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  • Quentin Von Essen

Signature Wines of the Hunter

The Hunter Valley is the country’s oldest and premier wine region, where the pleasures of eating and drinking wine are celebrated daily. This exquisite area has been built on 185 years of passion and dedication to the craft, resulting in the production of many world-class wines and in particular some of the world's best and most distinctive styles of Semillon and Shiraz which are the hallmark of this region.

The most recognised of these is Hunter Valley Semillon – the Hunter Valley’s flagship variety providing a truly outstanding example of this wine in terms of quality and taste and with a style that has not been replicated anywhere else in the world. As a cellaring wine, it is one of the greatest whites in the world and can live for a good 20 years, often much longer. Other varieties grown include Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Verdelho which have all produced great Hunter wines. The region is also home to a talented list of winemakers who are at the forefront of innovative and new varieties that include Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Chambourcin, Sangiovese and Barbera amongst others.

Of the more than 140 cellar doors making up the various Hunter Valley wine trails, you would be hard-pressed to find one that did not include a Semillon or Shiraz amongst their flagship or most awarded wines.

So, what makes a flagship wine? It’s a very subjective category with different winemakers or vignerons providing very different responses on what they consider to be the makings of a flagship wine.

The term "signature" or "flagship" wine does not have a specific definition within the wine industry, so there are no hard and fast rules dictating how a winery chooses their flagship wine or even if they have one. If a winery does have a flagship wine it could be based on their most awarded wine; a winemakers favourite wine that he or she produced or one that the winemaker believes best represents the style that he or she is trying to achieve.

At the end of the day, the common theme amongst winemakers is that these are not wines made from a desire to have a flagship wine or to aspire to icon status. Instead, these are wines of exceptional quality – wines that reflect the characteristics specific to the winemaker’s vineyard and reflects the typical style of the person who has made it. A wine that embodies the grape varietal and region in which it was grown.

The benefit of having a flagship wine is that it enables consumers to be able to recall, differentiate and recognise the winery. It doesn’t have to be based on a grape variety, but instead could be a blend, a wine style, such as sparkling or Rosé, or even a unique winemaking technique. This principle also applies to wine-growing regions throughout the world with some wine regions receiving global recognition for producing excellent wines amongst certain varieties. For France (Burgundy) it’s Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; for Italy (and in particular Tuscany) it’s Sangiovese; in Southern Italy it’s Taurasi; in South Africa its Chenin Blanc and the unique variety of Pinotage; in Argentina it’s Malbec; for Chile its Cabernet Sauvignon; for New Zealand, it’s Sauvignon Blanc; for Portugal (Madeira) it’s Verdelho and for the major Spanish wine regions it’s Tempranillo.

Closer to home the flagship variety for the Hunter Valley is its world-famous Semillon which wine critic Jancis Robinson once described as "Australia's wine gift to the world" and Shiraz.

For the Swan Valley, it’s Verdelho and South Australia’s Clare Valley is better known for its Riesling. In the Yarra Valley and the Tamar Valley in Tasmania, the flagship variety is Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Barossa Valley is primarily known for its red wine, and in particular Shiraz and for the Margaret River, it’s Cabernet Sauvignon.

These flagship varieties serve as a means to attract consumers to a wine region or a particular winery and to experience all the other varieties and everything else on offer in the region – wines that are of exceptional quality, that are emblematic of the region, terroir, winemaker, and grape.


Petersons Wines 2017 Petersons Back Block Shiraz Hunter Valley | $95 The “Back Block” Shiraz is only produced in the very best years with exceptional fruit from a single parcel of vines located in front of their cellar door at Mount View. Originally planted in 1972, these vines consistently produce some of the most exceptional fruit in the Hunter. TASTING Layers of complexity, elegance and finesse. The upfront fruit flavours are of overly ripe raspberries and blackcurrant. The mid palate is broad with a cashew nut oak flavour. There are also hints of Chinese five spice and sweet soy sauce. The back palate is long with a silken mouthfeel and flavours that lingers. FOOD MATCH Fillet mignon, venison pie with potato mash peas, smoked cheddar cheese. CELLARING 5 – 10 years. (Decant before consumption)


2017 H.A.E Single Vineyard Shiraz | $60 2017 was an outstanding Hunter vintage given the hot and dry conditions. Only 150 dozen cases of this high quality Shiraz were produced from single vineyard estate grown fruit. Hand pruned and handpicked to ensure exceptional quality. It also took out the Gold Medal at the 2018 Hunter Valley Boutique Show. TASTING Intense black/purple colour, with ripe dark fruits and pepper on the nose. A well structured and balanced palate, with loads of spice and layers to complement the outstanding fruit weight. Framed magnificently with skillful use of high quality French oak barriques. A big red, from a big Hunter vintage! FOOD MATCH Suited perfectly with Beef Burgundy. CELLARING Comfortably store for 25+ years.


McLeish Estate Wines 2009 Cellar Reserve Semillon | $125 Produced using hand-harvested fruit from the single vineyard planted in 1985. The pedigree of the estate has seen over fifty Trophies awarded to the McLeish Semillon. This 2009 Semillon is rated 96/100 in the Australian Wine Companion, and has received 6 Trophies and 17 Gold medals. TASTING Displays a light gold with olive green tints and beguiles with scents of jasmine, lemon zest and lanolin. Find vibrant grapefruit flavour on the front of the palate and honeydew melon, sherbet and leatherwood honey and toast integrate on the middle palate. The finish brings in mineral-edged acid. FOOD MATCH Myrtle-crusted salmon fillets with lemon-buttered papardelle. CELLARING Drink now to 2026.


Thélème Wines 2019 Cabernet Merlot | $32 Our Thélème Cabernet Merlot is directly inspired by the French Bordeaux style wines. The Cabernet and Merlot grapes are pressed altogether and the wine is fermented and matured in French oak barrels. TASTING Dense colour, glossy and bright. Fresh Cabernet varietals on the nose with some cassis. Ripe fruit core on the palate, the Merlot component softens the fruit and tannins. Well balanced and soft finish. FOOD MATCH Delicate flavoured food such as roasted lamb, duck or mushroom risotto. CELLARING Drink young or cellar for 9 to 10 years to enable a full expression of the long Cabernet flavours.


Tempus Two Copper Shiraz, 2017 | $35 The Copper series takes Tempus Two's winemaking spirit to a new level, offering hand-crafted, old world-style wines with an Australian twist. The Copper series is the epitome of modern style meets classic finesse. TASTING This elegant, cool climate, Gundagai Shiraz is a stunning addition to the Tempus Two portfolio. Red fruits dominate it’s very lifted and intense aroma, harmonising perfectly with star anise and mocha which flow seamlessly through rustic, fine grained tannins for a persistent and lengthy finish. This wine is aged on American and French oak for 14 months to add further depth and complexity. FOOD MATCH A perfect accompaniment to hearty meat dishes including roast lamb or rare fillet of steak. CELLARING Up to 10 years.


McGuigan Wines McGuigan Personal Reserve Chardonnay 2018 | $50 Personal Reserve represents the pinnacle of McGuigan and are wines exclusive to their Hunter Valley Cellar Door. These wines are produced from super-premium, low cropping vineyards and produced in limited quantities depending on the availability of grapes. TASTING Pale yellow in colour, McGuigan's Hunter Ridge Chardonnay has lifted floral aromas with notes of marmalade, orange peel and subtle French oak. The palate is full-bodied and balanced with bright, fresh acididty. FOOD MATCH This wine is perfectly matched with creamy pasta dishes, or light chicken dishes and salads. CELLARING Ideal drinking now, but will easily cellar 5 to 10 years.

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