Tyrrell’s Wines, Vat 1, Hunter Semillon, Lower Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia, 2006
On the Lower Hunter Valley and semillon
In general the Lower Hunter Valley is a gently undulating region. It is sub-tropical, with one of the warmest, wettest and most humid of Australian climates , (along with Darwin NWT, northern Queensland and western Tasmania), with rainfall of ~750 mm of an erratic nature, tending to come in heavy downpours, often around harvest time. Rain, humidity and afternoon cloud cover tend to mitigate the effects of solar radiation, so the whilst grapes ripen well from the warm climate, they do not gain high levels of sugar from strong photosynthesis. The sandy-alluvial suit semillon.
Production is split ~ 60:40, white to red, with the main varieties in descending order of dominance – chardonnay, shiraz, semillon, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, verdelho, and sauvignon blanc.
Hunter Valley semillon does not see oak, rather, with time in bottle, 10-20 years, there is a transformation from a thin water white wine with high acidity and alcohol ~10-11% abv in youth, with a character of citrus, grass, straw, lanolin, and subtle green herbs, to one of great complexity, with a tertiary profile of butter and toast, roasted nuts and honey  – a profile suggestive of exposure to oak. The best aged examples retain balancing acidity, and a primary fruit dimension, complementing the tertiary development .
Prices remain affordable, though examples with age are hard to come by, so one must cellar one’s own from release. Tyrrells Vat 1 Semillon sets the benchmark for the region .
This wine: lot No. LAGW017, varietal semillon; fermented cool in stainless steel, then given a short time on the lees, before being racked and bottled in late July, then resting 6 years before release; screw-cap closure, 10.5% abv, Fareham Wine Cellar, £35 (05/17)
Last tasted: 25/05/17
Consumer tasting note: pale lemon, highly aromatic, dominated by all kinds of yellow citrus aroma – lemon pith and boiled sweets, lemon balm and thyme, then lime skin, dessert apple and white pepper; medium bodied, with flavours of lemon zest, grapefruit, green apple, and a hint of honey. A long length.
Drink now – RTD, but will keep – Wait. Decant for an hour.
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, pale intensity lemon, showing tears.
Nose: clean, pronounced intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of lemon pith, scratched lime skin, beeswax, almond oil, dried lemon peel, lemon boiled sweets, hints of green herbs – such as lemon balm and lemon thyme, hints of crisp green apple turning to dessert apple with a little time, a whiff of white pepper, and with more time hints of anise, honey and toast [on day 2 one can add warm cut grass].
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, medium (-) alcohol, medium body, medium (+) intensity, a smooth texture and a very low-key grip, with flavours of lemon pith, hint of lime, lemon zest, white grapefruit segments, green apple, a touch of almond oil, a hint of thin honey, and a passing touch of sulphur. A long length with a clean lemony-citrus infused finish, and a light grip [on day 2 one can add a hint of cut green pepper].
Quality: outstanding, well-balanced fresh acidity enhanced by the mainly lemon-citrus profile, with light alcohol (pointing away from Chablis), harmonious overall; quite strong intensity throughout, with similar concentration; un-oaked or exposed to neutral oak (implicated by the light grip, which may otherwise arise from protracted skin maceration), with a high level of complexity, with primary citrus, orchard and herbaceous notes, and a tertiary dimension of almond oil, beeswax, dried citrus, thin honey and toast. Finishes long.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: can drink now, but has potential for further ageing, over say 4-7 years, and possibly longer – a sound acid structure, lots of intensity and concentration, and primary fruit to work with, a developing complexity with hints of further development towards honey and nuts, and a promising long length.
- Halliday, J. (2008). Wine Atlas of Australia. Hardie Grant Books.
- Wine Australia – Australian Semillon [online] accessed 05/09/18.