13 #Semsational new release Semillons
|Whole lotta Semillon
Tasted so fast the camera couldn’t keep up
This month sees the annual ‘Hunter Valley Uncorked’ program of events kicking into full swing with a set of tastings, masterclasses and general Hunter themed shennanigans that are set to take place in the coming weeks, all culminating in the big Hunter Valley Uncorked tasting festival held in early November at Sydney’s Balmoral Beach (full details here).
To start the Hunter lovefest, a group of the regions winemakers are first coming to Sydney for an event known as #Semsational, a night focused on all things Hunter Semillon (with a few Shiraz and Chardonnay for good measure) and featuring some decidedly new school wine activites – including a winemaker speed dating session, DJ’s and a tweetup element.
For the region this Semillon celebration is a big deal, a key event designed to show that the Hunter Valley can be indeed be cool, that it produces high quality wines made without pretension and crafted by winemakers that are young, dynamic and knowledgeable.
I’m going to examine this broader rebranding exercise in more detail in a future post (and work out how successful it is), but for the moment I’m going to focus on a few of the new release Semillons that will be the key drawcard of the upcoming #Semsational event. (More information about #Semsational)
This following collection of new release Semillons then are all – bar one interloper – drawn from the 2011 vintage, a year that in the Hunter was wet and dry, with a heavily drenched pre-Christmas period which was then followed with a dry and warm January and February, punctuated with a week of heat at the end of January. Compared to the rest of Australia, the 2011 Hunter vintage is an anomaly (excluding WA) in that everything got fully ripe, and late season disease issues just didn’t happen.
Strictly speaking it’s not a classic vintage for Semillon though, with the wines probably less steely and much more opulent, particularly for those growers who weren’t quick enough to pick their grapes during the particularly hot, post Australia Day period. Still, good wines have been made by the attentive and the Chardonnay and Shiraz in particular look very good. It will be a smart Shiraz year in particular (based on some early barrel samples).
With these Semillons though I was looking for that combination of freshness, length, intensity and balanced acidity. Actually, the topic of acidity is an important one this year, as whilst Hunter Semillon doesn’t normally need to have acid adjusted, this warm vintage saw many makers adding acid to the wines in a bid to keep them taut and clean. Such adjustments were met with varying levels of success however…
(My extra notes are in Italics, including some info from the winery when suitable. Most of these were tasted twice from two different bottles for consistency. Notes are as written on the night).
Tempus Two Semillon 2011
10.5% alc. RRP $30. This still comes in the rocket shaped bottle and is the only wine in this lineup sealed in cork. I think that’s a questionable decision driven by the distinctive bottle shape and one the ultimately produced a duller wine because of it.
Broad, citrus driven and slightly bland nose over a tart yet broad palate. Like to see more length and delineation here as it’s all over the place. Might well improve with more time in the bottle, particularly as the Zenith Semillon is always pretty smart… 15.8/86
Scarborough Green Label Semillon 2011
11% alc. RRP $25. This is sourced off the richer red soil section of the Scarborough vineyard, though it still looks quite classical in style. For the $19 a bottle at cellar door this is convincing wine and perhaps the most convincing it’s been of the last few years.
Smells clean pure and quite grassy. Good delineation here with both grass and citrus over a softish but not flabby palate. Looked fresh and solid and really kicked goals this year. Ready to drink. 17.8/92
Tulloch Semillon 2011
11.3% alc. RRP $16. Priced cheaply yet not made cynically this is quite a success all things considered.
It’s a little flat on the nose with lot of direct lemon juice aromatics, edged with a little lawn clipping for balance. Palate is juicy, quite soft and reasonably generous if rounded off with some well judged (if added) acidity. What I like about this is just how fresh and lively it looks even if it’s not super delineated. Bargain no question. 16.7/89
Bimbadgen Semillon 2011
10% alc. RRP $20.
A little green and flat, this just looked dull and tart in this lineup, the finish showing a bit sweet and sour for my liking. Underripe? 16/87
Brokenwood Semillon 2011
11% alc. RRP $20. Here is an example of how to use acid to advantage. This looked very pure and had an excellent shape to it, the acidity sharpish but really helped define the wine. Success. I often don’t love this wine sometimes finding it a little shapeless. Not this year.
Direct, pure and grassy nose – looks sharp and well defined. Palate has great intensity to and is pure, long and taut through the finish. A much more defined wine this year. Good stuff. 17.7/92
De Iuliis Semillon 2011
11.5% alc. RRP $18
Has a creamy richness to it that I find just a little distracting. Lemon balm, lemon pie and just a bit more fleshy sweetness. Pleasant and easy going style, if not quite serious enough for bigger points. Good value though. 17/90
Glandore Estate The Elliot Semillon 2011
RRP $30. I didn’t get to try this from a second bottle.
Pours yellow in the glass. Suggestion of oxidation even though there’s fruit in there. U/R as I don’t think this was a representative bottle.
Tower Estate Semillon 2011
11% alc. RRP $22
A wonderful intensity on the nose, though there’s just a hint of that straw character of riper Hunter Semillon. The sherbety lemon nose leads here onto a palate which is jsut a little fat and slightly caramelised through the finish too. Ultimately a little broadish for bigger points though should improve. 16.5/88+
Pepper Tree Tallawanta Semillon 2011
11.5% alc. RRP $28. This comes off the red dirt Tallawanta vineyard and is made in a riper style. Seems to have worked pretty well in this instance though.
A richer, almost candied nose on this wine with the barest hint of barley sugar. A richer and nicely handled palate with less acidity but lots of more richer flavours. Attractive if less classic stuff. 17.5/91
|Some likely #Semsational suspect|
Briar Ridge Dairy Hill Semillon 2011
11% alc. RRP $29. Briar Ridge believes that it’s best Semillon comes off the Dairy Hill vineyard and this looks to attest to that. Balances juiciness and refreshment well.
A twist of sherbet and some proper intensity on the nose announces this as a contender. Lifted and lemony fullness to the nose that is quite attractive. Good palate intensity and quite a long finish. Refreshment value is very high here. Very good, vitally juicy Semillon. Liked this. 18/93
Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon 2011
11.5% alc. RRP $28. Time for the big guns. This was the most popular wine when I opened this up for a few work colleagues, with that juiciness on the nose truly seductive. A close race between this and the Vat 1 this year, though I think I marginally prefer the 2010 version.
Easy the most juicy wine this with ripe passionfruity fruit and a whiff of peach on the nose. Underneath it’s much more serious, an extra layer of phenolics through the finish and capped off with soft acidity. Everything in it’s right place, though just pipped by the intensity of the Vat 1. Regradless this is absolute top shelf Hunter Sem, with length to burn. 18.5/94
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2011
11.5% alc. RRP $35.50 (Private Bin Members price). Interesting to try this in a lineup in amongst non-Tyrrell’s wines. Have a squizz here first.
Full and very deep – that extra intensity and concentration is obvious from the first whiff. It’s denser on the palate too, a further layer of quite perfumed ripe rich fruit, tending almost pineapply through the finish. Intensity is high this year, the palate a full and rich beast, if just a little plump to be classic. Much to like for a Semillon fan here. 18.6/94
Brokenwood ILR Semillon 2006
11% alc. RRP $45. This was brought along by Geoff Krieger the GM of Brokenwood and made a more than worthy addition to the lineup. The wine I would most liked to have taken to dinner. It’s due for release shortly.
Quite a generous wine this year, a softly, toasty almost gentle style, the nose open and fresh if quite forward in the scheme of things. The palate too is open, yellow fruit driven and toasty around the edges. That gentle toastiness (and less primal green fruit) makes for one quite accessible Semillon, if not quite the superstar penetration or acid driven length. Enjoyable stuff regardless. 18.3/93