Hunter Valley wines play at the fringes at present. A small number of producers, for example Tyrells and Brokenwood have kept up the outstanding tradition which this wine region established decades ago, in particular with Shiraz and Semillon, but if you ask wine experts in Victoria or South Australia, they tend to ignore the Hunter Valley.
However, a quiet revolution has occurred in the last ten years. A number of new wine makers have again focused on the unique wine flavours this region can offer. I have always kept a small collection of Hunter Valley wines in my cellar, and tonight they will be put to the test.
Two Semillons, one young, one mature are matched with tuna, and then two Shirazes from the excellent 2003 vintage are matched with eye fillet.
The 2010 Thomas Braemore Semillon has a very pale green colour. The nose is clean, smelling of fresh citrus. On the palate, the wine is pure lime. It is elegant, quite restrained, with a linear, long and dry finish.This is a classic Hunter Valley Semillon.
In contrast, the 2002 Keith Tulloch Semillon impresses with a bright golden colour, not unexpected given its age. This wine has lost considerable fruit flavour. Earthy and wooden flavours dominate and overpower the tuna somewhat. The wine has a broader structure than the Braemore and is probably a couple of years past its best.
To be honest, both did not match perfectly with the tuna, the Braemore being a bit too young, and the Tulloch too developed.
The highlight of the evening were the Shiraz wines. Both surpassed my expectations.
The 2003 Thomas Kiss Shiraz, the winery's flagship wine, showed beautifully. It was fresh, smooth, full bodied without being sweet, with soft mulberry flavours and a bit of pepper in the background. The highlight were the velvety tannins, so unique to the Hunter, which blended in beautifully with the eye fillet.
The 2003 Meerea Park Alexander Munro was equally good. This wine had almost an identical ruby colour to the Kiss, but on the palate it had a bit more grip or crunch. The fruit flavours were of black cherry and mulberry - very attractive. This wine is a bit more a generic Shiraz, perhaps due to the higher alcohol levels, although it showed the soft fruit flavours as well.
Both wines matched perfectly with the food. They will live, and possibly improve, for many years.