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Sav blanc & semillion

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Fermenting white grapes with their skins and seeds has become a fringe activity in some quarters in the winemaking business, and often the result is a hazy, brown/amber coloured concoction which has no freshness, charm or distinctive flavour and aroma. Trying to make sauvignon blanc which doesn’t taste like regulation supermarket Marlborough is a worthy ideal, but the wine has to taste good!

Enter Bannockburn, stage left. Its highly individualistic winemaker Michael Glover is not one to waste his days churning out look-alike, mass-market booze. His 2013 Geelong sauvignon blanc (tasting) is like no sauvignon blanc you’ve ever tasted. One-third of the grapes were wild-fermented on skins, in 25% new French oak and Italian acacia puncheons, and left on lees for 10 months. And 6% riesling was blended in.

This is different! While it’s been partly made by ‘orange’ winemaking techniques, you wouldn’t notice: it doesn’t wear its ‘orange-ness’ on its sleeve. It’s a beautiful drink. It’s very complex, avoids the shrill varietal pungency of mainstream savvies, and it’s technically excellent. Full marks, Mr Glover!

More than half of the 100 semillons, sauvignon blancs and sem-sav blends I’ve posted this month are sauvignon blancs, and the perceptive will notice my tastes lean towards wines which are more than just strident varietal fruit – although this style can be good when done well. I especially like subtly barrel-fermented styles. Ten Minutes by Tractor is one (tasting), also Larry Cherubino’s two wines, Cherubino (tasting) and The Yard (tasting); also Greywacke (tasting), Pegasus Bay (tasting) and Dog Point Section 94 (tasting), the latter a bit oakier and more heavily worked.

In a more pure-fruit (but not simplistic) style I liked Howard Park (tasting) and Moorilla Muse Series (tasting). Artemis (tasting) from the NSW Southern Highlands is a very delicate, refined and restrained style that is delicious drinking. In the sem-sav blends, Hay Shed Hill Block 1 (tasting), Grosset (tasting) and Coates (tasting) are very good.

As for the Hunter semillons, 2014 is a rip-snorter of a year, and Andrew Thomas’s Braemore (tasting) could be his best yet, while Gundog Estate Poacher’s (tasting) is also a beauty. 

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