Vintage 2021 is in full swing with the last of the Braemore vineyard harvested today.
It's a great time to visit the Valley, so much action and excitement with bright colours of pickers in the vineyards, huge mechanical harvesters & tractors on the roads & the wineries buzzing with action as they bring the grapes in.
Whilst the winery is not on site at Cellar Door (it's about 1km down Hermitage Road) we love to share the vintage experience with daily tastings of freshly crushed juice and ferments. It gives our guests a taste of what's to come with an explanation of what is happening each day.
This photo is pure semillon juice from the Braemore Vineyard.
When we first crush and press it, it is iridescent green and full of pulp (per glass one); we then pump it to tank to let all the pulp/solids settle. The 2nd glass is the juice after day two, such purity, and still just juice, there is no alcohol here. Glass three is a wine that has been inoculated and has started fermentation, the cloudiness is the yeast hard at work converting the sugras to alcohol, the by product of which is CO2.
We currently have juice and/or ferments available to taste as part of our Cellar Door experiences. BOOK YOUR TASTING HERE.
After a nervous start Vintage 2021 is officially underway for Thomas Wines.
As a general rule our harvest starts on the Australia Day weekend and this year was true to form. “The OC” Semillon was harvested on Monday 25th January, with “Fordwich Hill” close behind; “Braemore” harvest began on Wednesday 27 January.
“After several years of drought the wetter start to the 2021 vintage had us nervous” said Thommo, “but we dodged a bullet with the last couple of weeks of warm to hot days ripening the fruit and producing good flavours”.
The pickers will be hard at work in the Braemore vineyard finishing mid next week, with a week’s break before the Shiraz harvest begins.
A trip to Wine Country takes a little more planning these days. The benefit is, you do all the work before you leave home so you can relax when you get here.
Here's a few tips for your post-Christmas getaway to the Hunter Valley
Frequently asked questions for a Thomas Wines Visit
We can't wait to see you 😊
For those wise, and quick enough, to grab some of the limited supplies of 2020 Braemore Semillon ...
Max Allen today listed the 2020 Braemore Semillon in The Australian Newpaper in his top 20 wines of 2020. Due to the limited supplies made, the 2020 Braemore Semillon has since sold out.
The full Top 20 list can be found here.
This is the time of year to catch up with friends and family, and to head away on well-deserved holidays.
It's time to purchase Christmas gifts, to reward and thank team workers and customers, and to top the Cellar with wines for the beach, the pool, the BBQ and the Christmas table.
To make entertaining, holidaying and gift buying that little bit easier we've created a few gift packs, dozens and six packs. There are packs for the enthusiast or a fun long lunch; packs for sipping whilst on holidays; collectable gift boxed magnums and double magnums.
Thommo's raided the cellar and put together Thommo's Holiday dozen, a mix of his current drinking favourites. It includes a selection of current releases, vibrant and fresh in their youth, with a couple from the cellar with a few year's bottle age and secondary aged characteristics coming through.
If you'd prefer to customise a pack please contact us and we'll assist you to create the perfect mix, we'll even add a Thank you or Christmas card with a personal message.
Find the full gift selection here
The Hunter Valley is world renowned for producing uniquely regional wine styles, particularly from the signature varieties of the region; Semillon and Shiraz. The very best examples of these wines have remarkable longevity, offering some serious long term cellaring potential. To that end, we hold back some very limited ‘museum’ stock of the best vintages, primarily destined for future promotional and marketing purposes, and occasionally offered for
sale exclusively to our Cellar Door customers.
Whilst you may occasionally see some back vintage Thomas Wines appear on the secondary/auction market, the problem is not knowing exactly where the wine has been, and how well it’s been cellared. All the wines offered on our 'Provenance List' have been bottle-aged in our climate controlled cellars and then transferred to our purpose installed wine cabinets, so you can be assured of their quality and provenance.
The list is regulalry updated and at the time of publishing includes iconic wines and vintages such as
For those wanting to explore current releases against aged vinatges, we have curated a Single Vineyard Shiraz Provenance Six Pack. This pack is available from our website here.
Each vintage we produce limited edition of exactly 100 Magnums and exactly 12 Jeroboams of our flagship single vineyard wines Braemore Semillon and Kiss Shiraz. Each of these large format bottles are individually numbered, providing some rare and exclusive gems for the serious wine collector and are also available from the Provenance List with limited vinatges available from the website here.
The full Provenance List is available in Cellar Door or contact Rowena (02) 4998 7134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
First things first, I want to address the elephant in the room – smoke taint.
Whilst the unprecedented bushfires across NSW earlier this year did not directly impact any vineyards in the Hunter, it is true that many vineyards were impacted by the smoke that drifted into the Valley from the west.
Most winemakers in the Hunter (myself included) went to extraordinary lengths with pre-harvest micro-fermentations and submitting grape samples to the Australian Wine Research Institute for smoke taint panel analysis. Clearly, we needed to do our due diligence to make informed decisions on which vineyards were clear and which proposed too much of a risk to even consider harvesting.
From all the data that we as a region collected, it became evident that the physical location of each vineyard within the region dictated the level of potential issues associated with smoke. In particular, many of the vineyards out at Broke that were surrounded by fire were most highly impacted, and those vineyards tucked in closer the Brokenback range within central and southern Pokolbin were also impacted, albeit to a lesser degree. It seems the smoke tended to ‘hug’ the range at its thickest, and those vineyards further away were impacted by a much lesser or to no extent at all.
The downside of this (the bad news) is that I did have to make the difficult decision to walk away from some of our favourite vineyards this year, both Semillon and Shiraz. As a result, my production this year is down by about 60% of what we would normally expect to bring in. Of course, the ongoing drought conditions had an influence on this also. The flip side (good news) is that the small volume of fruit I did pick this year was excellent, as are the resultant wines I have made from them.
Whilst the unprecedented bushfires across NSW earlier this year did not directly impact any vineyards in the Hunter, it is true that many vineyards were impacted by the smoke that drifted into the Valley from the west. Thommo addresses the elephant in the room - smoke taint. Read more here.
To hear a few words from Thommo - click here
2020 Braemore Semillon
Braemore is the only Hunter Valley single-vineyard Semillon I have bottled from 2020. In fact, Braemore was the only Hunter Semillon vineyard that I picked this year. Unfortunately, due to its proximity to the fires, the Fordwich Hill vineyard was definitely highly impacted by smoke and even the Oakey Creek vineyard was deemed too risky in terms of potential smoke taint.
The 2020 Braemore is wonderfully bright and vibrant, with the purity of citrus fruit and structural precision and energy that we have come to expect from this pedigree vineyard over the years. With the impact of the drought on our yields, I have only bottled a small quantity of Braemore this year, but those lucky enough to get their hands on some before it sells out will be delighted I'm sure.
I see no issues at all in the glass regarding smoke, but to be absolutely sure I have had the finished wine analysed by the AWRI. The volatile compounds that contribute to smoke taint are below analytically detectable levels, and the bound glycosides (those that may covert to volatiles with time in bottle) are only just above background levels expected in wines that have had no exposure to smoke.
I will watch with interest as this wine ages, and of course there is a minor risk, but my gut feeling is there will be no issues at all. In any case, the wine is so delicious I expect it will take some considerable willpower not to drink it all up as a youngster… The wine will be officially released 1st September.
2020 Joe’s Block Semillon
From adversity comes opportunity and innovation….
Clearly, only having one single vineyard Semillon in 2020 was going to leave a gaping hole in my range. Then I thought to myself… The Barossa has some pretty good Semillon vineyards, why don’t I take a look at that? After consulting my great mate Reid Bosward (Boz) from Kaesler, he found an awesome patch of Semillon, and here we have our very first single-vineyard Barossa Semillon.
Joe’s Block, owned and operated by Jim and Cheree Boehm, is situated on the deep alluvial loam soils of the Barossa’s Light Pass district. The 1.7Ha block was planted in 1983. Like many Australian wine regions, the Barossa was also in the grips of quite a severe drought, receiving only 40% of its average long term rainfall ahead of the 2020 growing season. The lower yields were offset by a coolish end to the ripening period, leading to a slightly later picking date of 19th February.
The hand-picked fruit was sent into Kaesler wines for whole bunch pressing, and then the chilled juice was transported to the Hunter for fermentation. As a salute to the traditional Barossa style, half of the wine was fermented in used French oak Hogsheads (300L), the other half in tank providing an excellent stylistic contrast to our classic Hunter style.
Light to medium straw in colour. There's a citrus core to the aromas, but with underlying melon and perfumed blossom characters providing a riper feel to the nose. Also a faint grilled nuts and brioche complexity from the subtle oak maturation. Bright and fresh, the palate has attractive lemon curd and stone fruit characters, a gentle acidity and a slightly chalky texture which are all wrapped up within a light to medium-bodied frame.
2020 Synergy Semillon
The smart money is on the Synergy Semillon this year....
This wine is normally a blend of various old vine Semillon vineyards, but having only picked Braemore this year, the 2020 Synergy Semillon is 100% Braemore Semillon.
Obviously, I have selected the very best parcel from the vineyard to bottle as the single-vineyard Braemore Semillon, but then I blended all the other parcels together for the Synergy Semillon blend. Of course, I also sent this wine off for smoke panel analysis, and not unsurprisingly the results are pretty much exactly the same as the Braemore Semillon bottling.
Slightly riper at 11.5% alcohol (compared to 11.0% for the Braemore), this wine has that extra level of generosity and fruit sweetness and slightly gentler acidity that we have come to expect with this label, making it a delicious every day drinking Hunter Semillon at a great value for money price.
2013 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon
I have been looking forward to the release of this wine for such a long time. Last year I made the decision to hold this vintage back for an extra 12 months, and released the (awesome) 2014 Cellar Reserve one year ahead of schedule.
A decision that is now paying dividends. This wine is now in a beautiful drinking window having emerged with those amazing bottle aged toasty complexities, yet still has the freshness and vibrancy of youth defying the seven years of time in bottle. Make no mistake, we will still be in awe of this wine as it continues to evolve over the next 10-20 years. The Halliday Wine Companion lists the 2014 Cellar Reserve at 97 points and included the wine in the “Best of the Best” Semillons of the year. The 2013 Braemore received 97 points back in 2014, yet received 94 points when tasted again last year. Interesting…
I’ll say this on the record…. The 2013 vintage Braemore Semillon is THE BEST vintage I have produced in the 21 years of making wine from this iconic vineyard. Awarded 12 Trophies and 21 Gold medals to date.
These new release wines will be available to purchase via our Cellar Door or online here from Tuesday 1st September, 2020.
Now that we have you interested.... BUY our Semillons here
Remember the days when you eagerly headed up the F1 to the Hunter Valley, a mere two-hour drive from Sydney, boot empty, friends in tow, ready to hit as many wineries as you could in a day and do some serious wine tasting?
Well, COVID-19 has put the hand-brake on much of that, and while the Hunter Valley is very much open for business, it’s a matter of planning ahead, and understanding the new Post COVID-19 wine tasting etiquette.
On the back of what’s been described as a trifecta of outstanding vintages (2017, 2018, 2019) came 2020... A vintage troubled by drought, tormented by bushfires, and then came COVID-19 which shut down the Valley for the best part of three months.
Regional travel restrictions lifted in June and with that came a flurry of winemakers and marketers working out how to best navigate the tricky but necessary legalities of serving and selling wine in a post COVID world. That’s not to mention the mass flurry of regional travellers keen to support the regions and get back out into the world.
The Hunter, being on Sydney’s doorstep, and the oldest and most visited wine region in Australia, is a great example of what post COVID-19 wine tourism looks like. And while it might take a bit of getting used to, it’s likely here to stay. We’re here to help you navigate what that looks like.
The new normal looks a bit different to the old, but it’s actually meant that some incredible new tasting experiences have come out of adversity. You can now book ahead (and its absolutely recommended that you do) for most of the cellar door offerings, and with each brand having to reinvent the way they run their cellar doors, it’s incredible to see what’s on offer.
With the 4 square metre rule applying just as it does to restaurants, and the requirement that all guests must be seated, comes the need to offer finite spaces for tastings at Cellar Doors, and with that has come the rise of the online booking system and paid tastings. Paid tastings have slowly crept into the wine tourism experience over the years, but now it’s a genuine need. With limited spots available to taste, and the huge increase in resources required to manage the hygiene and social distancing measures in place, there is no other way for these winemakers to exist. And we salute this decision, after all where else in the world can you go for a free wine, right?
In addition to the need to be seated, the law requires that wineries gather contact details from a person within your group attending a tasting be that by pre-registration or signing in on arrival, and are asked to encourage visitors to download the COVID tracker app if they haven’t done so. Operators are empowered to refuse entry to anyone who presents unwell, with cold or flu like symptoms or with a fever or temperature. They’re required to provide floor markings and designated order, pay, collect areas as well as single entry and exit points if feasible. There’s sanitiser, disposable utensils, single use spittoons, laminated or single use tasting lists, and no communal water on offer, and unless the winery has a commercial grade dishwasher on the premises, the glassware must be either disposable or yours to keep. It’s a whole new world.
So with the School Holidays and the peak period upon us, it’s essential that we’re all aware of the new etiquette when you’re planning your visit to the Valley. It’s trickier than ever to taste with kids in tow too so best to check ahead if you’re booking a tasting experience as many can’t accommodate kids under these new rules.
Our top tips for visiting the Hunter Valley this winter
Book ahead, do your research on which kind of wine experiences you’re after.
Please understand that these aren’t “our” rules, but they are state government restrictions placed upon us, designed to keep us all safe.
Winemaker Andrew “Thommo” Thomas’s Top Tips for bookable Tasting Experiences
Is it an in-depth experience of the Hunter’s two signature varieties you’re after? If so make a bee-line to us at Thomas Wines on Hermitage Road where no one will ever give you a better Semillon and Shiraz only experience that encompasses soils, vineyards and a tasting of up to 17 single vineyard varietals. The Discovery tasting just $10 per person, or the one hour Journey $20 per person /Visit-Us
If you’re a collector, head to one of David Hook Wines two tasting locations, the quaint cellar door that everyone knows and loves next to Café Enzo off Broke Road, or the tasting room at the winery with expansive views over their vineyards in Belford conveniently located just off the Hunter Expressway. Your $15 tasting will reward you with a take home Riedel glass valued at $25. Take up to 6 friends and collect the set. https://bookings.davidhookwines.com.au
Is it a food and wine experience you’re looking for? You’d be hard pressed to go past Margan, who are offering a range of Limited Release wines from 100 hectares of Sustainably Farmed Margan vineyards with a range of casual grazing options with your wine flights, seven days a week or dine in the acclaimed one hat restaurant Friday through to Sunday. Our pick is the Hunter Heroes tasting which includes 6 wines, a board of local artisan cheeses and salumi, 75 minutes $40. https://www.margan.com.au/hunter-valley-restaurant
For a cheese matching experience and a family friendly offering, you can’t beat Scarborough Wines on Gillards Road, and a view that’s hard to beat. With 5 levels of bookable tastings ranging from $30-$45 there’s something for everyone. You’ll be seated and served by your own private host while you taste through individually portioned small bottles. Taste your set, and take your mates set home. Or if you don’t have the full hour that’s recommended to enjoy these experiences they’ve cleverly created the Sip on Inn experience which showcases 6 wines chosen by your host for just $20 per person https://www.scarboroughwine.com.au/Visit-Us/Our-New-Tasting-Experiences
If you’re simply after a great tasting of a full range of Hunter varietals while taking in the view then head to Bimbadgen and try their full Signature Experience for just $15. https://www.bimbadgen.com.au/cellardoor/
At Brokenwood the options are just as fancy as their new Cellar Door with tastings ranging from $25 to $110 depending on where your budget and palate is at. Their pod seating is as COVID safe as you can get and allows your group a relative privacy. https://www.exploretock.com/brokenwoodwines
For a family friendly tasting experience, the 125 year old institution, Tulloch Wines on Debeyers Road has created a full spectrum of tastings from Wine & Chocolate ($30) through to their premium Aged Wine & Cheese experience ($100), plus there’s a special kids tasting of three soft drinks matched with three kids snacks all for just $10 to keep the kids occupied while the adults taste. There’s even a Kombucha tasting for the designated driver! https://www.tullochwines.com/discover/