I love great, mature Hunter Valley semillon, so help me.
I also enjoy it young and fresh, as long as it’s not too austere, but has some softness and fruit. But the real glory of these wines begins after about five years in the bottle.There were a number of 2018s in the tasting, including several from Gundog Estate, an up-and-coming Hunter-based producer.
My latest tasting had many stars of this type. A quartet of Tyrrell’s 2013 vintage semillons topped the bill – three single-vineyard wines and Vat 1, which is a blend of vineyards and is Tyrrells’ top wine of the vintage. For me, on this date, Belford topped the score-chart, closely followed by Vat 1, Stevens and HVD. It is possible that Vat 1 will ultimately be the top wine, as the Tyrrell winemaking team led by Andrew Spinaze predicts. But, with Vat 1 priced at AUD $85 and the others all AUD $35, I know where I’d be investing my money.
Also from the 2013 vintage was Two Rivers Stone’s Throw (AUD $50), the top aged semillon at this year’s Sydney Royal Wine Show. It won the Dr Henry John Lindeman Prize for best mature white wine, and the Len Evans Memorial Trophy for best single vineyard wine. I wouldn’t dispute that for a second.
Another great 2013 is Margan’s Aged Release White Label Semillon (AUD $50): still tight and nervy with lots of lemongrass and lemon pith aromas, toastiness barely starting to show its head.
I also loved Meerea Park’s 2014 Terracotta Semillon (AUD $35). This wine breaks the rules, as the fruit comes not from the white sandy loams of the old river beds of Pokolbin, but the terracotta clay of the Lochleven vineyard.
It probably wouldn’t do well in a show because it’s very forward-developed, but Lindemans 2014 Bin 1455 Semillon was another delight. Classicists would probably poo-poo this degree of toasty development and advanced softness in a four-year-old, but for sheer enjoyment, it offers great drinking pleasure. Perhaps just don’t expect it to age long-term. Full yellow colour, buttered-toasty, rich and expansive. I was pleasantly surprised that Lindemans is still making Hunter semillon at all, as it seemed to have fallen completely off the radar.
There were a number of 2018s in the tasting, including several from Gundog Estate, an up-and-coming Hunter-based producer. My pick, earning a gold-ribbon score, was The Chase (AUD $35), a beautifully bright, restrained, penetrating yet delicate wine, which is lovely now and will certainly age well. And surprise, surprise, the fruit was off the Howard Somerset vineyard that I wrote about here a few weeks ago.
For a completely different style, barrel-fermented (but not at all oaky), try the 2017 Mount Horrocks (AUD $34) from Clare: a delicious wine, not a wine you could mistake for a Hunter, but a superb wine in its own right.