A bit of loveliness

I love Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon and I have JK to thank for this bottle.

Hunter Semillon is Australia’s great innovative vinous gift to the world. Those sickly sweet, boozy fruit-bombs from the Barossa Valley and the like are just bloody awful and should only be used as emetics and in hand-to-hand combat. No, not them, it is the Hunter Semillons that are the special wines unique to Australia.

Unlike the type-Barossa Shiraz/Cabernet wines, Hunter Semillon is low in alcohol, worth really serious bottle age and tastes nice. 2011 is the current release from Tyrrell’s – already eight years old, but worth a decade or two more of ageing. I have a couple in the wine fridge and, in whatever form Elitistreview exists in after such a long period of time, I shall report on them when close to the age they should be consumed.

Let us now commence consuming of this eight year old baby!

Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011, TyrrellsVat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011, Tyrrell’s

It is quite dumb after it has just been poured, but we can let it off as it has been locked away from air under a screwcap (hooray!) for eight years – it is going to be a bit reduced and shy. I am swirling the glass and lovely aromas are starting to emerge.

There are a lot of grassy aromas to it and a very pretty floral character – daisies, I guess, but I was never that kind of biologist – that charms and makes me smile as it were spring. Even in the South of England the tail end of Autumn is far more miserable then the tale of that this nose speaks.

There is a powerful Limonene aroma, which is very bright and fresh. In a manner of speaking this is like an incredibly vivacious, subtle, charming (and very nice, which they are not) dry white Bordeaux.

The beginnings of the lanolin/vanilla aromas one hopes for in Hunter Semillon are just beginning to emerge, to get their full richness and weight the wine needs a lot more ageing, but even at eight years old this is really pulchritudinous.

Vanilla aroma might make you think this has been aged in oak barrels, possibly new ones. No! This wine has never seen such things! All its (brief) experience of the winemaking process before being bottled has been in inert vessels and in a reductive environment. The toasty, vanillin aromas are entire the product of barely ripe Semillon that has been aged for a long time.

It tastes delicious. A light, refreshing joy to drink! Bright and fresh, with good acidity, no over-blown oak flavours, no alcoholic after-burn, unless you knew of Hunter Semillon you would never believe you were tasting an Australian wine.

The flavour is very long, with only a hint if the waxy, lanolin flavours that will develop with time. It most tastes of lemon and something in-between limes and fresh cut grass (only tastier).

On the finish, which goes on and on, it has a powerful grip that I would normally associate with wines grown on limestone soil. I know this wine is a blend of a few vineyards, and I only know the soil type of one of them (which is sandstone). I get this grip with all the good Hunter Semillons I taste, so I would say it is a character of the varietal.

As I said, there is no excessive alcohol character to this wine. This is because the best Hunter Semillons, of which this is one, are grown in a cool climate and do not get terribly ripe. This means there is a reduced amount of sugar to be turned into alcohol by yeast and so Hunter Semillons are low in alcohol, this one is is 11.5%. This is a Good Thing, as it makes the wine light and refined, rather than heavy and thick, a failing of some Australian whites.

There are a lot of flavours here, even at this young age, it is certainly complex, and it has good length. These properties will only become more and more perceptible as the wine ages – another Good Thing!

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Valley Semillon 2011 is already a fine wine, with much to commend drinking it now. However, all of its positive attributes are just signposts to how totally marvellous it will be when fully mature. Buy some, stick it in the cellar, forget about it for at least a decade. You will love it – assuming you last as long as the wine will!


After the miserable news from Elitistreview Towers in my last tasting note I just thought I would add an update. The Editor is still between jobs, so our financial situation is still parlous. However, for the past several days our depression has lifted a tad, possibly thanks to a couple of donations (that have allowed us to buy this wine and some nicer food). Huge thanks to those who have coughed up the sponds. Anon!

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