Tasting Wine in the Hunter Valley by Ned Goodwin MW
Friday, January 14, 2022 in News
Wine Companion Hunter Valley specialist Ned Goodwin MW
In years past, I would get there by public transport (for obvious reasons), wheel a trolley to my rented cell, put my code into the security box and pull out whatever wines were in front of me, often anonymous boxes with little but the courier’s stamp and my details written on them. I would then wheel as many boxes as I could balance out of there, making sure that each security protocol was met before taking the trolley to a communal conference room that I reserved in advance. Here, equipped with foam roller, spittoon and ABC Jazz, I would sift my way through a deluge: cartons, styrofoam (care of the inconsiderate), capsules, cork and, of course, a phalanx of near-full bottles.
Disposing of the trash is arguably more work than the tasting itself!
The pandemic has proved to be a spanner in the works this tasting season yet, fortuitously, tasting in the Hunter enabled me to meet producers, gain greater insight and to taste categories arranged according to variety, style and chronology. It also allowed me the respite of walking away from the tsunami of debris in the hope that local makers and their assistants would swing by after hours and taste.
The sandstone cellar door at Margan
I have an option to save a review, allowing me to revisit it at a later stage during the tasting, before sending it to my editor. This is particularly useful when comparing different iterations of a single variety from the same producer, for example. The wines may be made almost identically albeit representing different sites and their varying geologies, soil structures and mesoclimates. Tyrrell’s brilliant single-site Semillons, a case in point. The nuances, subtle. Only by comparing and contrasting forensically-preferably in silence in these instances-can one detect which has the superior balance, length and complexities that constitute a superior wine.
Now, some of you are surely thinking along the lines of ‘but I like what I like and hey, wine tasting is so subjective’. Well, yes, it is. However, it takes a great deal of training and discipline to develop an acute palate that enables one to deduce, relatively objectively, the salient points that constitute a superlative wine as opposed to a value proposition with some character, versus a soulless mutt. Price, of course, comes into play. After all, in one of the world’s most expensive countries it is challenging to make a rewarding wine for under $30. Spain plays hardball in that space with lower land and labour costs, not to mention the lack of Australia’s extraordinary levies on wine. A different topic for another time, perhaps.
When I am tasting for The Companion, fleeting moments do not matter. I am fully aware, too, that some drinkers don’t care beyond spending $25. This doesn’t affect my scoring, although I will certainly give a nod to a wine offering good value. I burrow into the wine in my glass, gleaning its intrinsic qualitative traits and transcribing my thoughts as words, as ineffable as the greatest wines tend to be. I try to bring the wine to life for the reader. I strive toward shorter sentences, although the flow of a great wine across the palate seems, intuitively, to suit longer ones!
Whether you follow my reviews, or prefer somebody else, is up to you. Our tastes as wine lovers tend to find alignment with certain arbiters over others. I prefer reading Walter Speller on Italian wine than Antonio Gallioni. Speller loves Italy. He digs deep, in search of soulful expressions rather than the obvious high scoring wines. He is a sensorial archeologist, burrowing, excavating and searching for more. I feel that way too when I taste. That said, I subscribe to Gallioni’s ‘Vinous’ because I adore Neil Martin’s writing on Bordeaux, Burgundy and pop music!
During and after I taste I try to drink water. But as much as I try to scarf three-litres, it is not enough. Dehydration tablets are handy. The gym each morning, rough going, but compulsory. Teeth cleaning once the March deadline is hit, imperative. Whitening, a no go. It weakens the enamel making one’s teeth more sensitive to the ravages of pigments, acidity and tannin. When you feel something hard in your mouth while querying a wine’s texture, only to realise that a piece of your tooth has fallen into the glass as mine once did, you start to ask questions about where it is all heading. All I know is that I am being led by a love of wine developed as an Art History student in Paris and that I am being led by some inexplicable forcefield to the next glass.
Read more about Ned Goodwin's white wine and red wine insights from his Hunter Valley tasting or shop our Hunter Valley portfolio.