I’ll admit I was a tad nervous at the time, but today my intuition seems to have made sense..
We’ve been blessed with some outstanding vintages in recent years (think 2017-2019), and you may recall I put the ‘sold out’ shingle on a few of our top shelf wines a little earlier than normal. With relatively good volumes produced in these highly regarded vintages, I decided to put away a few parcels with the view to re-releasing them with a bit of bottle age.
These wines have been quietly maturing in my climate controlled cellar at a constant 15 degrees, and will be re-released over the next 12 months effectively filling in some gaps with our significantly reduced offering from the 2020 Shiraz release.
We have included three of these back vintage wines in the preloaded Member's Selection and Priority Selection Members default packs for May;
Some other wines that you may wish to secure (by customising your selection) include;
We also have some (very limited) stocks of 2019 Dam Block and 2019 Belford remaining for those of you that need to top up on these before they sell out.
If you plan on visiting our Cellar Door in the next few months, keep your eye out for a new tasting that we will be introducing – the ‘Focus on Shiraz’ Vertical Tasting. We will be presenting a vertical tasting of Sweetwater, The Cote, Elenay and Kiss Shiraz across a few (all awesome) vintages. Some of these re-releases are in tiny quantities and a couple of the wines will be available to members only (2017 Kiss Shiraz and 2018 The Cote).
Watch this space…..
Lastly, if our Semillons are more your bag, then you can be the first to get your hands on our 2022 Braemore Semillon. This wine is not even bottled as I write this, but will be released around the end of May and is available for selection in your May members pack.
We’ve also included the recently released 2022 Synergy Semillon as an option. This stunning, great value for money every day drinking Hunter Semillon is already running out the door.
So, at the end of the day, despite a relatively limited offering from 2020 Shiraz, it seems you are actually spoilt for choice with your May members pack. I sincerely hope you enjoy putting your selection together….
The Hunter Valley has been blessed with three outstanding vintages in a row (2017 – 2019). Having lived and worked through (thankfully) not too many, but a few terrible red vintages in my time here (think 2008 and 2012), I have taken the approach that we should “make hay while the sun shines”, and look to purchase some extra fruit from high quality vineyards in the great years so that we have some reserve stock on hand in the event of a season that did not quite deliver on expectations.
Just prior to the 2019 vintage I was fortunate to secure two small parcels of fruit from two great vineyards, Herlestone and Wills Hill. With the season already potentially shaping up to be another ripper, I of course jumped at the opportunity.
From a winemaker’s point of view, there’s an excitement delving into the unknown, making wine from a vineyard with which you have no personal or intimate history, but the potential is intoxicating. Will they be good enough to bottle as a single vineyard Hunter Shiraz? Where will they sit in terms of our existing range?
These vineyards did not disappoint.
At the end of the day we bottled each as a single vineyard wine, however they did not quite fit in terms of stylistic diversity within our existing range of 2019 single vineyard Shiraz, so chose to hold them for a future release. With an extra 12 months bottle age these two wines are looking right in that sweet spot and ready to go.
Stylistically, both these wines sit somewhere between our Déjà vu Shiraz and Sweetwater, in terms of their weight. Typical of all our 2019 vintage releases, these wines are ripe, yet have a slightly more gentle structure than the more muscular 2017 and 2018 vintage wines.
Here’s a snapshot of both wines, the tasting notes delivered by my partner Kim Bickley, who during her career as a sommelier has certainly developed a nice way with words….
Planted in 1968, the Herlestone vineyard was the core source of some of the best Rothbury Estate Shiraz releases during the late 70’s early 80’s under the tenure of the late great Len Evans. Planted on red basalt soil, this block is situated adjacent to Mount Pleasant’s Rosehill vineyard on the eastern side of Wine Country Drive in Pokolbin with a sharp south east facing aspect, essentially protecting the vines from the harsh afternoon sun.
Hand-picked on 13th February 2019, the wine was destemmed but not crushed in an attempt to liberate the bright red fruit characters during fermentation, without too much tannin extraction. Maturation in third and fourth use French oak hogsheads has paid respect to the fruit. 275 dozen bottled
“Bright medium ruby colour, expressive nose of black and blue fruits, exotic spices, espresso, hazelnut and hints of tea-smoke. The palate is classically medium bodied and flavoursome with a seductively silky with fine grain tannin structure around a core of fresh blueberries, red plum and mulberry fruit. There’s flavours of Christmas spices, gingerbread, mocha and fresh black pepper. This is a youthful and vibrant wine with intensity of flavour and harmonious structure, it is long and layered and will continue to develop complexities for years to come.”
Originally planted by Joe Lesnik on his Black Creek property, the Wills Hill vineyard is situated opposite the intersection of Wine Country Drive and Broke Road, in Pokolbin. This gently sloping block sits on red basalt soil, yet naturally yields a relatively small crop contributing to its internal concentration and structural complexity.
Machine harvested during the cool night hours of 14th February, this wine was handled a little more aggressively than the Herlestone Shiraz during fermentation, revealing a slightly deeper core of fruit weight and tannins. Some newer French oak maturation resulted in three hogsheads finding their way into our 2019 Elenay Shiraz barrel select blend. 295 dozen bottled
“Bright medium ruby colour and an intricate nose filled with hints of black fruits, exotic spices and deluxe oak. There’s an elaborate palate of juicy blackberry, dark plum and black cherry fruit alongside hints of liquorice, fresh coffee, black pepper and cinnamon. The wine is fleshy and silky with a fine-grained tannin structure, and excellent length of palate. Delicious to drink now but will cellar beautifully.”
These two 2019 Individual Vineyard Shiraz will be available via our website and Cellar Door from Saturday 14 May, 2022.
It may seem like a distant memory now, but Hunter winemakers all too well remember the challenges we were presented with over the 2020 vintage.
2020 was shaping up to be the Hunter Valley’s fourth outstanding warm and dry vintage in a row. In a heartbreaking turn of events, the season was unfortunately compromised by the smoke that blew into our region during the Black Summer bushfires. The huge Gospers Mountain mega-fire to our south-west slowly crept towards our region and got as close as the fringes of Broke-Fordwich sub-region. Fortunately no vineyards in the Hunter were directly impacted by fire.
This 2020 Shiraz vintage report is designed to present the facts (and dispel some myths) regarding the impact of smoke taint on grapes and wines, and if you keep reading to the end you will ultimately find some surprisingly good news….
So, what is smoke taint…??
In the event of a bushfire within or in close proximity to a wine region, the grapes that are exposed to the smoke can absorb some of the volatile compounds that exist in that smoke, such as Guaiacol, Cresol and Syringol to name but a few.
The resultant wines can display ‘ashy’ aromas and flavours, coupled with an unusual ‘metallic’ like edge to the tannin structure. Highly impacted grapes will result in wines that can be quite unpleasant and simply taste like a dirty ashtray.
The level/concentration of smoke taint in grapes and wine is determined by a whole range of factors including the intensity and ‘freshness’ of the smoke, the grape variety, the stage of ripeness during exposure, harvesting method and winemaking process etc
In terms of variety, red wines are more susceptible to smoke taint as the majority of the smoke compounds tend to be absorbed into the skin of the grape, rather than deep into the flesh inside. Reds are obviously fermented and in contact with the skins for colour and tannin extraction, whereas our Semillons are generally whole bunch pressed prior to fermenting the juice without the skins. Many of you will have already tasted/drunk our 2020 Braemore and Synergy Semillons, and will agree these wines were basically scott free of any smoke taint.
Like most of my colleagues in the Hunter, I did an enormous amount of work in an attempt to understand how the various vineyards that we source from were going to be impacted by smoke taint. This included taking pre-harvest samples of grapes to conduct micro fermentation trials for sensory analysis as well as sending grape samples to the Australian Wine Research Institute to conduct smoke taint panel assay analysis. This is cutting edge technology at work…
The results of all this work gave us a good understanding of which vineyards were going to be a complete write off, and others that looked relatively promising with little or negligible impact from the smoke.
It certainly became clear that the smoke that drifted into the Hunter Valley was most intense in the Broke-Fordwich sub-region, which makes good sense as these vineyards were closest to the fires. In Pokolbin, the vineyards that lie in close proximity to the Brokenback range were the most highly impacted, and those vineyards further away from the range were impacted to a much lesser extent.
The smoke panel analyses we received back from the AWRI were particularly useful in determining the risk associated with potential smoke taint, particularly when combined with the perceived aromatic results of our pre-harvest micro ferments.
In all wine grapes, there is a background level of the volatile smoke compounds (the ones you can smell and taste) and bound glycoside compounds (you can’t taste these, but they may revert to volatiles at a later stage of maturation) even from vineyards that have had zero exposure to smoke. These compounds are always naturally floating around in the atmosphere, albeit at negligible/miniscule levels.
Let me try to give all of this some context. The actual numbers presented below will not necessarily be meaningful to you, but the relativity is interesting. We focused on the AWRI analysis of the bound glycoside levels as these are by far in the highest concentration
The sum of all the ‘background’ bound glycoside compounds in Shiraz is approximately 40 micrograms per litre, and this is (of course) way below any taste or sensory threshold.
The smoke taint panel results from all the Shiraz vineyards that we tested ranged between 48 (Sweetwater) and 280 (Cote D’or). Clearly, the proximity of these vineyards to the Brokenback Range is reflected in these results. I know of some other vineyards around Pokolbin that were testing above the 350+ mark and even heard of one result out at Broke at 1500, which is clearly off the charts.
Based on my micro-ferment sensory trials, I decided my cut off was going to be around 100, and this unfortunately put the knife through a few Shiraz vineyards like Cote D’or, Dam Block and Trevena (DJV) to name just a few. Of course, neither did we produce an OC or Fordwich Hill Semillon in 2020
The end result was that our 2020 Shiraz production was down by 60%, but the reduced crop we did harvest looked very good indeed…..
So I hear you say what Shiraz did we end up picking…..?
Well, Sweetwater and Ridgeview (Belford) both had relatively low/negligible levels of smoke and were an absolute no brainer. We’ve bottled an awesome single vineyard Sweetwater Shiraz, and the Ridgeview contributed an excellent component of our Two of a Kind Shiraz blend.
The 1969 old vines block on Pokolbin Estate (that would normally go to Kiss Shiraz) was testing at slightly higher levels (up around 100), but the fruit just looked way too good to leave on the vine. It definitely was not a vintage to bottle a single vineyard Kiss Shiraz so this parcel found its way into both our Synergy Shiraz and Two of a Kind Shiraz blends. Seriously high quality fruit in our ‘entry level’ wines, and serious value to be had here….
We also picked the Motel Block Shiraz, and this parcel also went to our 2020 Synergy Shiraz.
So that’s it. We’d normally bottle around nine different Shiraz labels each vintage, but in this season we were really only able to bottle three wines.
Stylistically, these three 2020 vintage Shiraz are definitely in the fuller end of the medium bodied spectrum, which reflects another warm and dry vintage. They are all quite ripe and display bright primary red and blue fruit, and for those of you that know our wines, they are similar in weight to the 2018 vintage.
A smaller production this year (only 370 dozen bottled), focusing on the very best barrels to create this single vineyard wine. It is true to form with those distinctive floral notes adding vibrancy to the red and blue fruited frame. The palate is bright and juicy, with some well-judged (and sexy) premium French oak maturation contributing to a palate that sits squarely in the fuller end of the medium bodied Hunter Valley Shiraz spectrum.
Possibly the best 2020 Shiraz produced in the entire Hunter Valley. You be the judge….
A blend of Shiraz from the Pokolbin Estate (Kiss), Sweetwater and Motel Block vineyards, (in that order). An incredibly concentrated, yet inherently approachable medium bodied Hunter Valley Shiraz. Typically blue fruited with some lifted spicy notes and a supple tannin structure that screams out for a second glass. This wine delivers outstanding quality for the price and will provide excellent current drinking or mid-term cellaring.
Could this be the best vintage of Synergy we’ve produced so far….?
A blend of Hunter Valley (52%) and McLaren Vale (48%) Shiraz. The Hunter component is sourced from the Ridgeview and Pokolbin Estate (Kiss) vineyards, the McLaren Vale (as always) from Barry Clarke’s vineyard in the Blewett Springs sub-region. The Hunter fruit dominates the nose with bright blue fruit and spice, with the McLaren Vale asserting its darker fruit, fleshy texture and deliciously chewy tannin structure on the palate. Another compelling wine that over delivers on quality for the price. Seriously smashable….
In summary, yes of course I’m disappointed that we have a very limited offering from this vintage. However, to one degree or another we need to deal with what mother-nature has in mind for us every vintage and this is really no different. Those of you that know me well will understand that I pride myself on quality and integrity, and (hopefully) this report also demonstrates my commitment to always tell it how it is.
At the end of the day I stand 100% behind the quality of these three wines, and on tasting I am sure you will agree we have done quite an exceptional job in a very challenging season
Betting on Braemore - Toni Paterson, Gourmet Traveller Wine
Becoming the custodian of the sacred Braemore Vineyard brings responsibility and the need to nurture this valuable resource for long-term viability. Toni Paterson MW, takes a deep dive into the Braemore Vineyard, it's history and Thommo's recent activity in the vineyard. Toni also reviews several vintages of Thomas Wines Braemore Semillon. You'll find the full story in the current issue of Gourmet Traveller Wine Magazine or via this link.
2020 Like a Version Braemore Semillon - The Real Review
For those that haven't tried Georgie Jacob's version of Braemore Semillon, The Real Review has ranked it #9/26 2020 Semillon from Australia, with 91/100 rating. Click here for the review.
A rare opportunity in Cellar Door with a stellar line up of Braemore Semillon available to taste.
Freshly crushed Braemore Semillon juice, Braemore Semillon 2022 in the throes of fermentation, the very last of the 2021 Braemore Semillon, a look at the incredible transformation Semillon goes through obver time with a 2015 Cellar Reserve Braemore and our new kid on the block "Like a Version" 2020 Braemore Semillon made by Georgie Jacobs.
*Ferments & juices on offer may change dependant on availability.
Original backing Soundtrack by the local Cicadas.