With 36C temperatures here in Sydney town today it seems only fair and right to be hooking into some young Hunter Valley Semillon. My summer man flu has kicked into overdrive, but lucky I tasted these over the past flu-free week.
Of particular interest with this Semillon lineup was to see how some of these wines look now they’ve had time in bottle. I was less convinced by some of the ’15 Sems back mid last year when trying them as pre-release samples, with many showing the effects of some rather bumpy (wet) weather just as the Semillon crop was getting ripe.
There are some surprises in here though. A particular shout out to the two older wines in this bracket – Hunter Semillon really is like a butterfly with a few years in bottle, and I’d imagine many of these young 15s will probably look rather more composed at five years old. Patience will be rewarded…
Audrey Wilkinson Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
Audrey Wilkinson’s basic ‘estate’ Semillon, this comes off the younger plantings (1998) on the Western Ridge of the Audrey Wilkinson vineyard. Water clear, it’s very limey on the nose, with yellow apple too. Quite open and generous, the palate is gentle, driven by citrus and with a quite open personality. Really approachable and yet drinkable, it’s good work for the year particularly as it tastes ripe too. Best drinking: 2016-2025. 17/20, 90/100. 10.5%, $22. Would I buy it? A glass would be enough.
Gundog Estate Hunter’s Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
Gundog’s range of Sems continues to swell, with this wine remaining as one of the originals. Sourced from heavier soils, it’s a blend of fruit from Vernon vineyard in Mount View, and the 69′ and ’89 blocks on the Somerset vineyard. These blocks give higher baumes (0.5 baume higher) than some of the more classic Sem vineyards and make for a ‘modern style of Hunter Sem’ for early drinking. Numbers: pH 3.14, TA 6.7, RS 3.5g/l. Water clear, it’s indeed a slighly more rounded wine, with more juicy lemon and lime than in some wines. There’s some of the celery of the wet vintage showing here, but it should settle down and a soft, broad finish. Just a bit broad to be classical, and just a little thin, but affable genuine Sem. Best drinking: 2018-25+. 16.8/20, 89/100. 10.9%, $25. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Gundog Estate Off-Dry Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
I’m still yet to taste a convincing off-dry Hunter Semillon. Numbers: pH 3.15, TA 6.7, RS 37.5g/L. Still, this is a pretty good stab at it, with fruity lemon lime and the palate fleshed out with sweetness. Ultimately this doesn’t quite have the acid drive to balance out the sugar, even though its not ‘that sweet’. Best drinking: 2016. 16/20, 87/100. 8.74%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Gundog Estate The Chase Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
From the Somerset and Tinkler’s vineyards, this is intended to be a long-lived style. Spends 4 months on lees, which seems to help with some of these ‘serious’ styles. Numbers: pH 3.13, TA 6.9, RS 3.5g/L. Water clear, the nose here is all about compact power, with lemon and grapefruit without the celery, powerful, green apple palate is noticeably acidic, almost gritty in its lemon acid, the finish long, if still a little lean. Every bit the cellaring style, the citrus thump on the finish quality. Just a fraction skinny, but the future will be kind. Best drinking: 2020-2030. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 10.3%, $30. Would I buy it? A bottle for the cellar.
Gundog Estate Wild Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
Loved the ’14 but this still hasn’t settled yet. A larger proportion fermented on skins this year (20%), which is a nod to Matt Burton’s experimentation. Good to see. Numbers: pH 3.15. TA 6.63, RS 10.5g/L. A real tropical, passionfruit edge this year – quite aromatic. The palate seems a fraction blunt and forward palate, the sweetness giving softness and a gentle edge, but without the driving force of the best vintages. Pleasant and textural, the question mark remains about the extra sweetness. Interest, but not convinced. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 16.5/20, 88/100. 9.51%, $30. Would I buy it? Not quite.
Pooles Rock Single Vineyard Hunter Valley Semillon 2011
From the Pooles Rock vineyard at Broke. Current release and in a good place already. Lemon toast and custard apple on the nose, this is quite ripe and powerful, almost pineapply. Not classic but has excellent intensity – really quite dense and chewy and pineappley. High quality, unorthodox even, ripe style wine. Drink now or in a decade. Enjoyed this. Best drinking: 2016-2028. 18/20, 93/100+. 12%, $45. Would I buy it? On a list I’d definitely do it.
Thomas Wines Cellar Reserve Braemore Hunter Valley Semillon 2009
Available now (at the new Thomas Wines cellar door) this ‘Cellar Reserve’ Braemore is in it’s prime. From a warmish year that wasn’t always known as classic. Golden green straw, this has great colour for a 6yr old Semillon. Confidence inspiring. Great mix on the nose here between the first whispers of toast in amongst the green apple citrus fruit. Young but not, every taste wanders between the little richness of age, then green apple primary fruit, before a little honey on the finish. A smorgasbord of a wine. Delicious. Best drinking: 2016-2027. 18.5/20, 94/100. 11.2%, $50. Would I buy it? I’d buy a six pack.
Thomas Wines Braemore Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
This looked very awkward when I first tried it and it still isn’t drinkable. The challenge with this wine is that it is just too tight, Thommo’s bid for fruit perfection making this just a bit hard now. Water clear, it’s very tight and lemony on the nose with a lean, lightly sherbety and even slightly firm palate. There’s just a slight cardboard character through the finish which makes it awkward. Yes, it will eventually come out of its shell, but I didn’t enjoy this now. Hold! Best drinking: 2020-2030. 16/20, 87/100+. 10.7%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Thomas Wines ‘Murphy’s Creek’ Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
From a vineyard planted in the 1960s on Wilderness Road. Doesn’t have the same structure or drive of the Braemore, but that helps immediate drinkability. Green straw, the pine lime nose and hint of celery carry from nose onto palate. Tight and lean, this is super clean with chalky acidity and a very tight palate. So tight and lean that it’s not much fun drinking at this stage. In time this should improve dramatically. Best drinking: 2019-2028. 16.5/20, 88/100+. 10.7%, $24. Would I buy it? No.
Tulloch Hunter River White Hunter Valley Semillon 2015
Good classic labelling, but this is just a fraction behind the competition here. Water clear. Celery and green apple on the nose, palate has just a slight sweaty edge before a quite round and gentle style. Pleasant and simple Sem from an average vintage. Best drinking: 2016-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100. 10.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.