I’m in research mode this week, gathering information about the 2018 vintage in the Hunter (which looks pretty promising based on early accounts).
The bad news for me personally is that I still can’t drink – wisdom tooth extraction last Wednesday has my jaw still looking like a football. Ugh.
Luckily I tucked into a few Sems last week (when I could still taste) with some very strong results – particularly from the 2017 vintage.
The 2017 Hunter Valley vintage was warm, dry and early – much like 2018 for that matter. I still think that its more of a red vintage than white, and the Sems can look a little forward. But the best wines are still glorious.
On that note, there isn’t as direct a correlation between warm/cool vintage and great wines with Hunter Semillon. Indeed some of the finest Sem come from the riper vintages – like the 2005 Vat 1 for example – and you just can’t write off a year at any point. Even some of the 2008 vintage (which was effectively a washout) Sems can look pretty good now.
Wine – it’s a gloriously complex beast.
Gundog Wild Semillon 2017
Nailed it. The sweetness/acid balance has been righted this year and the texture of this worked style is just delicious. Lifted green apple fruit with vibrancy and freshness. It’s less juicy in 2017, but still retains a lovely citrussy width to it with a swig of banana. The flavour has an extra textural dimension here that makes you want to come back for thirds and fourths. It’s just a genuinely interesting wine. Best drinking: Good now, but will live if you want. 18.5/20, 94/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
The Vinden Headcase Semillon 2017
Angus Vinden’s more serious Semillon. From the Somerset Vineyard, it’s a classic style. Lemongrass and straw initially but with some subtle fragrance too. This is really tightly wound, with none of the broader edges of some 17s and a subtle marzipan hint. A completely different wine compared to the Vinden Estate Semillon too, with precise acidity but sunny fruit too I love the subtle layers and the pithy citrus acidity – it feels every bit the archeytpal style. Superb. Best drinking: Now, or wait another four or five. 18.5/20, 94/100. 10.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Andevine Reserve Hunter Valley Semillon 2017
Andrew Leembruggen’s premium Semillon and its a winner. Sourced from the Travena Vineyard planted in 1920. Bursting with grapefruit. Intense aromatics with just a twinge of florals – such intensity! The palate is juicier than the ultra fanatical nose, but it’s still searing acidity, a flow of grapefruit and green apple with just a little apple sweetness on the finish. Has presence and power, even though it’s almost painful crystalline acidity. A long termer. Best drinking: Come back in five, then every five after that until you run out. 18/20, 93/100+. 10.8%, $40. Would I buy it? Yes.
Glandore Estate Elliot Reserve Semillon 2017
Named after the owner Duane Roy’s son Elliot. Classic whole bunch pressing and cool ferment. Has a cool and tight green apple citrus nose. Very tight and slightly sour palate is driven by acidity, the story here about the future, the style nascent and very tight. Wait. Great length though – real drive and purity. Best drinking: Come back in four years. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 10.5%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d have a bottle for the cellar.
Gundog The Chase Semillon 2017
A more traditional Semillon from Gundog. Lemongrass, Kaffir lime, a little green apple before a classically acid shaped palate that shows no sign of a warmer vintage. It makes all the right moves this – a trademark Hunter style with all the appeal to follow. 17.7/20, 92/100. 10.5%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d drink a bottle.
Gundog Estate Indomitus Albus Semillon 2017
By contrast, a less conventional style. From the Vernon vineyard at Mount View, it’s picked and fermented cloudy, with 30% skins and then spends five months on lees and skins. The result is a less obvious wine that is going to take some time to come together. Dry, phenolic and neutral, it chugs along with its acidity to drive the flavours but without the fruit to seduce. Will the tannins and acidity win this bottle or will fruit rise up? I like the concept and it clearly has ageworthy bones (with serious length). But when will it come together? Best drinking: Some years off yet. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 12%, $40. Would I buy it ? Not yet.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Semillon 2017
Deliberately built in a riper mode. It smells dry and grapefruity, but it’s plusher and softer than you think, the style in between dry and firm and juicy and easy. Pleasure without scaling to super heights. Best drinking: Now to ten years plus. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d take the Wild Sem instead.
Margan Semillon 2017
Always an approachable wine and doesn’t disappoint here. Cooked green apple but doesn’t lose its acid tang. A fuller, chalkier and appley red than the Hunter norm but a much more appreciably attractive early drinker. Enjoyable. Best drinking: Now to eight years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $20. Would I buy it? A glass.
Vinden Estate Semillon 2017
Sourced from Trevena and Somerset vineyards, Some green bean and lemongrass, it’s a broad brushed style of easy citrus, the acid lately grippy. The fruit is a bit diffuse, struggling to fit in around the acidity with some straw development creeping in. You need to wait here, as it’s a bit arms and legs now. Potential though. Best drinking: I’d wait four years. 17/20, 90/100+. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d wait.
Other Hunter Valley
Gundog Estate Vernon Vineyard Semillon 2014
Part of the Gundog single vineyard series, released at four years old. Despite its ripeness, this has classic lines. Custard apple over lime nose, softly inviting with a bare hint of toast. Crunchy lemongrass palate is very backward and dry. Tangy, citrussy and almost gingery. Quite a mouthful of a wine, almost peppery in ts expression and drive, with that extra concentration and then tangy acidity. High high quality but unusual in its impact too. I’m fascinated to see how this develops. Best drinking: Good now and good later. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.5%, $50. Would I buy it? Would love to have some of this in the cellar.
Gundog Estate Somerset Vineyard Semillon 2014
From the Somerset Vineyard. Of all the single vineyard Sems this would have to be the most classical in intention. Cool green apple with a hint of custard apple too – there’s this contrast in style with the more classic Granny Smith acid driven mode but with a fuller middle, complete with a dash of hay and lemongrass. I feel it doesn’t quite have the superstar power of the Vernon, but it may well outpoint it in time and you can’t help but admire the sheer depth of flavour. Another high quality wine. Best drinking: Now to whenever. 18/20, 93/100. 11%, $50. Would I buy it? Same as above.
Gundog Estate Sunshine Vineyard Semillon 2014
A modern style from a classic vintage. It’s a lemony bath of citrus fruit, the acid soft, with gentle lemon apple flavours. An easy drink, if not quite the profound cellaring style. I feel like this is just a little step behind the other two, but if you had it on its own no doubt it would still satisfy. Best drinking: Now to ten years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12%, $50. Would I buy it? I’d have the other two first.
The Vinden Headcase Hunter Valley Tempranillo 2016
Angus’ first Tempranillo and it’s ‘a big wine’. Fermented wild and aged for 10 months in French & American world. 25% new oak. It’s a big wine, indeed. Meaty, dry and masculine, the tannins hulking and the wine very secondary. The only challenge is that it’s a little too tough, too drying and hulking, with some fruit generosity missing. It will live forever, yet I fear whether the tannins will overtake the fruit. Impressive impact though, and genuinely interesting. 17/20, 90/100. 14.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Not quite.