25 September 2023

Banging on about Tyrrells

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By John Rozentals.

I can just imagine a mythical letter to one of my editors: “Do you mind telling your wine writer to stop banging on about Tyrrells. They’re just another winery after all.”

And I can equally imagine my defence.

Bruce Tyrrell … the fourth in a legendary line-up to head the family company.

Firstly, they’re not just another winery. They’re one of Australia’s oldest family-owned wineries and there have only been four people — all of them Tyrrells, of course — at the helm since the business was founded by Edward Tyrrell when he took up a selection of land in the Hunter Valley in 1858.

Then came the legendary Edward ‘Dan’ Tyrrell, who made his first wine at age 18 and conducted his last vintage, aged 88, in 1959, just before he suffered a coronary and died.

He was followed by his nephew Murray Tyrrell, the ‘Mouth of the Hunter’, and famous for declaring every vintage the best of all time.

When Murray died in 2000 he was succeeded by his son Bruce, who is at the helm now. Three of Bruce’s children — Jane, John and Christopher — wait in the wings, though given the family history of longevity they still have a while to wait.

Secondly, I’ll do a deal with the mythical letter-writer. I’ll stop banging on about Tyrrells when they stop producing some of the country’s most outstanding varietal, regional wines.

The latest to reach this desk are five distinctive Hunter wines, designated as comprising part of the ‘Single-Vineyard’ range.

As young wines, they’re not straight-forward and easy-to-drink. They’re wines meant for cellaring and to engender conversation and debate.

I certainly had several lengthy discussions with myself as a tasted the quintet — mainly regarding which of three semillons I would include here for review.


Tyrrells 2016 Belford Chardonnay ($40): Fermentation started in stainless steel, but was finished in French oak, some of it new. It’s a lean sort of chardonnay, belonging in the distinctly stonefruit part of the flavour spectrum. It has many years of cellaring in front of it. If you must drink it now, do so with a full-flavoured chicken or fish dish.

Tyrrells 2016 Old Hut Shiraz ($40): The vineyard was planted in 2003 with cuttings from old shiraz grown in a nearby Tyrrells vineyard dating to 1879. It’s a fruit-driven red that, like the best Hunter shiraz, is medium-bodied rather than robust in a Barossa sense. It will revel in being paired with a fine, grilled, medium-rare steak.


Tyrrells 2013 HVD Semillon ($35): The Hunter Valley Distillery or ‘Sign-Post’ block first planted in 1908 and holding what Murray Tyrrell thought to be some of the valley’s top semillon. To me it’s the fullest-bodied, most rounded of the three semillons in the range — the others are the Belford and Stevens from the same vintage — and, right now the easiest to drink. Try it with a simple dish of char-grilled white-fleshed fish.

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