Recently I spent a day in the Hunter Valley and visited a number of wineries on a quick tour.
I started at Mistletoe, where I tasted their white wines, specifically the 2014 Reserve Semillon and Reserve Chardonnay. These were disappointing, in what was an excellent year. I found the winemaking skills lacking, as the wines were not very well structured. (88 points). The 2013 Keith Tulloch Semillon was only marginally better, with nice fruit, but lacking focus and finesse (89 points).
De Iuliis is mainly known for Shiraz, but the 2014 Sunshine Vineyard Semillon was quite a rounded wine, although not of particular character (90 points). The 2013 Shiraz is bright, red fruited and of medium body. The oak is noticeable, the mouthfeel not particularly fulfilling (90 points). The 2011 Limited Release Shiraz is bright red also, but with more fruit intensity and some silky tannins on the finish (92 points). The day is starting to look up (a little).
At Tyrell's, the 2015 Semillon has typical citrus flavours, but the wine falls over the cliff on the back palate (89 points). The 2010 HVD Semillon, from a vineyard on Hermitage Road, is remarkably fresh for its age, the citrus flavours are quite focussed and deliver length on the palate (92 points). The 2010 Vat 1 Semillon, their premium Semillon, delivers. The wine is very crisp, yet elegant. The wine has good depth and is well balanced, while a bit soft on the finish (94 points). I was not so impressed with the premium 2011 Vat 47 Chardonnay. While this is a good quality wine, oak should not be so dominant after four years (92 points). The sometimes quite impressive Vat 9 Shiraz was less so on this occasion. I thought the 2011 was underripe (88 points).
A very strong wine was the Thomas Wines 2015 Braemore Semillon, a worthy successor to the 2014. This is a bigger Semillon, with lime fruit dominating. The wine has a beautiful line and balance and a long finish (94 points).
My final stop was at Brokenwood. I felt the 2014 Semillon lacked focus, but the 2009 ILR Semillon was impressive. There was a strong core of lemon flavours and a long finish (94 points). The 2013 Hunter Valley Shiraz was a typical wine for the region, with red plum flavours and reasonable depth, but it was a little harsh (90 points). The 2013 Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz had more intensity, with plum fruit, but also red berries. The tannins are silky on a long finish. The wine is not as lush as in some other years (93 points).
If you want to bring the issue of Hunter Valley wines to a point, it is this: The Semillon, the Hunter's claim to fame, suffers from sameness, a bit like Chablis does in France. It is difficult to carve out a personal style. And with Shiraz, it is often underripe and needs to be helped out of the glass.