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Hunter Valley Wine Tasting

What a lovely evening. Much of our time at Langton’s is spent tasting and talking about wines from across the country and around the world. So it’s great to have a reminder of the Hunter Valley Shiraz and Semillon treasures we have on our doorstep in Sydney. And, of course, tasting wines in our Classification from Mount Pleasant, Brokenwood and Tyrrell’s is always an event worth attending. Explore our Hunter Valley portfolio here.

‘They don’t make Semillon anywhere else like they do in the Hunter Valley...’

Let’s get right into it, Hunter Valley Semillon is–like all great wines when made well– fantastic. In the last ten or so years, Hunter Valley Semillon producers have made wines that are more approachable in their youth–showing citrus blossom and zest on the nose while keeping a pithy palate shot through with tightrope acidity. They don’t make Semillon anywhere else like they do in the Hunter Valley–we should all celebrate that more than we do. 

Those super austere, made-for-the-long-haul Hunter Sems are fewer and farther in between. Many come on the market with the miles already on the clock in the form of cellar releases. Usually aged five years, the wineries do the hard work of patience in getting over that midway metamorphosis that Semillon (and Riesling) needs to go through to start showing what the wine can do with time. The honeyed, nutty, savoury, viscous, herbal, preserved lemon precious liquid can be glorious. 

In the gaining greatness with age stakes, it’s Hunter royalty that is still the benchmark. Tyrrell’s, of course, with their redoubtable Langton’s Classified ‘Outstanding Vat 1 Sem and its US Olympic team levels of wine show bling. At the event, we looked at the 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014 vintages in what was a brief–and quite delicious–educational tasting in the evolution of Hunter Valley Semillon from the masters of the form. 

Moving across the room, Mount Pleasant’s Chief Winemaker Adrian Sparks was on hand to show off the 2013 Lovedale Semillon. Still only a pup, the 2013 has a long future ahead of it elegantly indicated on the palate. Adrian has taken that Lovedale fruit and used it to fire a shot through time that won’t deviate for decades. We were also joined by winemaker Andrew Thomas who showed off this frankly brilliant Braemore Cellar Reserve 2014 (there’s that cellar ageing being done again). 

While First Creek and Silkman (on show side-by-side) showed why Liz Silkman is so highly regarded as a winemaker, its was the 2018 First Creek Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay that stole the show. At the first sniff and sip, it would have been easy to call this a show pony wine–presenting as does a touch of struck match, it’s a bit phenolic-y, and has a note of oh, you used expensive French wood on that one.’ But another taste and another taste after that revealed just how good the wine is. And a Hunter Chardonnay! They had the driest spittoon in the house. If you were in need of some convincing that things are changing in the Hunter, look to wines like this and winemakers like Liz. If you are interested in these, you’ll need to talk to your broker.

As is always the case with tasting, we go from left to right, from white to red and so it’s on to Hunter Valley Shiraz. But not before a trip to the grazing table for supplies.  

‘...a just about perfect Hunter Valley Shiraz.’

First up, it’s the Brokenwood Graveyard Hunter Valley Shiraz. Sitting in the top tier of the Langton’s Classification, the Graveyard is one of just 22 wines in the ‘Exceptional’ category. We tasted the 2017, from a vintage that lit up wine shows and put smiles on the faces of many Hunter winemakers. To cut to the chase, Chief Winemaker Ian Riggs has stewarded what is, while undoubtedly young, a just about perfect Hunter Valley Shiraz. 

Back to Mount Pleasant then where the easy-going, ever affable Adrian Sparks was casually tipping the 2017 Mount Pleasant 1965 Vines Rosehill Shiraz into the glasses of our guests. This 2017 Hunter Valley Shiraz cleaned up the awards scene in 2018. What a wine! While it’s close to perfect, the 1965 Vines Rosehill feels complete. Extraordinary for a wine of its youth. 

It’s tempting to compare the two wines (1965 Vines Rosehill and the Graveyard) and ask which is the better bottle. But that would be missing the point. And while both wineries would back their own, the reality is that a great wine in any vintage is the tide that raises all Hunter boats. Here we have two genuinely great wines, both showing the diversity of Hunter Valley terroir and what the region can do.

‘the guy in the Swannies cap’

Across the road from the Graveyard (and if you’ve been to the Hunter you’ve probably driven down that road) is the Pokolbin Estate vineyard (planted 1969, a year after the Graveyard put down roots) where Andrew Thomas sources the fruit for his KISS Shiraz. It’s his flagship wine and he’s clearly very happy with it and well he should be. Talking to new Hunter converts on the night, ‘the guy in the Swannies cap!’ was the refrain from guests pointing out some of their favourites. Andrew is well known to the Langton’s Brokerage team, his wines are firmly amongst their go-tos for Hunter Valley Shiraz. 

We also took a good look at the Shiraz from Keith Tulloch. Rightly proud of his winery being the first carbon-neutral winery in the Hunter Valley (and second in Australia after Tahbilk), Keith is able to back up the feel-good factor of his winery with some seriously good Hunter Shiraz. Of the Kester, we tasted the 2017 and the cellar release 2011. It’s not just Semillon–Hunter Shiraz does magical things with time and the wineries are keen to show that off. A thimble full of Viognier in the Kester gives a layer of floral polish to the black fruit and aromatics. While The Wife (named for Keith’s wife Amanda) sports a double-take inducing 10% Viognier. On paper, it reads as almost reckless to add so much but the grapes are co-fermented and what comes together in the glass is a balanced and elegant wine. Not so much restrained rather it’s considered. Keith Tulloch wines demanded multiple retesting, and we obliged. Thanks Keith! 

If you are interested in the wines from Keith Tulloch, you’ll need to talk to your broker or keep an eye on our auctions. 

All in all, a very good night. The Hunter tends not to grab the highlights. While those that make noise about wine in some state capitals tend to bang the drum about the virtues of their respective regions, in Sydney we often take the Hunter for granted. We’re wrong to do so. The Hunter is capable of making truly great Australian wine and it’s been doing so longer than anywhere else in the country. It’s time to rediscover the Hunter Valley.  

Come and join us at our events, we regularly host masterclasses in our Tasting Room, tasting events in our Greem Room along with our premium events which are not to be missed. If you’re interested in the wines discussed or would like to discover how Langton’s can better help you reach your wine goals, contact a broker now. 

Thanks to all of our guests who came along and thanks to the winemakers, the winery teams and the Langton’s team led by Neli for putting together this wonderful event. 

Explore our Hunter Valley portfolio or contact your Langton’s wine broker for more information. 

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