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
Original backing Soundtrack by the local Cicadas.
Join Thommo & wine guy Mike Bennie for a vertical tasting of Thomas Wines Elenay Shiraz.
The tasting includes :-
2011 Elenay Shiraz
2013 Elenay Shiraz
2014 Elenay Shiraz
2017 Elenay Shiraz
2019 Elenay Shiraz
Grab a bottle or two & join in.
In this video Thommo takes you through six individual vineyard 2019 Shiraz.
If you'd like to taste along, the wines are available via the website here. Invite a few friends around, sit back relax and enjoy.
2019 DJV Shiraz
2019 Sweetwater Shiraz
2019 The Cote Shiraz
2019 Dam Block Shiraz
2019 Elenay Shiraz
2019 Kiss Shiraz
Some words from Thommo on our new Spring releases....
This update will focus on our two newest (September 1st) releases.
2015 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon
Having sold out of our 2013 and 2014 Cellar Reserve Braemore for quite some time now, I am particularly excited to see the new release 2015 vintage hit the deck on the first day of Spring. We do love the opportunity to present our current release and bottle-aged Braemore Semillon side by side for our guests in Cellar Door. After all, the Hunter is famous amongst wine lovers around the world for this unique and amazing transformation....
I’m clearly smitten with the way this wine has slowly evolved, but I guess one of the best ways to feature the qualities of any wine is to use third party opinion/endorsement. So here’s the review by Huon Hooke, extracted from The Real Review website
"Bright, light-yellow colour; young for its years, as is the nose. It has lemon juice, lemon pith and baked lemon pudding aromas, and no signs of greenness. Signs of toastiness are barely apparent at this stage. The wine is likewise fresh, bright and young in the mouth, starting to show traces of the honey that will build with further age. Deliciously intense and delicate at the same time, with refreshing but seamless acidity, and a long carry. A gorgeous wine, an archetypal Hunter Semillon that has benefited from some age but has barely begun to enter its second phase. A great, classic wine."
#1 of 43 (2015 Semillon tasted from Lower Hunter Valley)
Drink 2021 – 2035
Tasted Feb 2021
Nicely said, thank you Huon...... :)
With only 460 six-packs available I suspect this one won’t be on the shelves for too long.
2021 Élevage Semillon
Semillon is capable of producing a diverse range of wine styles, from bone-dry classics through to richly sweet dessert wine, all the while maintaining its varietal character and ‘sense of place’.
This is our very first crack at producing a ‘desert style’ Hunter Valley Semillon. The elevated sweetness has been achieved using technology (reverse osmosis) rather than botrytis (noble rot). We actually extract some of the water component from the juice prior to fermentation, thereby increasing the natural sweetness to a level needed for this style of wine. The initial juice volume is virtually halved to reach the level of sweetness required in the juice. This was followed by a relatively long, cool fermentation which we stopped when the alcohol level reached approximately 10%, leaving around 7 Beaumé of residual sweetness in the wine. Unlike the sweet wines of some other regions, we didn’t use any oak to mature the wine and it was bottled early to maintain its freshness.
The wine is medium lemon/straw in colour, and this will deepen with time. Whilst light in alcohol yet full in textural viscosity, this wine is rich and voluptuous, packed with ripe tropical fruits, lemon sherbet, and candied pineapple notes. The finish is long and luscious yet quite refreshing on the finish with its elevated citrus-like acidity providing a beautifully balanced wine. A wine to savour as a youngster, however it will develop extra depth and complexity with time in the cellar.
PS this is not just a wine to be enjoyed at the end of the meal with a delicious dessert, it is equally suited as an aperitif and is also a perfect match with blue cheese.
Only 191 dozen (500mL) bottles produced.
You can purchase both these wines via our website here.
I am very pleased (and excited) to announce the official release of our 2021 Single Vineyard Semillons.
I’m also very happy to see the 2020 vintage well behind us, with the fires and associated smoke contributing to a 60% drop in our production leaving us rather ‘skinny’ in the Semillon department last year…
It’s a great relief to have the full contingent of our Semillons back this year, and I can report that they are looking fantastic. Here’s a snapshot/summary of how this (rather unique) 2021 vintage played out from my personal perspective….
After four consecutive years of drought, the skies certainly opened up from about February/March 2020, delivering 1050mm of rain during the 2020 calendar year which is well over our 760mm long-term average. With bud bust pretty much on cue (late August), we knew that we would be need to be very diligent with our vineyard management to ward off any potential issues with downy/powdery/botrytis through the growing season right through to harvest.
To add insult to injury, the Braemore vineyard was hit with a massive hail storm in early November 2020. Fortunately, the developing bunches and berries were still very small and hard so the impact of the hail event on our yields ended up being much less than I had initially anticipated/feared.
January is the most critical period during the viticultural growing season in the Hunter, and I am happy to report that we seriously 'dodged that bullet' with the rain basically disappearing for the month of January allowing a window of opportunity to get our fruit to a perfect level of ripeness and in excellent condition. I can still hear a collective sigh of relief from grape growers and winemakers across the region….
And so there we have it. A season that was looking quite “challenging” to say the least, has evolved into what history will remember as a pretty bloody good Hunter vintage, particularly for Semillon….
2021 Braemore Semillon
The various blocks across the Braemore vineyard were picked between the 27th of January and the 4th of February. The hand-picked fruit is run across our new state-of-the-art vibrating sorting table to ensure that only the absolute highest quality bunches get through to the press. The grapes are then whole-bunch pressed to minimise phenolics, and fermented with our specially selected neutral yeast to enhance the varietal purity. At the completion of the fermentation, the wine spent five weeks resting on its yeast lees prior to preparation for bottling on the 18th of May.
Stylistically, the 2021 Braemore is more classically shaped than the last four warm dry vintages, and has an attractive bright, almost tropical aromatic lift. Whilst 2021 is a completely different season in terms of weather, this wine kind of reminds me of the 2003 Braemore Semillon (hands up those of you who remember that wine…..
Being bottled slightly earlier than normal, I suspect that these aromatics will yield over the next few months revealing more of the lemon/lime zest characters that lie beneath. As we have come to expect from this vineyard, its concentration of fruit will provide some excellent current drinking as well as being a belter for the cellar. The 2021 vintage is the 22nd consecutive bottling of Braemore Semillon under the Thomas Wines label.
2021 The OC Semillon
According to all our pre-harvest work prior to the 2020 vintage, this vineyard was ‘on the cusp’ of having some issues with smoke taint, so we had to make the difficult/heartbreaking decision not to pick Oakey Creek last year. This makes me all the more excited to have The OC Semillon back in the portfolio this year
Despite the rain during 2020, the impact of four years of drought resulted in a significantly lower yield from this vineyard in 2021. It was in fact our very first Semillon picked this year (25th January), and it has a slightly riper feel than we've seen in recent vintages. That being said, the core of fine acidity is still a defining feature of wines made from this wonderful patch of transitional loamy soil.
There’s some fine detail in this slightly riper expression of The OC Semillon, taking time to unfurl in its compact frame. Freshness is the motif – a wine built for satisfying thirst and curiosity now but will also reward with time in the cellar…
Another single vineyard Semillon that we missed dearly last year. In fact, with the fires burning towards the fringes of the Broke-Fordwich sub region, it was a no-brainer that this vineyard was going to be critically impacted by smoke taint.
I should mention at this point, that smoke only affects/taints the grapes that it comes in contact with – not the vine. There are NO residual issues from any smoke taint event from one vintage to the next.
The red volcanic soils of the Fordwich Hill vineyard make this wine an interesting exception to the rule of Semillon being suited to the lower lying sandy/loam alluvial flats of the Hunter Valley. We always allow this vineyard to get to a higher level of ripeness than our classically styled Semillons resulting in a more generous (12.5% alcohol), contemporary expression of Hunter Semillon and its gentle acidity providing an excellent early drinking, food-friendly style.
For those of you who know and love (and missed) this label, you will be very pleased indeed with the 2021….
With our significantly reduced production in 2020, I have pushed these three wines into bottle a bit earlier this year, and they were released about a month ago.
Many of you have already bought some of these wines from our cellar door or online. For those of you that are still yet to grab a few bottles, stylistically they are right on point and once again offer incredible quality for every day drinking at an amazing value for money price.
I sincerely hope you enjoy our new vintage Semillon releases, it’s great to have the full set back on the shelf and I am very proud of them all. Keep your eyes open for the release of the 2015 Cellar Reserve Braemore Semillon on the 1st September (the first day of spring). Huon Hooke has already dropped a whopping 98 points on this wine in his recent review…