Out of the valley and back in the hunt with real quality
WHILE the main bragging rights from the Hunter Valley Wine Show were shared by McWilliam’s and Tyrrell’s, there was a spread of trophies for smaller companies.
Notwithstanding the quality of Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay (and of Lake’s Folly, which has never been entered in wine shows), chardonnay has always been relegated to second place by semillon when it comes to trophy time for whites in the Hunter.
So much so that the show committee created a trophy for best chardonnay, any vintage. In perhaps unconscious irony, it is named the Murray Tyrrell Chardonnay Trophy. Ironic because, notwithstanding the long and proud record of Vat 47, Murray Tyrrell frequently held forth on his belief that the two greatest Hunter varieties were semillon and shiraz.
The trophy went to the 2005 Poole’s Rock Chardonnay (94 points, $29.95), from more than 90 entries in six classes. Inter alia, it beat two Tyrrell’s chardonnays in the trophy taste-off, including the 2002 Vat 47, completing the irony circle.
The Poole’s Rock is notable for its creamy, textured palate, length and drive on the finish and has two previous gold medals to its credit.
De Iuliis Wines, another consistent performer, won the Alexander Munro Trophy for best 2006 red wine with its Charlie Shiraz (93 points, $25), a youthful and massive wine needing five years plus to show its best. It is a complete contrast to the elegant and perfectly balanced 2005 De Iuliis Limited Release Shiraz (94 points, $40), which won the James Busby Trophy for best premium vintage red. The two De Iuliis wines were joined by the 2005 Thomas Wines Kiss Shiraz (95 points, $50) competing for the Hector Tulloch Trophy for best available dry red, the powerful texture and structure of the Kiss prevailing over the more elegant De Iuliis Limited Release.
Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard joined the fray with its gracefully developing 2002 semillon (94 points $27.50), which took the George Wyndham Trophy for best premium vintage dry white and the Maurice O’Shea Trophy for best available dry white. The wine has excellent poise, structure and length.
Terrace Vale Wines was awarded TheNewcastle Herald Trophy for best museum dry red for its 1998 shiraz, taking some big-name scalps in a keenly fought contest. Medium-bodied and elegant, it is powering along nicely with many years in front of it.
The Fortified Wine Trophy went to Drayton’s Family Wines NV Madeira, its obvious age and complexity separating it from the rest of its class.
All of which cleared the decks for the big-boy struggle between Tyrrell’s and McWilliam’s. On the white wine front, the Tyrrell’s ace in the hole was its 2004 HVD Semillon, a vineyard of considerable age (its vines date to 1908) that Tyrrell’s bought when Penfolds made its ill-judged move from the lower to the upper Hunter Valley.
HVD always seems to produce semillon that, with winemaker Andrew Spinaze’s skill and experience, has an extra degree of complexity. It is true of this wine, which has a touch of funkiness (often found in white burgundies) on the bouquet, then a penetrating, indeed dazzling, palate. It won three trophies: best named vineyard white, best 100 per cent Hunter white and best white wine of show.
To ram home the point, the Tyrrell’s Stevens Vineyard Semillon won the trophy for best 2006 white. McWilliam’s already had its oar in the trophy water with the success of its 2007 Reserve Semillon (discussed last week), but its greatest success came with its 2005 Mount Pleasant Rosehill Shiraz, winning trophies for best 2005 red, best 100 per cent Hunter red (any vintage) and best red of show. A beautiful wine, bred to last the way the great wines of Maurice O’Shea have (with 50 to 60 years under their belt), this is a welcome return to top form.
Doubtless driven by the demands of cellar-door trade, there were a host of other white and red varieties that were conspicuously unsuccessful.The one second-tier variety to garner two gold medals was the widely planted verdelho. When there is a drizzle of lemony acidity over the normally bland fruit salad flavours, it can rise above its station.