Hunter Valley….Not just Semillon and Shiraz

I recently attended the Hunter Valley wine region for their annual Wine & Tourism Legends Awards. Various tastings were conducted for assembled trade and media representatives, including a fascinating look at the Alternate Varieties grown and made in the Hunter, proving that there’s more than just Semillon and Shiraz. The masterclass was hosted by Andrew Margan at his eponymous winery, with Gwyn Olsen of Pepper Tree and Briar Ridge, David Hook of David Hook Wines and Suzanne Little of The Little Wine Company providing experienced insight into their wines and others that were presented.

Bracket 1:

Briar Ridge, Albarino, 2018
The first crop for Briar Ridge. 50% in oak, 50% fermented on skins. Aromas of greengage and lime with light vanilla notes, apple skin and candlenut. Presents with musk on the palate along with nutty characters and a textural grip. Acidity runs high through to a dry salty finish.

Margan, Albarino, 2019, (pre-release)
Lightly fragrant with golden delicious apple skin, lime zest and soft biscuit dough. Bright fruit and light musk presents over a fine almost grainy texture. Steps lightly then powers through with profound length. Balance and poise for a such young wine.

Keith Tulloch, Marsanne, 2017
Soft developing lanolin notes with light coffee and wax paper. The palate presents similar if somewhat neutral with a medium/short lenth of flavour. Hopefully will develop further complexity through age.

The Little Wine Company, ‘Little Gem’, Viognier, 2017
Presents quite varietal, with plenty of apricot fuzz stonefruit. Has a fine texture, akin to mineral water with plenty of juicy, bright fruit.

Glandore Estate, ‘Camelon’, Savagnin, 2017
Unknown winemaking techniques, but with warm toasty notes and plenty of spice, there may be some barrel work. A little age shows some sultana (not raisin) aromas. The palate has a hollow texture, with front end fruit and a waxy/doughy mid and a sour finish.

Bracket 2:

Hungerford Hill, Fiano, 2018
Doughy and slightly stinky with a distinct green herbaceous line. Solid palate weight with light vanilla and a floury apple like texture.

Briar Ridge, Fiano, 2018
Again, 1st crop for Briar Ridge. Left for 12 hours in the press to build texture/complexity. Pot pourri/dried flowers with crisp apple and chalky notes. Presents focused yellow citrus elements in a tight and restrained manner. Very good.

Scarborough Wine Co., Vermentino, 2019, (pre-release)
From the Roxborough vineyard. Hyper primary: estery with grapey and light tropical fruits. A fine body is there, waiting to develop.

The Little Wine Company, Vermentino, 2018
Also from the Roxborough vineyard. Settled into itself with an extra year over the Scarborough. Mineral lines with leafy hints. Subtle waxy palate with a core if light pineapple and stonefruit.

Carillion, ‘Lovable Rogue,’ Vermentino, 2018
Part of the Pepper Tree/Briar Ridge stable. From the lofty Mount View vineyard. Extended time on skins during winemaking (around 2 months). Shows a little kerosene/TDN (1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2- dihydronaphthalene) on the nose. Neutral palate, more about the touch, rather than the taste. Traverses the palate with a textural crescendo of lift and power.

Bracket 3:

David Hook Wines, Sangiovese, 2017
It’s no secret that “Hooky” has been a leading light for Italian varietals in the Hunter for some time. This delivers varietal light cherry with red apple skin, lipstick and cooling herbs with a linear focus. Medium bodied with a palate core of tart cherry with pillow yet fine tannin.

The Little Wine Company, Sangiovese, 2017
Bright red fruits: red currant and toffee apple with a hint of cherry/vanilla slice. Medium bodied with ‘Cherry Ripe’ lifted acidity and a slightly coarse, grainy texture. Fine to match with food, holds a short-ish finish on its own.

David Hook Wines, Barbera, 2017
A far darker, engaging wine than the sangiovese. Bruising red apple, fresh earth, beet vegetables and rose petals. Medium bodied with a tight focus. A savoury expression of handsome earthy qualities.

The Little Wine Company, Barbera, 2017
Vanilla pod with a blueberry fruit profile, rosewater and chalk. Medium-full bodied with acidity pulsing through an earthy wine with relatively fine tannin.

Margan, Barbera, 2018
Presents bright and alive. Cherries (skins/flesh), rose petals/water and pillow marshmallow. Over delivers. Perfumed, intense, balanced and delicious.

Bracket 4:

Audrey Wilkinson, Tempranillo, 2018
Grapey aromas blanket lighter red currant and plum with earthier warm coffee grounds. Medium-full. Fruit forward. Chewy, ropey tannins bind together sour tart cherry fruit.

Mount Pleasant, ‘B-Side,’ Tempranillo/Touriga, 2017
Applewood, cherry and assorted red berries with smoky, herbaceous elements. The touriga adds depth and texture while the wine stays grounded within earthy lines.

Margan, Tempranillo/Graciano/Shiraz, 2017
Cherries and plums with leafy notes and light coconutty oak (just another nod to the Rioja inspiration). Forget any inclinations to present a fruit bomb, this pulls up razor straight and no shifting outside the lines.

Margan, Mourvèdre, 2018
The first time Andrew Margan and team have made a straight mourvedre. Seeking peer assistance on when to pick the fruit, Margs spoke with Reid Bosward of the Barossa’s Kaesler Wines. Bosward gave the guru-like advice of ‘pick when the skins taste like paper.’ By his own admission, this sage insight certainly confused Margs to begin with until sampling in the vineyard provided his “ah-ha” moment and indeed the skins did taste like paper.

Small red plums, leafy highlights, cardboard (note: I’d written this down before speaking with Andrew Margan about the wine) and some waxy notes. Finely textured with bright fruit, cola and berries. An exciting and pulsating wine.

Whispering Brook, Touriga Nacional, 2017
Meaty cola, smoky, menthol/mint, eucalypt and pencil. Chewy tannins and dull fruit presenting hot and unfortunately out of balance.


I attended this masterclass and the Wine & Tourism Legends Awards  as a guest of the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.