Part two of our three part Aussie Wine Adventure sees us jetting off from Melbourne to the rather warm climes of Brisbane Queensland, firstly in order to catch-up with friends and of course, take in the sights, but also for us to then hire a car and take a rather scenic drive down along the Gold Coast and onto New South Wales and most importantly where wine is concerned The Hunter Valley.
We set up home for a few days in Cessnock, this was an ideal location, as many of the wineries that we had penciled in to visit were literally on our doorstep.
The Hunter Valley is home to one of our favourite grape varieties, that being the understated Semillon. Here, it generally goes it alone, and is able to take itself to dizzying heights of absolute brilliance. When it is produced well, offers fragrance, textures and vivid citrus fruits that run along herbal tones within a smokey essence and backed up by steely freshness. It can last a lifetime, and in this time, continue to evolve and give innumerable pleasure. As you can see, we just love it!
However, the Hunter is just not all about Semillon, here we tasted some very fine Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, as well as some interesting Italian varieties that are being put to the test as well.
Our first day out and about amongst the vines saw temperatures rise to 41C, which we were told was a little on the cooler side to what it had been days earlier. However, the cool tasting rooms did give some respite, as well as time to sip and enjoy some excellent wines.
First port of call was to a favourite of ours, Tempus Two, whose Semillon we have enjoyed over the years, including some of those that in their second decade.
Today we enjoyed a selection of wines from various regions around Australia.
First off we were impressed by their 2017 Gewurztraminer from the Adelaide Hills with its light, crisp body that had so much going on, on the nose as well as the palate, including lychee, rose, and orange blossom. Now then!
It was then the turn of the 2016 Tempranillo from Victoria with its meaty red fruits and dusty tannins. And finally from the Hunter Valley, a rather nice 2017 Shiraz with its crunchy red fruits and woody notes.
And the Semillon? Well, it had to be their 2015 Botrytised Semillon from Riverina – with its honeyed mouth coating honeydew melon, lifted by oh-so-fresh lemon citrus that had been sprinkled with a hint of fennel – yum!
Next up was Meerea Park who tantalised us with their range of Semillons, including their easy-going 2017 ‘XYZ’ with upfront citrus zest and lemon curd curves, followed by the taught 2013 and the more generous 2014 ‘Terracotta’ that had those smokey herbal notes, curves, texture and lime pastille freshness to make our knees go weak.
We finished with a 2009 and 2013 ‘Alexandra Munro’ – both excellent and very fresh, but with the 2009 really beginning to take on that oily, textured smoothness whilst maintaining that oh-so-fresh crunchy lime citrus flow – oh my… this really did it for us!
Now we found ourselves at an estate whose wines really do deserve hearing or more precisely, deserve drinking more of, and these belong to the Mount Pleasant Estate, whose 2010 Elizabeth with its lime zing, cut grass and nervy tension, was followed by the 2007 Phil Ryan that really came to life on the palate with its herbal tang, grass and tangy lime edge finish.
Always on the lookout for something different, then the B-Side 2017 Tempranillo/Touriga Nacional would fit the bill nicely. What it lacked in complexity it gained in interest with lifted prickly raspberry fruit, and fresh cranberry zing, supported by fine tannins.
Finally, we came away with the lingering taste of the 2014 Rosehill Vineyard Shiraz – rich, deep, meaty, with spice aplenty, that then gave way to fresh blackberry fruits – oooooeeeer!
It was now turn to call into a couple of well known ‘faces’ that is, those that are brands in the UK, but never-the-less, still make top-notch wines.
Firstly, it was to swing by McGuigan who have won may medals along the way. Here, we tried the Sparkling Semillon Blanc 2017, the Shortlist Riesling 2017 from the Eden Valley, and the Bin 9000 Semillon 2018 – all for their verve, tension and precision.
Then it was onto Tyrrell’s – the oldest and most established of the lot. It was still hot hot hot outside but the wines inside were definitely cool!
Again, it was another Gewurztraminer that got our pulses racing, this being their 2018, and weighing in at 10% abv maintained a lovely balance between the fresh acid and the residual sugars that gave life to the perfumed notes of Turkish Delight dashed with icing sugar, and supported with lush tropical fruits that just kept giving toward its very generous mouthful.
However, it was the Semillon Vat 1 2005 that blew us away, with its grassy, fresh-cut herbs and lime zest, hints of smoke and waxy, lingering fresh finish that just sent us to heaven for a while.
In glorious sunshine, it was now a pleasant drive over to the Tulloch Estate, where we had some interesting Barbera, Sangiovese and Zinfandel although still very much a side project for the estate and something that still is a work in progress, but nonetheless enjoyable.
Also just as enjoyable was the refreshing sparkling rosé ‘Verscato’ NV 8% abv which is made predominantly from the Verdelho grape, this semi-sweet fruity little number was definitely something to enjoy on a hot summers day.
However, it was their Shiraz and Cabernets that really blew our minds with their Pokolbin 2017 Shiraz and the 2016 Hilltops Cellar Door Release Cabernet Sauvignon – both from the Hunter Valley, and possessed those dark brooding qualities that just allure, thus providing the desire to simply drink more and more.
And as all good things apparently have to come to an end, we are told, however this wasn’t the case for us as we then took in Andrew Thomas Wines and with this a bottle of his 2016 Synergy Shiraz to enjoy back at our Cessnock accommodation. Now this is fab Shiraz, and this in particular is his entry level wine, providing a very good benchmark as to the quality of his wines.
Whilst there, it would have been simply rude to have left without trying his Six Degrees Semillon 9% abv, this off-dry pleaser had all the hallmarks of a decent Hunter Semillon, and helped bring the curtain down on what had been a most enjoyable couple of days.
Now there was just enough time before the sun set to grab our cosies and get down to the local pool for a bit of a dip before cracking open that bottle of Shiraz on the veranda.
Join us next for our third and and final (for now) Guest Wines Aussie Adventure, when we can be found in the Yarra Valley!