Let’s check in with some recent Shiraz and Semillon releases from the Hunter Valley (and beyond).
A pleasure to see more experimentation with traditional Hunter styles too. Making the same wine in the same way every year is the definition of a dull winemaking life…
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Shiraz 2014
Classic Hunter Valley writ large. This Alexander Munro comes from an old Wyndham Estate vineyard, and it’s what you’d want in a ‘Hunna’ red. It’s medium weight, savoury, sausagey and yet still blackberried. There’s terracotta dust, leather and fruit. Its meaty, it’s mid weight, it’s long. It’s so Hunter. Really very good and nicely balanced. Best drinking: Now or for fifteen years plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $100. Would I buy it? Too steep for me, but I’ll drink your bottle.
Vinden Estate Reserve Semillon 2018
From the old (and revered) Trevena Vineyard, and very much a reserve weight Semillon. It’s bold, drying and simmering along, a wine for future decades with just a little plump baby fat fruit for now. Such hidden fury underneath. Will reward cellaring. Best drinking: I like this style after about 5 years. Then drink for twenty plus. Best days ahead, hence the plus sign. 18/20, 93/100+. 10.5%, $50. Would I buy it? A little pricey but I’d buy a bottle off a list.
Andevine Reserve Hunter Valley Shiraz 2017
And this comes from the Hillside Vineyard. By contrast, this has the plumpbess of ’17, with some licoricey edges, before a finish that gets firmer and drying the further it goes along. Really substantial Hunter red this, almost un-Hunter in its weight but not ugly, and just needing some more time to smooth out the edges. Quality. Best drinking: I’d wait a year or so then it will go for 10 years easily. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d go a few glasses.
Gundog Estate The Chase Semillon 2018
From the Somerset Vineyard. I tasted this alongside the Vinden Headcase and this is looked very intense, grapefruity and even more reticent. Classic lines and endless promise, but gee it feels like peaking into a time capsule not drinking now. Fine Semillon, aching for cellar time. Best drinking: WAIT. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 10%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth it, if just to put in the cellar.
Gundog Indomitus Albus Semillon 2018
From Gundog’s premium, provocative Indomitus range. Great packaging too. This is structured, skin contact Semillon that spends several months on skins, delivering what is a wine of real grip, yet also soft generous fruit. It’s quite a contrast – green apple citrus and then grip, the phenolics almost too much, but delivering a very serious style. It’s intriguing, but simultaneously a slightly tricky wine too. Still, it’s long, it’s layered and high quality, if not a simple drink. Best drinking: I’d wait a few years to see where this goes. It’s going to live. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle to see what happens. Not expensive for the quality.
Meerea Park Aged Release Alexander Munro Semillon 2013
Maturing nicely, but for mine still on the cusp of greatness. From a section of the Braemore vineyard (now owned by Andrew Thomas), there’s a lovely, correct tang here. It’s chunky and packs in lots of flavour, a warm year style that is just a bit broad through the middle but still late, crisp acidity. An enjoyable, generous wine. Best drinking: Good now, even better in 2-3 years time then drink whenever you like. 17.7/20, 92/100. 11%, $45. Would I buy it? Aged Semillon is a bargain. yes.
The Vinden Headcase Semillon 2018
Single vineyard Semillon from the Somerset Vineyard that sees extended lees contact. It’s a very backward number though, with grapefruit at the core and a whisper of phenolics. It’s all arms and legs at the moment, the acid a fraction raspy with just a little lemon rind fruit popping out. High quality, but not for drinking now. Best drinking: Just wait for probably 5-7 years. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 10.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
The Vinden Headcase Skin Contact Semillon 2018
This one comes from the Stanleigh Park vineyard on Wilderness Road. Spends 1 week on skins, 3 months in old oak. Grippy phenolics aplenty! There’s character here, the underplayed green apple fruit and tang making for something utterly substantial. But also just a bit too lean for immediacy. Come back next year or in a decade. Layers of fine tannins and acid prop it up, no question about it. Is it too firm? That’s my question mark. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? Worth seeing where this goes, so yes.
Vinden Estate Semillon 2018
From the Stanleigh Park Vineyard on Wilderness Road as well, but sans skin contact. Glowing green sour apple warhead nose, really quite open palate with just a little forward edge and grippy phenolics. I thought this was forward but no, it’s a very long term tangy number underneath. A step behind the reserve in concentration, but quality wine. Best drinking: I’d wait four years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 11%, $30. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Semillon 2018
Gundog’s more modern Semillon, this is green and yellow apple fruit with subtle hints of stone fruit and then soft acidity. Simple and fresh, if a little soft and forward in this context. Good drink all the same. 17/20, 90/100. 11.5%, $30. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
These few smart Gundog wines aren’t from the Hunter, but worth including.
Gundog Estate Hilltops Shiraz No. 1 2017
From the Freeman Vineyard in the Hilltops and it’s such a slick, polished and stylish red. Deep purple fruit aplenty here – really plump and luscious – captures that purple fruit chew Hilltops vibe. It’s just a little bit warm, but the super smooth nature here is excellent. Well done. Best drinking: Good now, good in a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Gundog Estate Indomitus Citrea 2018
I know, I know it’s a Riesling. But hey, it fits here and it’s nice wine. Canberra Riesling from the Four Winds vineyard that spends a few months in old oak. Has a wild citrussy palate that is so long, firm and dense. It’s almost too dense, a ball of citrus power and oh-so-lovely freshness. Best drinking: Would be worth holding on to to see where it goes. Likely better late 2019. 18/20, 93/100. 11.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle.
Gundog Estate Marksman’s Shiraz 2017
Canberra District Shiraz that is effectively the big brother wine to the standard Shiraz below, but sans Viognier. It feels a less approachable wine too. There’s spearmint, dark berry fruit, and lots of oak, the alcohol sticks out just a fraction, but the intensity steps up a bit too. Is it a bit too minty and warm? Really distinctive red fruit and has concentration to burn. High quality, but not coherent yet, hence it gets the same score as the estate. Best drinking: I’d wait 2-3 years and watch the score go up. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 14%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d go the Estate Shiraz for now, this in five years.
Gundog Estate Shiraz 2017
A blend of four vineyards around Canberra and includes a little Viognier. Slick, polished and seamless modern Canberra Shiraz with an amalgam of vanilla oak (23% new) and a sort of chocolate boysenberry character. It’s missing just a little tannins, but love the polished and seamless chunky nature. Pleasure aplenty. Best drinking: Already good, but will be better with time for integration. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $40. Would I buy it? I think I’d take the Hilltops over this, but still quality and worth a bottle.
Gundog Indomitus Rutilus Shiraz 2017
Canberra Shiraz from the Four Winds Vineyard. Handpicked, mostly whole berries, 25% whole bunches. Pepper aplenty. It’s lithe and silky, oak filling in the background, silky red cranberry berries throughout. Just medium bodied, fragrant and mid weight. I can totally see the mode here – a push towards elegance, refinement and fragrance. But it didn’t move me like I thought it might. The fruit felt open knit and a bit light on, the push for elegance coming at a cost of depth. It could just be me and no doubt others will love the Pinot-esque nature, complete with a crunchy bitterness. I’m in two minds here as obvious quality. Best drinking: Likely another year or so, then plenty of years ahead. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $50. Would I buy it? Not yet.