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Hunter Valley Semillon and the Nearly New Aromatics

by Micheal Bentley | June 15, 2015
Hunter Valley Semillon and the Nearly New Aromatics

Whilst in the Hunter Valley, Semillon is clearly the iconic white wine (and rightly so) some new kids on the block are starting to rise to prominence and showcase the wonderful diversity of the region.

Hunter Semillon was first planted back in the first half of the 19th century and has gone under a few different aliases eg: Hunter Valley Riesling, Hock and White Burgundy. Fortunately at this point in time it is globally celebrated as one of the wine world's enigmas under its true identity.

The reason for the varieties great success in the Hunter valley is widely debated but all agree that it is factor of being flavour-ripe at relatively low sugar-levels – 9.5 to 11.5 degrees Baumé and with relatively high natural acidity. The unique climate in the Hunter Valley allows for this all to occur naturally and provide winemakers with the opportunity to pick the fruit prior to the ever present late summer rains.

Most (but not all) of the best Semillon in the Hunter Valley comes from sites with relatively poor soil, a mix of river sand and sandy loam. This adds a distinct minerality to the wines which added to the magnificent complexity of this truly remarkable variety

Typically the wines in their youth exhibit quite austere lime, lemon and grassy tones which with 10 plus years in the bottle develop into luscious, mineral wines with biscuity characters. The character of the wine can change so dramatically that it often can seem to the drinker like an oak aged Chardonnay that has gone through malolactic fermentation. Lovers of Hunter Semillon are fortunate enough to enjoy the journey and enthuse about the young zesty wines whilst patiently putting some aside for future years.

 

The Hunter Valley is also home to many other wonderful white wines that you will be familiar with such as Chardonnay, Verdelho and Viognier but there are some less widely planted varieties that are starting to make their mark. Varieties that are well known throughout the world but not as common in our neighbourhood.

 

Vermentino is a variety that due to its heritage is well suited to the climate in the Hunter Valley and we are very excited about our young plantings seen directly in front of our Cellar Door. It is the principal white grape of Corsica and Sardinia, and is also grown in Italy along the Tuscan coast.

It can be made as a big, full flavoured wine or a much leaner and crisper style. Vermentino doesn’t need aging as it shows plenty of character as a young wine but will keep in the bottle for years due to the lovely acid balance usually achieved. It is often picked early to retain those acid levels while capturing flavour and richness, or left on the vine in some seasons to produce a fuller bodied wine that may have some skin contact or barrel aging. As for the distinctive characters, think limey citrus, preserved lemon, green apple, nectarine and lively acidity, combined with a great structure, Match it with fish soups and pies, chargrilled vegetables, pasta with creamy sauces and rich, soft bodied cheeses.

 

Gewürztraminer literally means "Spice Traminer", and originally comes from the Alsace region in France. The Gewürztraminer vine is particularly fussy about soil and climate and is generally grown at high altitude but due to the wonderful mysteries of viticulture it is has found a home in selected sites in the Hunter Valley, notably alongside our patch of Vermentino!

In fact only about ~20,000 acres are planted worldwide with 10% of those being in Australia. As a variety it is seeing a pleasing resurgence in many wine bars in Australia with offerings from all over the globe being showcased and roundly enjoyed.

The aromas of Gewurztraminer are reminiscent of lychees, rose and hints of lavender often with the flavours of Lychee, Grapefruit and Peach with a lovely acid structure and soft textural mouth feel. It is often thought that all Gewürztraminer is sweet but that is not the case with our Hunter Valley 2014 vintage wine which has a distinct crisp, dry and long finish. It is a wonderful wine with all types of exotic foods for example, Thai, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern or just lovely sipped on its own.

 

Fiano is a white Italian wine grape variety that is grown primarily in the Campania region of southern Italy and also on the island of Sicily. This variety has a long history in the Campanian region and is generally believed to have been the grape behind the ancient Roman wine Apianum. Outside of Italy, it is beginning to be seen more often and in quite a wide variety of regions including McLaren Vale. Production seems to be increasing, although the number of vineyards growing it is still small. Beyond its strong flavours and intense aroma notes, the variety is highly regarded viticulturally for the robust bunches of grapes with thick skins and a very hardy nature that sees ripening occur in the Hunter Valley well after most of the Shiraz has been harvested.

Fiano can produce an age worthy wine that has to potential to develop in the bottle for several years. As a young wine it is often intensely flavoured, quite zesty and very aromatic with honey notes that will develop nicely into more spicy and nutty notes with time. A lovely wine for a charcuterie plate, fresh prawns with chipotle aioli or a washed rind cheese.

Our first Fiano will be available very soon to Club Members and will be sure to delight and create some further interest in the lesser known but suitably intriguing varieties in our region.

 

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