Screaming for calamari, pour me a large glass thanks.
I was fortunate enough to spend the last couple of days traversing the Hunter Valley, Australia's oldest continuous wine producing region dating back to 1828, with a group of media delving deep into what makes the region tick.
Most famously recognised for its incredible ability to produce the world's best Semillon, we took part in several masterclasses and tasted some 65+ wines. Shiraz, the other glamour of the region, certainly played its part - beautifully medium-bodied in all its glory, but a stand-out variety, and one that deserves more credit, were the stunning examples of Chardonnay. Very much sitting in the shadows of its regional siblings, Hunter Valley Chardonnay is an excellent drink and there are so many diverse expressions of it.
A tasting was also undertaken of some emerging varieties including Albarino, Fiano, Vermentino, Viognier, Touriga, and Sagrantino to name a few.
Semillon is a variety ideal for summer drinks in the sun. As Andrew Thomas said, "Anything you can squeeze a lemon on, Hunter Semillon is the way to go." That sums it up perfectly!
The stand out Semillons from around the region come off the alluvial soils found on the valley floor. A great take away was that cooler years have shown better long-term cellaring potential and warmer years lean to more immediate enjoyment. Andrew Thomas added that 2013 was the greatest Semillon vintage in the last twenty years.
Of the eight recent releases, the top picks were:
Brokenwood Oakey Creek 2021 (tank sample most likely heading to ILR), Silkman Reserve 2021, Thomas Braemore 2022, Tyrrell's Vat 1 2022. These wines showed soft, delicate citrus fruits, clean and well-handled acidity with impressive precision and purity.
The 2013 Semillons were absolutely incredible and have all shared their fair share of bling over the years. The best of the best were:
Briar Ridge Dairy Hill 2013, Brokenwood ILR 2013, Mount Pleasant Lovedale 2013, Thomas Braemore 2013. The freshness of these wines was incredible and really highlighted the ageworthiness of Hunter Valley Semillon.check it here.
Shiraz was up next and it was off to the new Mount Pleasant cellar door. This place is something and one out of the box. Guests are in for a treat when it officially opens in a couple of weeks.
Here we explored 12 wines, each example showing the 2019 and 2009 version. Hosted by Stuart Hordern (Brokenwood), Andrew Sparks (Mount Pleasant) and Phil Ryan (Mount Pleasant), Hordern explained the best Shiraz vineyards sit on red soils, perched on a hill that is east facing. These sites hug the range which shelters the vines from the afternoon sun and wind. Of course, like the Semillon vineyards, there are exceptions, but it is a credible rule of thumb to apply when you picture where the best blocks sit: Old Paddock, Old Hill and Graveyard to name a few.
The second bracket was all about the old firm - Tyrrell's Vat 9, Brokenwood Graveyard and Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea. Tyrrell's Vat 9 2009 and both the Graveyard 2019 and 2009 stole the show. Winemakers chase the black fruit profile and the 2009 wines of these two exhibited precisely just that and were humming. Classically medium-bodied, Hunter Valley Shiraz is a stunning drink when done well.
One more stop saw us drop by Peppertree to be hosted by Gwyn Olsen (Peppertree) and Aaron Mercer (Mercer Wines). As mentioned previously, the exploration of emerging varieties in the Hunter Valley is really gaining some momentum. Given the warm Hunter days during summer, the disease and drought threat is real. Producing fruit able to contend with both would make the life of viticulturists and winemakers less stressful. Pecorino is said to show resistance to disease and Touriga is a high cropping variety that thrives without water. Add these to the vast array of other varieties around the region and there is something to pique everyone's interest.A glittering black tie dinner capped off an incredible day. The wonderful camaraderie and warmth in the room plus the fabulous community vibe were thrilling to experience. The award winners are listed below although something that ought to be mentioned is the fitting tribute paid to the late Hunter Valley Legend Karl Stockhausen by Mount Pleasant's Phil Ryan. Riedel Young Achiever of the Year: Alex Beckett (Briar Ridge Vineyard)
Hot off the press, this is my first look at a 2022 release. Andrew Thomas brought this along with many other delights for his Thomas on Tour road trip that hits the east coast showcasing his new red wine releases.
This is that cruiser bike with fat wheels ridden with a flat peak cap, worn backward of course. It's the cool kid that just moves with a street-wise swagger. A delicious Hunter Semillon.
Tim and Michelle Coelli run a cute cellar door and rely on their 3 hectare site to supply all their fruit. With testing weather conditions in recent years, they've pushed on resisting to buy in fruit. Here they have combined two white varieties rarely paired with one another. It's a neat summertime drink.
Not all cask wine should be painted with a brush that suggests they are nasty. Here is an easy-drinking and approachable wine that comes in an easy-carry 2L package.
a bludging relief teacher and a problem-solving task set to kill time. Hands up who had one of those dodgy relief teachers.
There's no denying the refreshment this Semillon Sauvignon Blanc blend delivers. Clean, cool and crisp, this is ready to play a support role for your next weekend outing in the sun.
What an entrance these Wren Wines have made. Introduce yourself to this Semillon. The energy. The vibe. The absolute freshness. What a ripping wine from the Hunter Valley's newest kid on the block!
A curious name for a wine given the 'Old Grafts' are vine cuttings from the famed Braemore vineyard. Old Cuttings may be more suitable? Oh, to quibble about nonsense...
The Hunter Valley 2021 Semillons are starting to turn up. I always enjoy looking at them this time of year as it builds anticipation for the upcoming spring and summer. Here is a tasty single vineyard release from big Mike De Iuliis.