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A trip to Hunter Valley

December 21, 2009

I’ve never really had a very high regard for the wines of Hunter Valley, and my trip there 16-17 December 2009 confirmed my impression. Apart from Brokenwood (even then, only its flagship wines command attention), I feel that the wines in general suffer from a lack of distinction, unlike the rusticity of McLaren Vale, the rich unctuous quality of Barossa shiraz, the plummy structure of Coonawarra, and the tightly-knit fine tanins of a Clare Valley shiraz. Like most wine-growing regions in Australia, Hunter Valley produces too many varietals. The Aussies may rave about that region’s semillon, but this grape has never rocked my boat. If at all, it is the lighter-textured, more transparent quality of its shiraz that gives Hunter Valley some identity. And so, a quick review of some stuff I tasted…

Lakes Folly Chardonnay 2008 –pale straw. Light. Citrus, lemongrass, some minerals. Not memorable. Lakes Folly 1999 cabernets – cab, petit verdot, merlot & 10% shiraz, tasted in presence of the owner-cum-winemaker. Very dark red, ripe dark berries and raspberries. Bold bouquet dominated by smoke, liquorice, alcohol, slightly warm. Very good body, quite well integrated, beginning to develop secondary fruit flavours, still primarily fruit driven though, but I don’t think it commands AUD120. Roche Wines Tallawanta Hunter Valley shiraz 2007(AUD25) – dark, rich, medium-full, fruit driven, layered, red fruits, without the usual pepper/spice notes. Very good. Great value. I bought it.

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2009 (AUD46) – very pale straw, grassy, lemongrass, light lime, not much body. Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2002 (AUD48) – slightly heavier, but still not significantly different from the 2009. Honeydew, melons. Too lightweight for my liking. Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1998 (AUD100) – beautiful clear yellow. Lovely bouquet – floral, creamy, quite rich but doesn’t quite live up on the palate, although weightier. Guess semillon isn’t my cuppa. Tyrrell’s Brokenback shiraz 2007 (AUD25) – dark dusty red, medium, French oak, well-integrated, easy, relatively straightforward. Tyrrell’s Vat 9 shiraz 1998 (AUD100)  – dark, rich, spicy, peppery, leather, saddle, lliquorice, layered, quite complex, full, great mouthfeel. Excellent but expensive.

Brokenwood varietal shiraz 2007 – dusty red, light medium, good density but rather simple and straightforward. Brokenwood Wade 2 shiraz 2005 – single vineyard shiraz from McLaren Flat. Dusty red, medium, cassis, liquorice, some spice. Good but not  distinctive. Brokenwood Rayner shiraz 2005 (AUD75) – single vineyard shiraz, also from McLaren Vale. Darker red, heavier but deeper aromas of ripe dark berries, resinous, not unctuous, some complexity, peppery texture but the spice doesn’t dominate. Very good. Not cheap. AUD75 from cellar door. Brokenwood Mistress Block shiraz 2007 – true Hunter Valley single vineyard shiraz. Not available at retail. Nice ruby red, deep aromas of plum, cassis, leather, with subtle oak lift. Great mouthfeel, superbly integrated, not at all heavy, good depth and transparency. Very similar in style to the Graveyard (not available for tasting). Excellent. At AUD60, much better value compared to the Graveyard (AUD140).

Tulloch E.M. Chardonnay 2007 – very pale straw. But possesses good body and minerality, well balanced against the limey citrus, ending with a floral lift. Lacking in complexity and depth, but good value at AUD28. Tulloch Pokolbin shiraz 2007 – too simple with nose of alcohol-dominated red fruits.

Tower Estate chardonnay 2007 – light-bodied, too citrusy. Tower Estate shiraz 2007 – simple and straightforward. Not enough body and fruit. Tower Estate sparkling shiraz 2003 – again quite simple, lacking in complexity in spite of bottle age. Poles apart from a Rockford Black Shiraz.

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