25 September 2023

A great Hunter white style

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By John Rozentals.

It’s been said that Hunter Valley semillon is perhaps the greatest of the world’s wine styles to have been created totally out of necessity — the need to convert often under-ripe grapes into drinkable white wine.

Bruce Tyrrell … the latest generation to take charge of a famous Hunter Valley family company.

If that’s true, so be it. The perpetrators have done a wonderful job.

I’ve mentioned before, and no doubt will again, that late, great Melbourne wine scribe Mark Shield wondering how anything ‘so mean and squinty-eyed’ in its youth could develop such richness and complexity with maturation.

Modern winemaking has meant more approachable wines in their youth, but they still to develop alarmingly in the cellar — and the problem of under-ripe grapes continues, largely because of a hot, humid, often rainy climate.

No one — except possibly McWilliams — has made as big a mark with aged semillon as has Tyrrells, and the family company’s Vat 1 has become quite rightly legendary, both in the show ring and in private cellars.

But the annual release of the Tyrrells Hunter Semillon is also eagerly awaited by those in the know, or perhaps with less-deep pockets.


Nericon 2018 Chardonnay ($10-12): I have a couple of generalisations about the cheaper end of the market — firstly, cheap white is better than cheap red, and secondly, you’re generally better off with producers from heavily irrigated areas such as the Riverland or the Riverina than areas such as the Barossa or Clare. I buy this beauty at the bottom end of the price range and get just what I expect — clean freshness and some depth of flavour.

D’Arenberg 2017 Feral Fox Pinot Noir ($30): Chester Osborne seems to have learnt about making great pinot more quickly than have most Australian winemakers. Firstly and predominantly they don’t have to be deep-coloured brooding monsters of reds. They have to have freshness and vinosity. Get the grapes right and the wine will largely take care of itself, as it will with most varieties. And Chester has gone to the cooler Adelaide Hills rather than his McLaren Vale home base for this spicy beauty.

Wine of the Week

Tyrrells 2018 Hunter Valley Semillon ($25): This is a light, fresh, flavoursome ripper that will go a treat with freshly grilled bream or similar white-fleshed fish. Modern winemaking technology and a good semillon vintage have combined to produce a less-than-ferocious young white but it should mature well into a full-bodied, toasty elder. Buy half a dozen, enjoy a couple of bottles now and stick the rest in the cellar for 10 years or so. It’s a bargain.

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