Hunter Valley wine: Cracker vintage for 2014

TOP SCORE: Suzanne Little of the Little Wine Co is upbeat about this year’s wine quality.

TEN out of 10, that’s how the red wines from the 2014 vintage are rated by some of the Hunter Valley’s leading producers.

Last week, as the first of this year’s whites were being bottled and the reds were quietly maturing in oak barrels, I sought the views of 10 wine men and women on Harvest 2014.

They responded by rating their whites at between 7.5 and 9 out of 10.

And the reds? None of the 10 rated their 2014s below 9.

Suzanne Little, who forms the Broke-based The Little Wine Co winemaking team with her husband Ian, rated her reds at 11 out of 10 and her whites at 9 out of 10. Bruce Tyrrell, Ian Scarborough, Mike De Iuliis and Jim Chatto all came up with 10 out of 10 scores for their reds. Liz Jackson and Rhys Eather each gave their reds 9.5 out of 10 scores and Andrew Thomas, Mark Woods and Peter Hall hit upon 9 out of 10.

Jim Chatto, the Hunter Valley Wine Show chairman of judges and McWilliam’s chief winemaker in charge of the group’s Australia-wide portfolio, said he had never seen better reds in his 21-year experience with Hunter wine.

Peter Hall, McGuigan Wines’ Pokolbin-based senior winemaker, has more than 35 years of winemaking experience and has presided over 33 Hunter Valley vintages and told me 2014 was the easiest he had experienced.

Peter, who was 2013 Hunter Valley Winemaker of the Year, rated his whites at 8 out of 10. It had been a very good white year, with grape tonnages average. Red tonnages were down because of smaller berries, but the quality promised to be only exceeded by the 2000s, he said.

Hunter vignerons and winemakers are used to vintages plagued by rain. Red grape harvests, such as the wipeouts of 2008 and 2012, are especially vulnerable.

The Hunter produced superb shiraz reds in 2011 and great whites in 2013 and this year the quality and quantity of both reds and whites have delighted winemakers.

The first of 2014’s whites, from the verdelho variety, have already gone on sale and new semillons will begin hitting the market from next month.

The 2014 shiraz wines, which probably will weigh in at around 14 per cent alcohol compared with the 13 to 13.5 per cent of 2011s, won’t be released until 2015 at the earliest.

Tyrrell’s managing director Bruce Tyrrell said he could not remember such a quick and trouble-free vintage.

His company’s 2014 white grape crush was 33 per cent above 2013 and red grape tonnages were about the same.

The 2014 reds were “fantastic”, showing great intensity and structure and deep colour – which had been presaged by the black hands of vintage cellar workers.

Mark Woods, senior winemaker for Bill and Vicki Widin’s Leogate Estate in Broke Road, Pokolbin, said his 2014 vintage was “the best you could hope for”, with all picking completed in four weeks.

Mark, who made the Leogate Estate 2011 Western Slopes Reserve Shiraz that I chose as my 2013 wine of the year, said it was too early to judge if the 2014 reds would match those of 2011.

The 2014s, however, would be of excellent quality, although of fuller body and higher alcohol than the 2011s.

Scarborough Wines’ father-and-son winemaking team Ian and Jeremy Scarborough were delighted by the quality of both shiraz and pinot noir grapes from 2014.

“The vintage was as good as we have seen in the Hunter,” Ian said.

He was particularly pleased with the 2014 harvest of chardonnay and vermentino from the former Rosemount Roxburgh vineyard at Denman.

The vineyard, now reduced to 36 hectares and renamed Ogilvie’s View, was bought by BHP Billiton in October 2009 and has now been contracted out to the Scarboroughs.

Andrew Thomas, proprietor and chief winemaker of Thomas Wines and contract maker of such acclaimed boutique brands as McLeish Estate and Pokolbin Estate, rated the overall quality of 2014 whites at 8.5, but gave semillons 9.5 out of 10.

It had been a fine vintage all-round for reds, which had great structure and showed more muscular character than the acclaimed 2011s, he said.

Meerea Park chief winemaker Rhys Eather rated his 2014 semillon grapes as “good, but variable” and his chardonnay crush as “fantastic and the best since 2000”.

Meerea Park’s white yield was up 20 per cent on average and the red harvest was up 25 to 30 per cent.

Rating the 2014 reds at 9.5 out of 10, Rhys said the wines promised to be outstanding, if not quite equal to those of 2007, 2009 and 2011.

The De Iuliis family wine company’s chief winemaker, Mike De Iuliis, reported 2014 semillon tonnages up and chardonnay down, while the shiraz crush was above average.

He rated this year’s reds at 10 out of 10 and better than 2011.

THE Hunter may have had a bumper 2014 vintage, but the same can’t be said for South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley and NSW’s Southern Tablelands areas.

The Adelaide Hills grape yields are expected to be down by as much as 80 per cent because of poor fruit set resulting from cool conditions during flowering at the end of last year.

Chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot grigio have been particularly hard-hit, although the big-volume sauvignon blanc crush has been close to normal, as have red varieties.

The saving grace for sauvignon blanc has been its later flowering, allowing the fruit to set quite well.

In the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley, rain during spring has been blamed for cutting yields by up to 70 per cent. Pinot noir and chardonnay have been particularly affected.

Recent rain on the NSW Southern Tablelands has caused outbreaks of botrytis cinerea parasitic fungus in some vineyards, spoiling up to half of some red wine grape crops.

TWELVE downloadable music tracks are the latest promotional tool for Grant Burge’s Barossa-based wine brands.

Under the Savour The Sound banner, the Burge company has matched 12 original music performances by South Australian musicians to nine Grant Burge Vineyard Series wines plus the Burge Moscato, Non-Vintage Sparkling Pinot Noir-Chardonnay and Aged Tawny fortified.

According to the PR blurb: “For centuries wine has been keenly matched to the senses of sight, taste and smell, and this winter Grant Burge enhances the senses further by launching the Savour The Sound campaign, bringing music to the ears of fine wine drinkers”.

The 12 tracks can be listened to or downloaded at savourthesound苏州美甲美睫培训学校.au/.