CHARDONNAY - Chardonnay is one of the world’s greatest and prolifically grown grape varieties. Ranging from unwooded, light and fresh to full-bodied barrel fermented and aged; this versatile grape can produce a range of styles that can be matched with just about any food.
Such was the demand for Australian Chardonnay in the late 1980's that the area of Chardonnay vines increased more than five-fold during the decade so that in 1990, Chardonnay, became Australia’s most planted white wine grape variety.
But then it all changed. This peak in popularity in the late 1980 and early 1990's gave way to a change in tastes. The market was drinking more red wine, and there was a backlash from consumers disenfranchised by the buttery taste and high level of oak used in these wines. Chardonnay sales declined as consumer tastes turned towards lighter wines such as Pinot Grigio and the crisp, juicy cool-climate Sauvignon Blanc.
Despite this setback, this adaptable and hearty grape remains one of the most widely-planted grape varieties worldwide, is planted in more wine regions than any other and is an important component of many sparkling wines around the world, including Champagne.
Chardonnay is making a comeback with styles that are not as heavy as the past but instead lighter, more elegant, a little more subtle and a little less oak.
When it comes to food, Chardonnay has the potential to be paired with a wide range of food types – especially poultry dishes, pork, seafood or recipes that have a heavy cream or butter base. Enjoy the buttery taste of a good Chardonnay with mild cheeses or a crab cake appetiser. Oysters and salmon also pair well with the citrus flavours of a crisp Chardonnay.
2017 Reserve Chardonnay – RRP $33.50
Mistletoe Wines flagship Chardonnay is only made in years when the vintage and the grapes are deemed to be good enough to wear the Reserve label. The fruit for the 2017 Reserve Chardonnay were hand harvested from an old Hermitage Road vineyard.
TASTING Complete barrel fermentation and maturation in new and one year old French oak puncheons, has created a typical Hunter Chardonnay. Flavours of white peach and melon are abound with a lovely balance between fruit, acid and oak.
FOOD MATCH The perfect accompaniment for Chicken Fricasee.
CELLARING Drink now to 2027.
SEMILLON - Hunter Valley Semillon is a unique white wine which keeps getting better with age and is considered to be the highest quality and best example of dry white Semillon wine produced anywhere in the world.
Apart from being one of the most mispronounced wines, Semillon is also one of the world's leading varieties of grapes. Its home is thought to be the South West of France – more specifically Bordeaux, where it is the most widely planted white grape in the region.
The Semillon grape is thought to have made its way to Australia in the early to mid-1800's and is now widely grown in vineyards throughout the country, especially in the Hunter Valley where it was originally known as ‘Hunter River Riesling’. From these early days, the variety has formed a unique association with the Hunter Valley and its terroir with the region producing a style that has not been replicated anywhere else in the world.
Australia's best Semillon is the dry style from the Hunter Valley, where the fruit is picked early, with low sugar levels and fermented
dry without the use of oak and then bottled. Classic Hunter Semillon is restrained, with piercing acidity and lemon flavours. As a cellaring wine, it is one of the best and can be cellared for a good 20 years and even longer. Over time it mellows from a fresh, tangy, fruity and pale coloured white wine into a deeper coloured softer and richer wine – evolving through an array flavours, slowly developing into richer and more honeyed characters that match with many different foods.
When young, Semillon is just perfect with fresh oysters, prawns and any white-fleshed fish. As it ages (10 years or more) pair it with smoked trout or salmon, grilled fish, roast chicken, creamy pasta, lemon based sauces, shellfish and most other seafood as well as semi-hard cheese.
McLeish Semillon 2019 – RRP $30
McLeish Estate are one of the most awarded Semillon producer’s in Australia. Creating a range of single vineyard Semillon’s that are acclaimed and celebrated throughout the world. This is a true recognition of the premium quality and the attention to detail that is applied throughout the whole winemaking process.
TASTING Generosity of fresh lemon and lime flavour are lifted by complex fragrant hints of tropical passionfruit and green apple that articulate this classic Hunter Semillon. The palate is intense yet elegant, with mouth – watering acidity providing length of flavour on the palate. With bottle age, generous layers of lanolin, toasted hazelnut and honey will develop.
FOOD MATCH Fresh Sydney Rock Oysters and Kingfish.
CELLARING Enjoy now or cellar to 2030.
SHIRAZ - Shiraz (or Syrah) is a dark-skinned grape that is thought to have originated from the Rhone wine-growing area of France but is now grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce rich, strong red wines which can be both varietal or blended. Cuttings of Shiraz vines first arrived in Australia in the early 1830's and by the 1860's was established as an important variety in Australia.
Shiraz is, without doubt, Australia's favourite and most important wine variety and has played a crucial role in the development of our wine industry, both within Australian and overseas. Today, Shiraz is the most widely planted grape variety in Australia where it accounts for 40% of all red grapes planted in Australia. Australia is also the world's second largest Shiraz grower, after France.
The beauty of Shiraz is that it is extremely flexible in its ability to adapt to virtually any combination of climate and soil and can be made into a range of styles, defined by the terroir of the region and the winemaker's skill. Despite the region’s tough growing conditions, the Hunter Valley produces some of the most famous Shiraz in Australia.
The typical young Hunter Valley Shiraz is a medium bodied wine showing red and dark berries, spices and a great deal of tannin. With age, the wines become far more complex, full-bodied, yet smooth and richly flavoured wine with some earthy tones.
Shiraz enjoys the reputation as the ‘food-friendly’ wine, pairing well with rich foods such as veal dishes, lamb, steak (especially peppery steaks), kangaroo, roast duck, Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, chocolate and smoked cheese and cured or smoked meats.
Mount Pleasant Estate
2017 Rosehill Vineyard Shiraz – RRP $50
First planted in 1946 by Maurice O’Shea, the Rosehill vineyard is the epitome of the Hunter. Elegance and power, grace and intensity, these wines are beautiful young but have the backbone to survive for decades. Its from great vineyards great wines are made.
TASTING Red fruits, cranberry, violets and spice aromatics combine with a supple elegant mouthfeel with beautiful intensity and focus.
FOOD MATCH Perfect to have with slow cooked lamb, aged beef or with some fine chocolate.
CELLARING Drink now or will reward cellaring for 25 years.
MERLOT - Merlot is most famous in its homeland of Bordeaux in France where it is often used to produce some of the world's most expensive wines. In Australia, it is considered to be one of the most important red grape varieties – coming in 3rd after Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot is softer, fruitier, and earlier-maturing than Cabernet Sauvignon, yet displays many of the same flavours – cherry, currant, plums and raspberries along with mint and tobacco.
Tannin levels also tend to be lower than other red grape varieties, and the skin is a deep colour. Merlot also possesses a rich and ample softness that many Cabernets lack. Merlot blends very well and is also a highly sought after straight varietal.
Although enjoyable as a varietal wine, it is most successful when blended with Cabernet Sauvignon – contributing to the depth of flavour and ability to age that Merlot lacks. Merlot can also soften the severe and tough nature of a young Cabernet.
The Hunter wine region has extensive plantings of Merlot, and the summer heat is considered to provide the ideal growing conditions for this versatile grape variety. In recent years Hunter Valley Merlot has experienced a surge in popularity and is often judged to be more robust and fleshy than other well-regarded varieties with a rich bouquet delivering one of the most pleasurable wine experiences.
When it comes to food matching, Merlot can match well with all different types of food including Italian-style, red-sauced pasta or even salads and is a perfect wine with Winter beef stews and roasts.
The agile sweet fruit characters of some Merlots are best to match with roasted meats or Mediterranean vegetables that complement the variety.
2016 Justine Merlot – RRP $35
The Tintilla Estate vineyards were planted by the Lusby family in 1995 and all the wines are still 100% Estate made by father and son winemaking team Robert and James Lusby.
TASTING Round in testure concentrated sweet varietal fruit flavour, plum and cherry, which is matched with supportive spicy oak flavours and notes of cedar and sweet leather.
FOOD MATCH Perfect to enjoy with red meat such as roast lamb, kangaroo and other game. But no one will look away in disgust if you care to savour it with a good white meat or platter of fish.
CELLARING Drink now until 2030.