Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Real Chablis Is Always Rewarding; ON THE BOTTLE HELEN SAVAGE

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Real Chablis Is Always Rewarding; ON THE BOTTLE HELEN SAVAGE

Article excerpt

Byline: HELEN SAVAGE

Australia's most distinctive and original wine style is Hunter Valley Semillon. It's light, crisp and unoaked, with a remarkable capacity to develop extra complexity as it ages; a dry white that's also one of the most food-friendly wines in the world.

For many years no one even in Australia had heard of it, largely because it was wrongly and confusingly called Hunter Valley Riesling or even Chablis. It was just as hard to convince drinkers that the older, mature wines were worth waiting for and could still taste as fresh as a daisy after one, two or even three decades in the cellar.

The secret of its quality is one of those happy coincidences of a grape variety being planted in just the right place, not that on the face of it the humid, cloudy and distinctly warm conditions of the Hunter Valley, inland from Sydney, or its sandy soils might seem ideal in which to grow grapes for a top class wine.

But Semillon loves it and, like Riesling, has the magical capacity to taste good at low sugar levels. This means that it can also be picked while the grapes still have plenty of natural acidity, which contributes a greater integrity of flavour to the wine.

A handful of producers, who stubbornly stuck with the style during its years of relative obscurity, continue to make the best examples. One is McWilliams, Mount Pleasant, who introduced their Elizabeth Semillon to celebrate a visit by the Queen to Australia in 1954 (there's a Shiraz called Philip too).

All that said, the 2013 is perfectly delicious if you choose to drink it now. It's fresh, clean and citrusy in a lemon and lime way (PS13.99 from www.slurp.co.uk); but compare it with the 2007 Cellar-Aged Elizabeth (PS14.95 from www.slurp.co.uk) and you immediately see just how much more interesting the more mature wines are: it's more intense, with a powerful aroma of candied lemon and a touch of lime. …

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