Before we get into the next instalment of ‘What Chardonnay is Andrew opening for #ChardoMay today’, a question – why isn’t Hunter Valley Semillon more popular?
In a country where dropping $90 on a bottle of one-year-old Chardonnay is very normal, it seems odd that infinitely drinkable aged single vineyard Semillon can be had for exactly half that (and it still doesn’t fly off the shelves).
For a prime example, cast your eyes in the direction of this Tyrrell’s Stevens Vineyard Semillon 2017.
Sourced from a vineyard that dates back to 1911, this is just a really enjoyable and complex drink. That’s it. It tastes of green apples, of acidity rather than fruit, and it will never be called a full bodied wine. But the appeal is about the layers. Stevens Semillon always has this grass and hay character, and especially in a ripe year like 2017. The green apple is shot with a bit of cream and toast, but it’s still primary, still tight. That push/pull of generous hints, yet long (and not harsh) acidity is so interesting and so drinkable. Stevens isn’t even the best of the 2017 Tyrrell’s Sems (I’ve had the Vat 1 in passing and it’s on another plane of weight and definition), but this is just lovely. And cheap, in context, especially knowing that it will live (and get even more interesting) for decades. 18/20, 93/100. 11%, $45.
Also from the Hunter on the bench, the Meerea Park Hell Hole Shiraz 2021.
There is more variability in the Meerea Park range than I’d like, but when the Eather boys get it right, the results are great. This Shiraz comes from the Homestead Estate Vineyard planted in the 60s and in turn this feels like a proper old-school Hunter style. Leather, mulch, generous plum fruit, a little whole bunch spice? This really captures the Hunter mode with ripe fruit and plushness through the middle but that mid-weight nature too. A wine of fruit and a bit of leather and spice yet not heaviness – it’s too medium for that. It’s a bit diffuse, but still feels pretty right. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $60.
Next, our Chardonnay May entrant for today, the Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Chardonnay 2022.
This is too young, but it has also been with drink-me-now generosity. It’s a plumper wine than in recent vintages, with more peach juice to start. I don’t like the slightly muddied hessian old oak on the nose, but a nice expanse of juicy peach juice on the palate. The barest kiss of whipped cream oak and lees on the palate but otherwise juicy fruit is the star. A slightly obvious wine this vintage (it has been more serious and leaner before) but unquestioned appeal. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $45.
One more before bed, the Higher Plane ‘Led Astray’ Fumé Blanc 2022.
Higher Plane has unveiled a collection of less conventional, more lo-fi Margaret River wines, and I’m very here for the charisma. Not all of them work, but life is messy, right? This wine sees single vineyard Sauv from Karridale that is barrel fermented and matured in used (but not old) oak. The gooseberry grass jumps out at you, then plenty of juicy stone fruit and just a little background oak for texture. It’s just a bit sour and I feel like this could be even more textured. More wildness. But still, more personality here than your usual Sauv. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $29.
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Probably due to the fact that those aged styles are an acquired taste to the average consumer. Those average consumers have had it drummed into them that fresher is better when it comes to white wine, especially by the hipster/lo-fi brigade. So when they see these old beauties they overlook them. More of it for us I say! For $45 for a 2017 its the equivalent of $7.50/vintage!