Semillon: A blind lineup
|The Hunter. Semillon Central|
I love blind tastings. I love the absolute ’emperor derobing’ nature of them and the potential glories that can thus be unearthed. In fact, I’d say that I’d always prefer to taste blind once and then go back and retaste again with the bottle in front of me, purely for the interesting results.
Sadly, outside of wine shows (and some decent events) good blind tastings are something of a rarity, largely as most of the time the person picking up the tab (or at least supplying the bottles) wants you to know exactly what you are tasting (and hopefully love it).
Luckily (for me) I do get to attend a blind goodun’ every month though, sitting on a tasting panel for wine trade magazine National Liquor News. The format of these tastings is quite simple – an average of 30 wines, focused on a different variety each month, with the wines seperated into LUC (Landed Unit Cost – typically wholesale cost price including WET and excluding GST) brackets, with only the vintage noted.
What these tastings offer is one of the best benchmarking opportunities for new release wines that I can think of, featuring wines from a range of price points that ranged from $12 right through to $60 a bottle (in my lineup at least). Being Semillon and all (mostly Hunter Semillon at that), the wines were genuinely pretty smart indeed, with the main challenge faced simply that of extreme youth.
I’m listing all my notes from the tasting below but I’ve got to add an important caveat: Everything was tasted wine show style, which means at speed and double blind. My scoring too is wine show stylin’, so it’s considerably lower than I’d probably give if I sat down and drank a bottle, coupled with notes that are harsher, overly technical and much less generous than the norm. In other words, this is all very raw, but I think you’ll get the drift regardless (my postscript notes are in italics)
Mcguigan Bin Series Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Light green colour. Very neutral nose. Dry, neutral and correct palate has plenty of acidity but little give. Clean and dry but mono-dimensional 15/20 (always a reliable wine this. Potential)
Tulloch Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Almost colourless. Green apple and green fruit nose. Simply, tangy, slightly chewy (phenolic) palate. Simply, inoffensive but properly built. 14.5/20 (Very fair, if a tad chewy. Proper)
Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Green fruit nose, with a little more waxy fruit in there. Nicer palate, with some palate richness too. A hint of savvy? Nice work, the extra texture works a treat here. 16+/20 (I even picked the notorious hint of Sauvignon Blanc in there too! High five me! Looked reasonably smart in this context regardless)
Margan Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Yellow edge to the green. Creamy, yellow apple on the nose too. Hint of oak? Drawn and quite phenolic palate. Dry, with fair length. A pleasant, crisp style but ultimately boring. 15/20 (mistook the extra genorosity of this style – which is typically picked riper and comes off the rich red soils of Broke – for a little oak. It’s a pleasant enough wine).
Cockfighter’s Ghost Semillon 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Still green. Neutral nose but with some green pawpaw edges. Palate is in a development hole, this has fair length but is not amazing. Needs time to come out as it’s not showing much. 15/20 (plenty to like, just needs time)
Pepper Tree Limited Release Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Green fruit nose, very green, hint of melon. Chalky green palate with very prominent acidity. Great length. It’s just a bit tart at present but should develop well. 16+/20 (Here is a real sleeper. I think – if tasted on it’s own – this would get high marks indeed. Cellarworthy)
Krinklewood Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Colourless. Soapy green fruit nose. Herbal slightly sour and a bit spiky palate. A little sour and green. Tart and acid driven. Very backward. 15/20 (just a little hardgoing at present).
Vasse Felix Semillon 2010 (Margaret River, WA)
Greenish. Toasty oak edge. Fully expressive nose with a real herbaceousness too. Oak edge adds interest to what is a dry and quite long palate. Lovely length, serious acidity and power. Oak works well here. 17.5/20 (I think this probably deserves even more points than that. Lovely wine. Always like it – eg here. Nice!)
Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant ‘Cellar Age’ Elizabeth Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Straw green. Lemon toast nose with bottle age+. Palate is classic (Hunter) Semillon but… it’s drying out. I like the bottle aged richness but that finish is just lacking some freshness. 16.5/20 (I know that you, MichaelC, have been hanging out for this one. I’m going to say that a retaste is required to confirm everything, but really surprised by that back end. Just looked a bit, well, aged).
Pepper Tree Alluvius Semillon 2010 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Green colour. Very green nose that is absolutely smashed with sulphur. Reductive as hell. Hard work. (ouch. Needs a serious decant or a long spell in the cellar).
Poole’s Rock Semillon 2007 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Lovely nose. Very correct Hunter Semillon fruit. Green, powerful, lightly toast palate. Long and serious. Proper Semillon this, built long and dry. Very good. 17.5/20 (Probably deserves even more. Like this alot).
De Bortoli Murphy’s Vineyard semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Dense green fruit nose looks serious too. ‘Medium’ palate is rather toasty and round but also shortish. Pleasant but short. 15.5/20 (Short. Just needs more conviction for the dollars).
Mcwilliams Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Quite classic nose, if very withdrawn. Serious, proper palate. Looonnnng. A lovely dry and structured style with acid and power to burn. Wonderful. 18/20 (Worthy. Top class booze. Deserving).