Following on from my gushing exposition on the joys of the Hunter Valley (here) these are a few recent wines from this classic wine region, with plenty to inspire.
The finest winemaker in the Hunter? I think so, but I am almost a Tyrrells groupie…
Tyrrells Stevens Semillon 2005
Interesting to match this up to the (brilliant) 05 Vat 1, this is much more transitional yet also less ripe. Its a typically linear, dry & very green wine with the grassy, sandy edge that Stevens Semillons often carry. Excellent wine that needs a few years in the bottle to compose itself. 18+
Tyrrells HVD Semillon 2003
Often my favourite Tyrrells Semillon and characterised by a floral, expressive edge that I really enjoy. This shows the typical perfume & weight of the vineyard, but a slightly soapy and broad edge here (no doubt due to the warm 03 vintage) that detracts from the final drink. Still good. 17.3+
Tyrrells Vat Semillon 2008
Tyrrells had some rather mixed thoughts on the 08 Semillons, and when I tasted the Stevens and Belford 08’s at this years Sydney Wine Show they were just a bit unappealing. Judging by this however, they probably just needed a few more months in the bottle.
Notably herbal and green on the nose, with an edge of cheesy sulphur. The palate is solid, incredibly acidic and firm. Big, but a little ill defined, this may well end up as a classic wine, but it’s still sorting itself out. Leave. 18++
Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon 2005
Classic in the making. A very pure and quite ripe Vat 1 that carefully judges ripe fruit and acidity. Apparently many 09’s also follow this recipe (great). This is just entering the drinkable phase, but the secret is the length. Really long, long finish and typically perfect acidity. It just keeps going. Wonderfully approachable already, this will only get better. Great wine. 18.9+
Tyrrells Vat 8 Shiraz 2006
This used to be a blend of Hunter Shiraz and Coonawarra (or Mudgee) Cabernet, now its a straight Hunter Shiraz. Lamentable perhaps, but only by those who had a good example when it was still a blend (ie not me). I found this surprisingly grunty, especially for the 06 vintage, which delivered mainly mid weight, typically elegant wines.
Starting with an earthen nose, with just a hint of saddle, but this doesn’t come through as any palate sweatiness. Interesting to note also some oak richness also, which is quite unusual for Tyrrells Vat reds. It’s definitely a more modern Hunter Shiraz yet, at only 13.3% alc. feels perfectly balanced and very unforced. Very good and will get even better. 17.5+
Tyrrells Vat 8 Shiraz 2007
Ripe, sweet, juicy, modern and just plain delicious. Very polished Hunter Shiraz, carrying the unmistakable bright, youthfulness of the vintage. Simply delicious stuff. Highly recommended. 18.5+
Tyrrells Single Vineyard Canberra Shiraz 2008
The first release of a Canberra wine for Tyrrells, largely driven by the lack of Hunter reds from the 08 vintage. This will hopefully be a permanent addition to the range, and certainly much to like here.
Distinctively Canberra Shiraz, even given the warm vintage, with that spiciness and musky, candied purple fruit that Canberra Shiraz does so well. Lovely aromatics. The mid weight palate seems a bit simple and sweet at present, but I think this is just the youthfulness talking. Very drinkable and tasty. 17.4+
Tyrrells Hahn Shiraz Mourvedre 2008
Exuberantly fruit driven, this is bright & juicy fruit driven stuff, all backed by a bit of Barossan chocolate. Mid weight and again tasty, but lacking just a bit of length for the price. 17.2
Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz 2007
This is the second time I’ve tried this and, if possible, it has become even better again. This is, quite simply, a world class wine, to be held up with the very best of the Rhone and Barossa/McLaren Vale as the finest Shiraz based wines on the planet.
Sourced from the ‘Old Hillside’ a section of the Stevens vineyard that was planted way back in 1867 – special vines then – Beguiling colour, with a boysenberry purple tint that is sort of like a cross between Shiraz Viognier and mulberry juice. I’ve never seen a Hunter Shiraz that colour before, which is perhaps a sign of this wines unique brilliance.
Nose is very bright, almost candied in its sweet fruit & perfumed with licorice, spice and rosewater. Most unusual. The palate is medium bodied and so polished and pure, but with textured layers of fig and fruit cake before finishing with fine tannins.
It’s a very unusual and just plain beautiful wine, astounding in its complexity and youthfulness. This, for me, sits on a pedestal with the 04 Grange as my red wine of the year. This however was $80 a bottle at cellar door, the Grange $550. I thus own three bottles of this and no bottles of the Grange…19.2
Meerea Park Hell Hole Semillon 2009
A very approachable and open style this year, with a soft ripeness that is almost tropical in its juiciness. A Sauvignon Blanc drinkers Semillon then, that’s simple and delicious and begs the question, why would you drink residual sugar propped, young vine Marlborough Sauvignon over this? 17.5+
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay 2008
Looking very green & lean, this is all structure (or more correctly, all acidity) with none of the fleshy lactic Chardonnay softness in sight. About as close to Chablis as the Hunter gets, the oak here is very cleverly managed, but its so awkward and borderline unripe that its no fun at all. Will live for many years regardless and, if I look into my wine crystal ball, I see a great future for this wine (thanks to that acid backbone). Just not now. 17+++
Meerea Park Aunts Shiraz 2007
Interesting wine this. The nose is old school Hunter – leather, plums and dirt. The palate is new school Hunter with sweet fruit and oak, all polished to perfection. Its attractive, but all a bit confusing at present, which is reflected in the score. 17.1+
Meerea Park Botrytis Viognier 2006
What a lovely sticky this is. A generous, very sweet sticky with mouthfilling, but not fat and apricotty like some Viogniers cane be, with peach & stonefruit flavours and quite low acidity. Straightforward and good, this was flying out the (cellar) door whilst I was there, and well done Meerea Park.
Australian winemakers take note: Your Viognier belongs in delicious sweeties like this, not blended with Shiraz. 17
Thomas Braemore Semillon 2009
Long time Tyrrells winemaker and no bullshit man Andrew Thomas proved last year that he can make epic Semillons. This is no exception.
Of note is the alcohol on this, which was closer to 11.0% this year, which is hardly boozy, but its an important element to note, for this is a deliberately riper wine than the strenuously acidic 08 vintage. What this means is a slightly richer, powerful wine that shares much in common with the 05 Vat 1 from earlier, balancing perfectly ripe fruit with acidity, in a perfect vinous tug of war that suggests a long life ahead.
Put it simply, this is a glorious wine. Grapefruit, citrus, green melon and green apples on the nose, which is obviously very fresh and well settled already. The palate is bracingly pure, dry and green, feeling very young, but with no hardness, just long acidity and plenty of flavour.
I tasted this at the Sydney Good Food & Wine Show and it felt like a wine from a different quality realm – like a rider from the tour has decided to come and ride your local club race, smashing everyone whilst only riding at half pace. This is that wine. World class. 19
Mistletoe Grand Reserve Shiraz 2007
Produced off 40 year old, non irrigated vines up in the hill at the base of the Brokenback range. This is, and I hate to use this term again, a classic Hunter wine. Ken Sloan believes this vineyard benefits greatly from its afternoon sun protection, which perhaps explains the restraint in what is a quite opulent vintage. Again, the aromatics are very attractive here – rich, red plum fruit with a lifted, prettiness to it all.
The wine then is utterly mid weight, with a slightly lean, give-me-more mid palate that makes the whole package feel light and rather elegant, the ripe fruit held in perfect balance before some chocolatey tannins. Really attractive wine that feels almost perfect in its expression. Wonderful. Great value @ $40 too. 18.5