and certainly looks more settled than the previous wines. Nutty, sao biscuit oak it is too, with some richer melon fruit but otherwise just coiled Chardonnay power. Good acidity to finish everything off too. I'd leave it another year or two but otherwise this is one seriously good Hunter Chardonnay in the modern mould. That finish signals it will be a long living wine too. A bargain in this lineup. 18.1/93+

Tyrrell's Stevens Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Sourced from Neil Stevens 'Glenoak' vineyard on combination of light sand and red clay soils. First of the 2011 single vineyard Semillons to be picked. 11% alc. $22.00
Early picked and looks just a fraction green in my books. Green and a little lettucey on the nose, the palate looks fresh but a fraction metallic, the fruit firm and limey but too green pea for mine. The weakest of the 2011 Semillons (should improve though). 16.3/87+

Tyrrell's Belford Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Sourced from Belford vineyard owned by the Elliot family (planted in 1933 on own roots). Last of the blocks picked. 11.4% alc. $22.00
A much juicier and even peachy style here, with more melon richness on nose and palate. Whilst the juiciness is attractive, it's a bit too full and rounded for big points I think. 17.1/90

Tyrrell's Johnno's Semillon
Love those long old school bottles
Tyrrell's Johnno's Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Basket pressed, three days cold settling before fermentation with some solids in the ferment. 11.4% alc. 250 dozen made. $35.50
Again the star of the tasting for me. Textured, long and layered. This wine announces itself with a cheeky whiff of florals, over a rich and quite full palate that initially looks too soft and ripe to be great. Yet there is this wonderful late acidity, a fillip of chalkiness through the back end that just adds an extra layer of intrigue, with an almost subliminal smokiness too. All up it's a stylish white, a wine with more palate weight than most other Hunter Sems, yet still with upright acidity. I like it very much, even though I think it's best years are some way ahead of it. 18.5/94+

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2011 (Hunter Valley)
Sourced from two of the best old blocks of Semillon on sandy soils. 11.5% alc. $35.50
There's lifted florals here again, though still cast in the Hunter mould. Ripe year Vat 1 this one, though it's actually quite condensed, the juicy, generous melon fruit tightening up pretty quickly through the back. Excellent length is the clincher though, suggesting a good Vat 1 (if not quite a great one), though it's still settling into it's skin. Whilst the more flirtatious Johnno's has the edge right now, I think the standings will reverse with bottle age. 18.3/93+

Tyrrell's Fordwich Verdelho 2011 (Hunter Valley)

Sourced from John Tulloch's original block. 12.5% alc. $16
Tropical, juicy, mango and melon nose, though also just a fraction herbal. Palate looks a fraction too thin and lean, not matching that juicy nose with a juicy palate. Didn't move me. 15.5/85

Tyrrell's Vat 6 Pinot Noir 2010 (Hunter Valley)

Sourced from the 4 and 8 acre vineyards. Hand picked with one third whole bunches. Open fermented and matured in French oak barriques with 10% new and 90% 3 yr old wood. $34
The nose here is seriously startling... It smells like proper Pinot Noir! Moreso, it smells of Pinot Noir first, the Hunter Valley second, which is something of an achievement for this wine (it's a goodun' this vintage). Sweetened cherry juice, a hint of bark, smokiness and some bacon bits make up the nose, leading to a sweet and briary, vanillan edged front palate, then moving through a smoky, faintly stewed finish. That caramelised, dehydrated finish is a distraction, though it may well integrate further with time in bottle. In the context of Hunter Pinot this is something of a winner. If you've been raised on a diet of sexy Vosne Burgundy and Mornington Pinot Noir however, steer clear of this delightfully idiosyncratic wine... 16.8/89

Tyrrell's Johnno's Shiraz 2010 (Hunter Valley)
Second release of the Johnno's Shiraz, this is drawn off the sandy Johhno's vineyard planted in 1908. Hand picked. Open fermented and maturation a new 2700 litre French oak cask. Built in a light to medium bodied, '60s style' of Hunter 'Burgundy'. $46
Has that lovely purple colour to it that these old Tyrrell's vineyards so often show - it's almost boysenberry really. This looks rather skinny this vintage though, with macerated cherry and just a hint of merde. Mid weight, skinny and lightish palate has some nice gummy fruit, plenty of acidity but is really lacking the penetration this vintage. It will live for many years though. 16.5/88+

Tyrrell's Old Patch Shiraz 2010 (Hunter Valley)

Sourced from the 'Old Patch' vineyard on Neil Stevens' Old Hillside property on Marrowbone Road, Pokolbin. The Old Patch Block was planted in 1867 and is the oldest producing Shiraz vineyard in the Hunter. Matured in large format oak too. $46
Wonderful purple colour - love it. Smoky violets and purple fruit on the nose. It's very Rhonish this year, with a stemminess that had me questioning Chris Tyrrell about whether there is no stems in it (none for the record). High acid, pretty fruit, this looks darker, wilder and more licoricey though also a fraction disjointed with a hole through the middle and some late sweetness. Still retains that old vine mysticism even if it's not on the same level of the previous vintages. A slow burner regardless and sure to live for many many years. 17.5/91+

Tyrrell's Vat 9 Shiraz 2010 (Hunter Valley)

Made from the oldest/best blocks on the red soil Ashman's property, this is hand picked and open fermented then matured in new and one year old French casks (2700lt).
The pick of the 2010 Tyrrell's Private Bin reds. The advantage with this wine is blending - with such vineyard variability in 2010, the blending option ultimately makes more consistent wines (as Penfolds have so aptly demonstrated over the years). Full purple fruit with blackberry, licorice and earth. Much more weight here after the other wines yet still remains pretty and juicy. Slick finish, proper fine tannins. The real deal. 18.3/93+

Tyrrell's Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet 2010 (Hunter Valley/Hilltops)
A blend of Hunter Shiraz off the Ashman's property with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Mullaney propery just outside of Young in the Hilltops. Open top fermentation with the parcels kept separately until blending and then finished off in French oak barriques until bottling in May 2011. 
A much more obvious, richer and oaker wine this wine with full and rich purple fruit. Opulent, sweet and black fruit driven, this is probably the most 'contemporary' of the new releases but it ain't Hunter. Just a little alcohol warmth through the finish. Has plenty of style and could pick up a swag of medals on the show circuit. 17.9/92

Tyrrell's Single Vineyard Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Hilltops)

Fruit sourced from the aforementioned Mullaney vineyard. Fermented in traditional Tyrrell's open fermenters and matured in French and American oak barriques (30% new). $26
Juicy rich purple blackberry fruit with a hint of eucalypt. Generous and chocolatey though with strong minted blackberry jam fruit. Looks leaner, drier and oakier than the blend but in the context this is a firm, varietal bargain. Attractive. 17.6/92

Tyrrell's Brokenback Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley)
Sourced from a swag of vineyards around the Valley. Fermented in a mix of open top traditional fermenters and stainless steel potter tanks. Matured in ex Vat 9 and ex Stevens French oak casks ranging from 3 to 10yrs old. $16
$16 a bottle for this? Woah. Bargain. Sandy, berry fruit with a little chocolate oak but otherwise juicy, pleasant, red earth tinged fruit and fine tannins. So Hunterish. In fact that might be a polarising element, but if you can appreciate the gentle, red-dirt-red-fruit savoury style you'll love this Shiraz. I like it. 17.2/90+

Tyrrell's Stevens Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley)

Sourced from Neil Stevens' Old Hillside vineyard (the same one as the Old Patch). Open fermented, hand plunged in open vats this was matured in French oak for 16 months maturation in 30% 225lt barriques, 70% in newer 2800lt caks) before bottling in June 2010.
How have I not seen this yet? I can't remember it in last years Private Bin lineup and if I did I would have bought some. Choc mulberry/blackberry with some of that macerated 09 richness. It's full and firmish, blocky but full of the lovely rich Hunter fruit and heart. It looks a fraction oaky at this stage but the quality writing is on the wall. Excellent stuff. 18/93+


  1. Thanks for that Andrew. I'm almost glad that 2010 isn't a rip-roaring vintage for Hunter reds, after all the expenditure of 2007 and 2009.

    Yes, the '09 Stevens Shiraz is a good 'un. I put 3 away. Same score too, I think. I also like the '09 Brokenwood, but it actually needs a long decant to get the best out of it. Red dirt and red fruit for sure.


  2. brokenback shiraz is a little beauty

  3. I'm still thinking about which of the Tyrrell's Private Bin stuff I'll buy this year. Belford Chard/Vat 47, Stevens Shiraz, Vat 9, Johnno's Sem.

  4. My wife arranged a private tasting last week for our anniversary.

    Scott took us through the vineyard and the winery, before taking us through the private bin stuff.

    We ended up getting a pretty eclectic mix, but not a huge amount of anything in particular. We both were quite surprised at the quality of this years Vat 6, and the Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.

    We didn't taste the new Belford or Stevens Sem, but the Johnno's was a cracker.

    Thanks Andrew, a great read as always, and always keen to read some more Tyrrell's love



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