On Thursday, a squad of Hunter Valley winemakers came to Sydney to show off some new releases at the new Brix Distillery.
While I couldn’t hang around and drink beer with the lads, they had in tow a collection of absolute top class wine – headlined by a strong collection of 2017 Hunter reds.
Actually, this tasting was Mike De Iuliis’ idea, who thought the ’17 reds bracket at this year’s Hunter Valley Wine Show was so good that it needed celebrating.
There was a nice tie-in with the venue too, as the Brix Distillery are using old oak from Hunter producers. I’m a heathen who doesn’t drink rum (vodka thanks. Or tequila), but the barrel samples (from an ex-Brokenwood Graveyard barrique) were apparently tasty.
As expected, the Semillon and Shiraz brackets were tip-top. Some of the acid additions looked a little heavy handed, and it’s hard not to go looking for a favourite in every bracket. But still, this was a tasting to remind of the pleasure of ripe, luscious and generous Hunter Shiraz and bracing Semillon.
You can see the full lineup in the picture below. Sorry about my crap iPhone shadow at the bottom. Click on the image for a closer look.
Picking highlights in this lot was tricky, but there were some genuine standouts. I loved all three of the ’13 Sems, illustrating again that I typically like the warm, ripe vintage Sem years the most (like 2005). The 2013 Thomas Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon was the champion of that super trio, with an unwavering density and intensity that pushed it above the rest. Incidentally, the Hunter winemakers thought the Vat 1 looked better the day before when the same wines were tasted in Melbourne. I had the whole lineup of ’13 Tyrrell’s Sems the other week and I still think the Belford is the champ this vintage, although the Vat 1 is another classic. I’d happily drink the ILR, Thomas or Vat 1, and when you think about it, $70 for what are world class wines is small dollars. I’d have them all.
By contrast, the duo of 2017 Semillon are works in progress. The structure for long ageing is there – particularly in the Lovedale – but it’s a waiting game. Come back in four years.
In bracket 2, I thought both the Fiano (which was a ’17 not ’18) and Albarino had flavour. But they still taste more like Hunter whites than truly varietal. I’d stick to Semillon personally, even if there is promise. That 2015 Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay by contrast is a such a delicious wine. It has that golden sunny peach fruit that you want in old school Hunter Valley Chardonnay, the flavours soft and round, the acid enough to keep everything shapely. Nailed it, even if I’d drink this younger rather than older. The Brokenwood was enjoyable too, in a trimmer mode.
One wine stood heads and shoulders above the rest in bracket 3, with the 2017 De Iuliis LDR Vineyard Shiraz Touriga an absolute winner. It was even better than the Mike’s standard 2017 Shiraz, actually. He believes that Touriga loves heat, which makes it perfect in warm years like 2017 (and 2018 for that matter), and the small addition to the Shiraz adds an extra layer of both fruit fragrance and bright red fruit. The other Shiraz blends were approachable enough, even if they weren’t as exuberant.
Finally, bracket 3 was the winning collection of the day. I love the power, plushness and polish of Thommo’s 2017 Thomas Kiss Shiraz. If you love Kiss, you’ll like that ’17. The purple fruit and the medium weight polish of the 2017 Tyrrell’s Vat 9 Shiraz is also deeply attractive, in a mode that feels like classic post-brett era Hunter Shiraz (ie, mid weight and with a background earthen edge, but clean and pure). To be honest though the 2017 Mount Pleasant Old Paddock & Old Hill Shiraz might be the wine that you’d most want to have in the cellar for the long term. It’s less immediately plush and without that boysenberry fruit of the Vat 9 or the Kiss, but the balance and the understated power is just ace.
After trying all the wines several times, the Mount Plesant was the red I came back to and ultimately the winner in that bracket for mine. Oh and the 2017 Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz? A classic example of everything in its right place. Mid weight, polished, pure. It’s not Graveyard, sure, but it is easily convincing (and good value in this lineup).
To be honest this tasting was too quick for me to start forensically picking apart the wines. But it wasn’t hard to appreciate the form, and take away one thing – 2017 is a great year for Hunter Shiraz (in particular). Oh and feel free to send me more 2013 Hunter Semillon for drinking at Christmas time too.