Hunter Valley Tweetup
|Brilliant old Hunter curio|
I’m in a house-keeping mood this week, with a little sunshine and a free night or too making for some serious productivity. Or at least that’s the intention (the week is but young).
As part of said housekeeping activities, I’m attempting to make a dent in the small mountain of tasting notes that sit here next to my computer. I figure the best place to start this mission is the scrawl covered, somewhat itinerant pieces of paper that float around the desk peripherals, each one of them containing all sorts of interesting tidbits that are just waiting, patiently, to be transcribed from (poorly) handwritten musings into something more legible (online).
The following scribblings then come from a tasting held in conjunction with the Rick Bakas Hunter Tweetup, a part of the WCA Rick Bakas Tour-a-palooza that recently lapped Australia. This Hunter tweetup was held in the old dirt-floored Tyrrell’s winery and attracted no shortage of renowned local vignerons and wine people, all brandishing some very fine Hunter vino indeed. Good times.
A few of the notable highlights:
Thomas Wines ‘Braemore’ Semillon 2011 ‘deconstruction’
Now here is a side of Hunter Semillon that you don’t usually see. Andrew ‘Thommo’ Thomas split up his 2011 Braemore Semillon into three different samples, given the names of ‘Spine, Heart and Tail’, with each corresponding to different components. The ‘Spine’ is thus some of the earlier picked, more bracing acid driven juice, the ‘Heart’ is essentially one of the juiciest and ripest components, with the ‘Tail’ including some pressings.
A beguiling exercise in the makeup of a Hunter Semillon this, I found myself initially drawn to the drive of the Spine. The Heart followed this with a slice of seductive fruit – apparently the Heart makes up a fair proportion of the blend, so this was probably to be expected – and it certainly looked showy compared to the other two components. Finally, the gritty, phenolic edge of the tail offering a slightly different attraction again, a down and dirty hit of phenolic power. Add all of these components, blend judiciously, and you can see just how complete (and complex) the final wine will be. Seriously fine Semillon to watch out for.
|Thomas Wines Braemore 2011 deconstructed|
Tyrrell’s HVD Semillon 1995 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
From the Tyrrell’s Museum, the bottle itself was absolutely covered in trophies and bling. In fact Chris Tyrrell believes this to be one of the finest wines that his family has ever made. I’d be inclined to agree.
Lightly toasty, honeycomb edged toast nose is rich but still citrussy. The palate is really rich and full, honeyed and rounded through the middle, though still looking very fresh, with some real honeycomb textural viscosity. Still quite buzzy and very dry through the finish too. Excellent, complex, wonderous wine. That honeycomb-meets-citrus flavoursome length is of endless attraction (for me at least). Did I mention the exceptional length?
A beautiful ‘full’ styled Hunter Semillon. Worthy. 18.9/96
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Semillon 2003 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
After the HVD this looks very ripe and heavy, with a very dense and heady nose that is really rather ripe and forward, and really quite typical for the (warm, dry) year. The lemon edged palate is very rich, maybe even a tad roasted, sitting with a big wallop of ripe, almost marmalade edged fruit. It’s generous though and with gritty acidity. Long too. Interesting booze, though it still needs more delicacy. 17.7/92
Tyrrell’s Pinot Hermitage 1980 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Boom! Now here is an intriguing, O’Shea homage if ever there was one. It’s really rather classic old Hunter Shiraz, but with a wild (Pinot) edge. Think treacle, bacon bits, chocolate and stink. It’s actually really meaty and stinky in a roast-lamb-rolled-in-red-dirt-and-cocoa-powder style, but still quite fresh, and with no suggestion of anything untoward. It’s just wonderfully meaty and flowing, finishing off gritty and earthen and interesting, with a happily long and appreciably tannic tail.
A lovely medium bodied drink, this is an easy 96 points on the curio scale, but more like 18.2/93 if pressed. Lovely ragu wine methinks.
Tyrrell’s O.W. Hermitage 1983 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
After the Pinot Hermitage this actually looked rather caramelised and sweet, with an almost Violet Crumble like, oak artifice edged sweetness. The palate in particular is really rich and quite sweet, if still earthen and dry (if a bit warm) and Hunterish.
From a more general sense this is probably a little more easygoing than the wine above, but doesn’t quite have the same intrigue or detail. Still plenty of pleasure though. 17.8/92
Mcwilliams Rosehill Shiraz 1991 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Speaking of a little too much richness, this looked again like a big and (over) ripe style, carrying no shortage of oak sweetness to boot. Still, the flavours are all attractively red dirt and chocolatey in a classic regional form, even if everything looked a fraction warm and roasted against the wines above. 17/90
Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz 1996 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
The biggest question mark here was whether this was bretty or just regional. I believe it’s just a bit wild, with leather, bacon bits and slightly sweaty red fruit, over a rich and full palate. According to Andrew ‘Spinner’ Spinaze there is a little small American oak in there too and some extra oak richness because of it? Regardless, if you can get past that somewhat divisive nose there be much earthen pleasure to be had. 17.8/92
The current crop
I’ve tried some of these wines separately, but to have them lined up next to each other was certainly pleasurable. I’m an unabashed fan of the medium bodied, juicy style these wines espouse, as you can tell by the scores, but it’s hard to look past the quality of the delicious 09 Shiraz in particular.
Tulloch Private Bin Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I love the vibrancy here. It’s so unforced and pretty, though not without body. A proper Hunter Burgundy if ever there was one.
Vibrant red berry nose. Really bright and juicy. Slight vanillan oak overtones. Slightly sour, elegant and dry, tannic palate. Long and very much in the zone. Perfect Hunter Shiraz. Almost swallowed this one. Yum. 18.3/93+
|Lots of Hunter goodness here|
Tyrrells Old Patch Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Typically my favourite of the Tyrrells single vineyard wines, this again fits the Hunter Burgundy mode, though there is a real purple berry fruit character in this wine that I rarely see in other Hunter Shiraz (and I’m really rather drawn to it).
Awesome colour. Juicy purple fruit nose. Really rich and juicy palate. All berry fruits. Hubba Bubba even. More tannins than the Vat 9. This looks in the zone! Grape Hubba Bubba with acidity and tannins. Dry, long and properly sculptured Shiraz in a classic style. Yes. 18.5/94+
Tyrrells 4 Acres Shiraz 2009 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
I’ve had this a few times now and I’ve found it to be a rather mercurial and quite ripe beast. I picked it as southern Italian in a blind lineup actually, which goes to show how ripe it can look.
It’s a deeper wine than the Old Patch this one, but not quite as pretty. It’s even more more purple berried though. Really overt and juicy as hell, if not quite as perfect as the Old Patch. I liked this, but it actually looked a little heady compared to the other wines? 18.2/93+
Mistletoe Reserve Shiraz 2006 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
Quite dense for the Hunter, with a real core of red to almost blueberry fruit. A dense style, real heart and fullness. Extra new oak? Still quite perfumed. I like the density here. Hard to fault, though maybe a little too flashy and full. Liked this a lot though. 18/93
Tempus Two Zenith Semillon 2005 (Hunter Valley, NSW)
The Zenith Semillons are typically quite forward, yet also classic styles that always pickup wine show bling. This looks rather backwards though, with a very citrussy and almost gooseberry edge. Lemony and just a bit sullen, with seriously zippy acidity. Lots of acid actually, with bits of straw. An interesting wine actually, if a few years off drinkability. Quite a success for the label. 18/93++