Showing posts with label Articles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Articles. Show all posts

Monday 23 May 2022

Hunter Valley Legends and Wine Industry Awards 2022


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. 

Our first stop was at Tyrrell's to taste through 16 examples of Semillon. Hosted by Mark Richardson (Tyrrell's) and Andrew Thomas (Thomas Wines), a bracket of recent releases was followed by a bracket of 2013 showcasing how well Semillon will age. The best examples were uber fresh and you'd think they were bottled yesterday!

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.

Lunch was calling and it was back on the bus to Ben Ean, recently purchased by Brian McGuigan. As we arrived we were met by the man himself with a glass of Chardonnay in hand. Lunch was served and seven Chardonnays were enjoyed alongside an excellent feast. The pick of these was Tyrrell's HVD 2021. A runaway favourite, it comes off what are said to be the oldest Chardonnay vines in the world. Terrifically complex with a leaner drive, it's just magic. The Dalwood 2021 and Scarborough Keeper of the Flame 2021 (a new wine yet to be released) both stood tall and impressed. The latter shows how 100% new French oak can be handled exquisitely without dominating the fruit. Drink more Hunter Valley Chardonnay I say! Funny that, I made that my goal for 2022 - 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.

Of the first bracket, the Thomas Kiss and De Iuliis Limited Release were blistering wines, both in their youth and the aged example. Hordern described both producers as making 'contemporary Hunter Valley wines' with their quality shining through. The Thomas Kiss is a single vineyard wine and comes from the Pokolbin Estate vineyards planted in 1969. The De Iuliis on the other hand is a blend of his best parcels (Steven and Lovedale Road) although the 2009 was predominantly from the famed Tallawanta vineyard. If you don't know these two producers, it's time to introduce yourself. Andrew Thomas is a meticulous winemaker and his perfection seeps through his wines. Mike De Iuliis is an excellent producer and his high-level consistency sees him standing tall alongside the much more famous brands in the valley. Respect.

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) 
Liz Silkman and MC Iain Riggs
HVWTA Tourism Operator of the Year: Beyond Ballooning 
HVWTA Accommodation Operator of the Year: Spicers Guesthouse 
Jurds Viticulturist of the Year: Jerome Scarborough (Scarborough Wine Co.) 
Wine Selectors Cellar Door of the Year: De Iuliis Wines 
First Creek Winemaking Services Winemaker of the Year: Liz Silkman (First Creek Wines & Silkman Wines) 
HVWTA Outstanding Contribution of an Individual: Christina Tulloch (Tulloch Wines) 
HVWTA Patron: Brian McGuigan AM 
Hunter Valley Tourism Legend: Philip Hele OAM (Hunter Valley Resort & The Farm Hunter Valley) Hunter Valley Wine Legend: Neil McGuigan

Sincere thanks to all at Hunter Valley Wine Tourism and the winemakers who made this experience such a memorable one.

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Friday 29 April 2022

Getting ready for International Viognier Day with a Yalumba Viognier Masterclass


I had the opportunity last week to spend some time (virtually) with Yalumba's Louisa Rose and Jessica Hill-Smith as well as Langmeil's James Lindner to chat about all things Viognier. Yes, Viognier, that white grape that seems to have an issue with people pronouncing its name correctly. Say "vee-on-yay". 

What a most interesting and informative hour this was.

Tuesday 6 July 2021

Celebrating 10 Years of Qwine Reviews!


Here we are, ten years on... Happy Birthday to Qwine Reviews!

What a sweet ride this last decade has been. From a humble first post reflecting on a trip to Heathcote, this site has morphed into something well beyond my expectations. Nearly 5000 wine reviews later and things are charging along.

My introduction to this caper came through Twitter - remember when it was cool to be using that platform? A friend then suggested I start a blog, well, that was cool too and everyone seemed to have one. Time has passed and it is interesting how the landscape has evolved. It seems now anyone can be a wine writer (or is that an 'influencer'?) on Instragram - buy followers, craft a snazzy pic, tell the world how fantastic the wine is without genuine critique, all in the hope that more free booze is sent so we can 'collaborate' some more...

I'm proud of my commitment to remain independent and offer uncompromised reviews on all wines that are sent, not just the good ones. I'm also most proud of the relationships I have developed over these last ten years with some of Australia's and New Zealand's leading winemakers and writers, yet it has been as thrilling to have befriended some emerging winemakers and observe their progression. 

When I started out writing there seemed to be an ocean of 'wine bloggers', and as time would have it, only a handful remain. To these great people (you know who you are), I salute you! It's a passion, we don't get paid to write reviews (fact), but the reward is in the exploration.

My exploration has opened some incredible doors beyond wine reviews, and for that, I am most grateful. Ten years ago I would have never thought I would have been published by leading wine magazines and websites, written regular columns, had a weekly radio spot to discuss wine, been able to host numerous wine dinners, MCed the Coonawarra Vignerons Cup day for 730 guests in the VIP tent, I've even had the opportunity to get my hands dirty and work vintage with some incredibly talented winemakers. This is all very humbling. 

A big shout-out goes to you though, my readership. Thank you! You're the flicker in the flame. I've enjoyed the interactions, made some great friends and engaged in some wonderful conversations, all as a result of this wonderful thing called wine. Every bottle tells a story and it creates a memory for years to come.

Here's cheers to what the future holds. There are some exciting things in the pipeline and I look forward to what the days, weeks and years ahead hold.


Steve đŸ·

Friday 29 May 2020

Zooming in for Organic wine

Recently, I was invited to take part in an online wine tasting hosted by Hayes Family Wines and Australian Organic Ltd

Tastings on Zoom appear to be the closest thing to getting a large group into a cellar door or licensed venue at the moment, and I've got to say, it was very well organised. Such tastings have been a regular event for the business over the last month.

Friday 17 April 2020

Supporting Small Wineries During Covid - A Directory For Wine Sale Deals

An article published by the ABC paints a grim picture and suggests that up to 30% of Australian wineries (700-800) may go bust. This is a direct result of Covid-19 and the strain it has placed on small businesses with tourism coming to a halt and the closure of cellar doors or limiting them to take away purchases only.

Many wineries are reaching out as best they can to engage with their customer base to maintain some cash flow and stay afloat. As a consumer, it's easy to support the chain stores who buy in bulk and sell cheap wines, but the heart and soul of the industry are those smaller producers. In most cases, the smaller wineries are raising families, putting food on tables and supporting themselves - they aren't about corporations, dividends or shares.

If you are looking to buy some wine, here are some small operators who would love your support offering great deals.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Can I ask a favour that you support small business?

We are living in some pretty extraordinary times and circumstances at the moment and the struggle is real for a lot of people.

Having been on the ground in McLaren Vale and in the Barossa Valley these last two weeks as well as the Hunter Valley a few weeks prior, there is much uncertainty about what the future holds.

I've spoken with numerous growers and winemakers and it's very clear the concern is far reaching - more than many people suspect.

Like the small family run winery which just received a $30 000 invoice for bottling. This same business has lost numerous wine orders in the last week due to the closure of restaurants and key accounts. This same business has invoices to pay for fruit delivered by growers which arrived in recent weeks and has already been processed. These growers rely on these payments to get by. Wineries like this need income to pay the growers. But we don't see the growers. They are faceless, but without them, there is no product.

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Nanny Goat Benchmark Tasting 2020

Earlier this week I was invited to attend the Nanny Goat Benchmark Tasting hosted by winemaker Alan Peters-Oswald, Mike Bennie and the distribution team at Mezzanine.

Three flights of Pinot Noir were explored benchmarking Nanny Goat's Central Otago Pinot Noir against other reputable labels from around the globe.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Good Hunting - Exploring the Hunter Valley

Pack the car up for a two day trip around Australia's oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley.

Check out my latest article for Vinomofo here  

Saturday 24 February 2018

Behind the Brand - Schild Estate

90 Year old bush vine Grenache vineyard
With a twinkle in her eye as she shares her family’s story, you can’t help but embrace the passion Judy Watson has for those that came before her and what she and her siblings have accomplished since.

Judy, Schild Estate’s Family Proprietor and Brand Ambassador, has the room in the palm of her hand. “Schild Estate celebrated 150 years in 2016,” she says with an infectious grin. 1866 was the year her great great grandparents arrived. The more she talks, the more the transformation of the brand since those embryonic days seems to be nothing but impressive.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Australia's Vintage 2018 Preview

Shiraz - Barossa Valley
Vintage is well underway in the Hunter Valley, NSW. Give it a few weeks and Vintage 2018 will be abuzz across the continent.

For a quick snapshot from around the country, here's a summary from some of Australia's leading winemakers detailing how Vintage 2018 is looking in their respective region.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Behind the Brand - Tellurian Wines

General Manager - Daniel Hopkins
Ian Hopkins went for a relaxing drive and came home having bought a vineyard. And that was that. When Ian rang to inform his son of the news, the first question Daniel spat out was, "How long have you been thinking about this for?" His father's response caught him by surprise, "Three hours!" The rest is history.

From humble days of buying land with the provision to plant a vineyard in 2002, Heathcote's Tellurian Wines has boomed. Bricks have gradually been put in the wall (so to speak) and the onsite winery was only completed in 2012. Prior to then, the wines were contract made.

Saturday 2 September 2017

Behind the Brand - Delinquente Wine Co

The Riverland is barely seen as a region to produce premium wines, but Delinquente Wine Co's Con-Greg Grigoriou is keen to change that perception.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Behind the Brand - Flametree Wines

Things could be worse than starting out a new winery and winning a Jimmy Watson with your first attempt. A pretty handy start in 2007 not only catapulted Flametree Wines into prominence but also set a high benchmark for the wines to follow.

General Manager/Winemaker Cliff Royle and Winery Manager Julian Scott
Photo:Winery Lane
Since that glorious result with the 2007 Cabernet Merlot, Flametree backed it up and were finalists for the same award twelve months later.  General Manager and Chief Winemaker Cliff Royle says, “The aim at Flametree Wines is to make a range of wines that play to the strengths of the region and consistently deliver a great drinking experience at any price point. Margaret River wines should exhibit the hallmark characters of structure, perfume and elegance that has made this region famous.”

Friday 31 March 2017

Behind the Brand - Peter McGlashan

“I don’t need accolades, I just want to get shit done,” Peter McGlashan tells me as we chat about the direction and his vision for the Granite Belt. You’d be hard pressed to find someone as passionate about the region’s dirt.

Friday 3 March 2017

Behind the Brand - Scott Comyns

Good things always come to good people. Well, most of the time anyway.

One of the good guys of the wine industry is Scott Comyns. Quiet, passionate, intelligent are but a few words describe him. He carries himself with an unpretentious humility but even life can throw curve balls to people fitting that mould.

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Coonawarra Vignerons Cup 2017

Two weeks ago I was privileged to MC the VIP marquee at the Coonawarra Vignerons Cup. Nowhere else in the world would you have a bigger choice of Cabernet for breakfast – or a myriad of other whites and reds for that matter. Such a spread of food and wine at Flemington would easily fetch $500+ a ticket. 

But the most appealing part of the day was the absolute sense of community among all guests – 728 packed in the VIP marquee. Winemakers, wineries, locals, trade and guests from as far as Perth, Broome, the Gold Coast and Tasmania all made the trek to embrace a fantastic day. A large number from Victoria crossed the border, too. Some have been coming for years. I met one guy who has been to 17 back to back. Many didn’t see a horse run. Nor did they care. It’s a day about the people who make this region great. Tickets for last year’s event sold out in December 2015 and this year's Cup was sold out in November last year.

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Paringa Estate Masterclass with Lindsay McCall

"Red what?" These were the words which kick started Lindsay McCall's passion for winemaking in 1974.

Last night I had the privilege of attending a Paringa Estate Masterclass hosted by owner Lindsay McCall and Crowne Plaza Surfers Paradise sommelier David Stevens-Castro. We looked at a range of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz including museum stock.

With a family background in dairy farming, this is where McCall was headed too until the farm was sold. He turned to teaching and worked at schools on the Mornington Peninsula.

A chance conversation changed everything. Without any formal training or qualifications, McCall bought a derelict apple orchard in 1984 and piled all his spare cash into setting up a vineyard whilst still teaching. By the early 90's he still had chalk in his hand but managed to plant out the property. His 'learn as you go' philosophy is quite infectious as he recounted numerous experiences. Trellising and planting were all done on the run so to speak.

Cabernet and Shiraz were the first varieties in the dirt 'because that's what everyone plants' followed by Chardonnay and then Pinot (1988). All Cabernet has since been pulled out and replaced with Pinot Gris.

1987 was McCall's first vintage. Yields were incredibly lower than expected and his fermentation tank was too big for the task. After considering what he had at his disposal, a disused large fish tank was deployed. The 'learn as you go' philosophy was in full swing as the tank wouldn't retain any heat. Subsequently, an electric blanket was brought into play and wrapped around the fish tank to maintain the heat. The glamorous life of a winemaker hey?

McCall's first commercial vintage was in 1988 where his Cabernet and Shiraz scored very well and put the winery on the map. Since those formative days, the Paringa label has consistently produced high quality wines with significant success at numerous wines shows. All this from two curious words back in '74.

Some briefs tasting notes...

PE Chardonnay 2015 $27: A great entry level wine. Older oak used and the fruit does all the talking - no malo. Fresh citrus and lemony tang. 91/100

Estate Chardonnay 2015 $40: This hit the spot. All Chardonnays in the range are hand picked, whole bunch pressed, 100% use of solids and 100% barrel fermented. There's a saltiness and minerally drive here. Nutty, white fleshed stone fruits, flinty and struck match plus a softly softly approach, a result of 20% new oak. Engaging textural appeal driving through to a long finish. 93/100

'The Paringa' Chardonnay 2013 $55: This went through malo, and although a richer style than the previous, it isn't in the old school Chardonnay frame. Wild yeast fermented and 40% new oak, vanilla cream and zesty citrus sit at the core. No acid additions but the acid sits curiously high in the palate. There are years in the bag here. 94/100

PE Pinot Noir 2015 $29: A terrific entry level Pinot. So fresh and vibrant. 10-15% new oak used. Dark cherry fruit drives through with ease. Peppery spice to finish. Great stuff. 92/100

Estate Pinot Noir 2013 $60: Seamless delivery - I'd be happy to have this fed through a drip. A whiff of smoked tea. Fruit denser than the PE but fruit is satin like and tannins fine and moreish. Bam! 95/100

'The Paringa' Pinot Noir 2012 $90: This possesses a calming like presence. A suggestion of blackcurrant on the nose. The fruit is more concentrated - iron fist in a velvet glove. Edging on a powdery dry finish. 94/100