Barbera blossoms in the Hunter

Margan, Margan Restaurant, Margan Winery, Margan Family Wines

Margan, Margan Restaurant, Margan Winery, Margan Family Wines (Photo: )

“This is the only vertical tasting of Hunter Valley barbera in the world,” Andrew Margan proudly announced. Well, as far as we know it was. There are few other barberas in the region. And none with a 16-year back-catalogue.

Indeed, Andrew Margan’s secret weapon is not his Aged Release semillon (tastings) or shiraz (tastings), as good as these are, but his barbera.

At the Hunter Valley winery’s recent 20th birthday bash, I tasted ten vintages of barbera, dating back to the first vintage, 2001, and was impressed by their consistency, softness and approachability (tastings).

It was remarkable how even in vintages candidly described by the winemaker as “wet and difficult: hand-picked up to our knees in mud” (no less than five vintages!), the barbera vines stood and delivered.

The feature of the wines was their softness and early drinkability, which is no doubt a key reason the wine is so popular at the cellar door. It’s Margan’s biggest seller at his winery’s restaurant/cellar door in the Broke Fordwich sub-region.

Also successful in restaurants, it’s poured by the glass at Quay, Otto and Café Sydney.

Part of the explanation for barbera’s success even in wet seasons, which are disturbingly common in the Hunter, is its thick skin. This guards against berry-split, a major headache following rain when the grapes are ripening.

In addition to the barbera, Margan has a new range of Spanish and Italian inspired wines called Breaking Ground. There’s a superb 2016 albariño (tasting), a soft and chocolaty 2014 tempranillo graciano shiraz blend, and a Ripasso from the 2009 and 2011 vintages.

The albariño is especially worthy: a wine that combines similarly ripe flavour at low alcohol as Hunter semillon, but with a quite different texture. Delicious.

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