Until this year, 1972 held the dubious honour of delivering the wettest Hunter Valley January on record with 175mm of rainfall. This year we’ve had a touch over 300mm. So it’s fair to say conditions have been fairly challenging! Having said that, the Hunter Valley has an uncanny ability to deliver extraordinary wines in the most difficult seasons. 1972 is a noted vintage for Hunter Semillon, and in a similar vein, we have some parcels of Semillon fermenting away that look brilliant. The style will be similar to 2015; light, bright, focussed and balanced. There are generous citrus flavours paired with fine acidity, largely brought about by the cooler conditions, that also suggest this is a year for classic, age worthy wines. The Semillon from our wonderful dry-grown vineyard in Mount View is amongst the best we’ve seen from this property, and is a true credit to our growers, Dave and Sue Vernon.
Pristine Mount View Semillon that has no right to be, given the tough conditions!
We also have an amazing batch of our ever-popular Wild Semillon bubbling away, so no need to worry about shortages!
Our precious blocks of 45 and 50-year-old Shiraz at the Somerset Vineyard are hanging in there, and given a few warm days, we should see some miraculous reds emerge too. Overall, volumes will be down, but I’m confident what does make it to bottle will be of a very high standard.
Left: The Wild Semillon is safely in tank…no need to panic! Right: A bunch of Shiraz from the Somerset Vineyard, two weeks from harvest.
Conditions further south are being very kind to our vineyards in Gundaroo, Murrumbateman, and the Hilltops. Drier than average, but not too hot as to cause concern. If current weather patterns prevail, we may well be looking at another cracking cool-climate vintage very much along the lines of the amazing 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons.
Speaking of which, our 2014 reds have been getting some great press of late (see REVIEWS below), and we are just starting to trickle out some of our early-bottled 2015 Shiraz, including a very exciting first release from the Hilltops region. These are looking every bit as good as the stellar 2014’s, with lots of generosity and balance while still only young.
Calendar of Events
Due to the popularity of our events in 2015, I've put together a list of tentative venues and dates for this year’s Member's & Friends functions.
If you are interested in attending any of these events, I suggest you email me firstname.lastname@example.org expression of interest so I can hold a spot for you.
Generally, these events sell out within an hour or two of the official invitation being sent out. Invitations are usually sent three to four weeks prior to the event.
I look forward to seeing you at one of these locations!
PONY DINING SYDNEY - Saturday and Sunday lunches, 7th and 8th of May
CHISWICK SYDNEY - Saturday and Sunday lunches, 23rd and 24th of July
PONY DINING BRISBANE - Saturday lunch, 22nd of October
AUBERGINE CANBERRA - Saturday lunch, 12th of November
OTTO SYDNEY - Thursday dinner, 24th of November
We’ve just released the second vintage of our landmark Indomitus wines. As with the first release, we have produced two wines; a 2015 Hunter Valley Semillon (Albus) and a 2014 Canberra Shiraz (Rutilus). The source vineyards are the acclaimed Somerset and Vernon vineyards in the Hunter, and our much-loved Dahlberg vineyard in Murrumbateman. The goal was to create two wines that will challenge some of the winemaking and sensory norms usually associated with the two varieties, and evoke a sense of discovery in the drinker.
The emotive label imagery is based on photographs taken of the 12th century Ta Prohm temple located within Cambodia’s sprawling Angkor Wat, taken by my photographer brother, Aaron. Untouched, the Ta Prohm ruins demonstrate the rule of nature over man-made monuments, once protective hands are withdrawn. We hope the label art helps to evoke this sense of mystery and discovery in the wines, and draw symbolic comparison with the winemaking techniques employed.
In the production of the Indomitus wines, I’ve once again sought to marry natural process with carefully placed winemaking artefact.
For Indomitus Albus, we fermented cloudy Semillon (with 2% Gewürztraminer) juice on 25% skins with naturally occurring yeast. The wine was then left to mature on skins and lees for 6 months, prior to bottling without fining. This was 3 months longer than with the 2014 release. The two reasons for the extended maturation were to a) evolve the style further, arguably making the wine more edgy and challenging than the 2014 release, and to b) give the wine more time to build body and flavour, considering the fruit was much more delicate in 2015.
The 2013 Indomitus Rutilus proved to be our most critically acclaimed red of the vintage. The irony of this is that relative to our other incarnations of Shiraz, the Rutilus sees minimal intervention in the way of conventional processing additions, new oak, or finings prior to bottling. The quality of the 2014 Canberra vintage is no less impressive than the 2013; the wines showing a rare generosity of style and flavour while so very young. I think in the case of this wine, given room to express itself away from conventional processing aids, and oak influence, the true quality of the vineyard and season is on show. Whole bunch, wild yeast fermentation, including 4% Viognier, followed by 12 months’ maturation in seasoned French oak were the tools we used here.
As with the first release, I think these wines, particularly alongside the rest of the Gundog stable, really do challenge what we’ve come to expect from Semillon and Shiraz. The wine will once again be available for purchase as a mixed two or four bottle pack from our cellar door or via our website. A two pack is priced at $90.
2014 MARKSMAN’S SHIRAZ
“This is a beautiful, effortless shiraz in the modern cool climate style. The aromas are fragrant and inviting. It’s light to medium bodied, with light, caressing tannins. Utterly lovely.” - 95 POINTS, HUON HOOKE
“The combination of licoricey fruit and clovery/nutty oak is a winner here, particularly given the added presence of juicy (black) cherry and dry woody spice notes. It glistens with both fruitfulness and savouriness. Tannin is ultra-fine. Acidity is lively. In short it tosses class at every turn.” - 95 POINTS, CAMPBELL MATTINSON
2014 RARE GAME SHIRAZ
"Ruby red with a little purple, there’s a quite old school Hunter earth to this, but tempered with purple fruit. Old and new. It’s still a modern purple fruit wine, but with a savoury and quite grippy core and acidity that tastes, well, not like it has come from a bag. You could probably pass over this at first without realising its glory. But the closer you look, the more this looks like a real classic red for the long term. Drink 2016-2035." - 94 POINTS, ANDREW GRAHAM
2014 ESTATE SHIRAZ
“Cracking wines coming from Canberra District from a vintage that ebbs and flows with quality wines. Matt Burton shifts his gaze from the Hunter Valley to further south during his vintage period and his wines from cool climate are excelling. This is pitch perfect medium weight, red fruited, shows whiffs of peanut brittle and spice. It’s great to drink.” - 93 POINTS, MIKE BENNIE
“Cabernet sauvignon from the Gundaroo Vineyard, picked exclusively for this Rosé; 24 hours’ skin contact, then pressed and cool fermented; 590 dozen made. Vivid, clear crimson, this is a boisterous rosé, jumping with fountains of pure cassis fruit cut by riverbed of stony acidity and a twist of herb. Seriously impressive.” - 94 POINTS, JAMES HALLIDAY
2014 BURTON McMAHON CHARDONNAY
“From Matt Burton (Gundog Estate) and Dylan McMahon (Seville Estate), this is sourced from the D’Aloisio vineyard and George’s vineyard in the Upper Yarra. It looks awfully clever too, a green straw coloured wine with gentle honey and sulphides on the nose before a notably taut, similarly refreshing, acid driven palate. There’s a gentleness to this wine that is genuinely appealing, and I really quite enjoyed it, drinking it. It’s not quite as robust as the former two wines, but the cool, delicate, nutty lees meets acid style is quite appealing. Good.” - 93 POINTS, ANDREW GRAHAM
“Such a pleasurable wine. Flesh, thrust, sweetness, savouriness. Grapefruit and pear, oatmeal and toast. Mineral. It takes power and finesses it. Highly recommended.” - 94 POINTS, CAMPBELL MATTINSON
2014 BURTON McMAHON PINOT NOIR
“Both the 2014 Burton McMahon wines are characterised by their finesse. This is an elegant, complex wine with macerated cherry, dry spice and foresty notes rippling through a finely judged and massaged palate. Tannin is firm, grain and sure. Not a foot wrong. Will mature well.” - 93 POINTS, CAMPBELL MATTINSON
2015 THE CHASE SEMILLON
Gold medals at the Royal Queensland Wine Show and NSW Small Winemaker’s Show. This wine is a blend of Semillon sourced predominately from the Somerset and Tinkler’s Vineyards (50 and 43-year-old plantings respectively). We selected these blocks planted on lighter, sandier soils to deliver a citrus-driven, focused style. Bunch selection during harvest was critical in ensuring only ripe, clean fruit made it to the winery. Double racking was undertaken prior to cool fermentation. Maturation on yeast lees for 4 months prior to light fining just before bottling. In The Chase Semillon, we are really looking to produce a wine offering great longevity in combination with strong early drinking appeal.
2015 HUNTER'S SEMILLON
Silver medal at the Hunter Valley Wine Show. Relative to The Chase Semillon, we are sourcing fruit from blocks on heavier soils, offering bolder flavours and more structure. The principle sources being the dry-grown Vernon Vineyard in Mount View, and the 69’ and 89’ blocks of Semillon at the Somerset Vineyard. Ripeness levels from these vineyards / blocks are consistently higher (by around 0.5 Baume) than those servicing The Chase Semillon. The intention with this wine is to deliver a modern style of Hunter Semillon which offers outstanding early drinking appeal in combination with an ability to age over the short to medium term. The frame is still fine, but the flavours are more generous.
2015 HILLTOPS SHIRAZ No.1
Like the Canberra District, the Hilltops region strikes me as one of Australia’s most exciting emerging winegrowing areas, delivering truly world class wines, particularly Shiraz. The 2015 Hilltops Shiraz No.1 is the first of two single vineyard releases from this region for Gundog Estate. Produced from Shiraz grown at the Freeman Vineyards, this wine is designed to showcase the amazing generosity of style from the area. Deep purple in colour, it is a wine loaded with dark fruit aromas and flavours, boasting excellent natural balance, and great length of flavour. We were eager to preserve as much of this fruit intensity and depth of flavour as possible, so we fermented warm (rather than hot) and bottled after 9 months in French oak (20% new). We are very happy with the results of our first Hilltops “experiment,” and look forward to an ongoing fruit supply arrangement with Brian Freeman.
2015 SMOKING BARREL RED
The 2015 Smoking Barrel Red is the second vintage of an eclectic blend of Shiraz from our Hunter and Canberra vineyards. The 2014 release proved to be amazingly popular, and we have similar expectations for the 2015 vintage. The blend started life as a playful exercise on the tasting bench during a broader classification of our 2014 reds. The theory was to marry the plum, blackberry and exotically spiced characters of the Murrumbateman Shiraz with the more savoury and earthy aromas of our old vine Hunter Shiraz parcels. Relative to the 2014 release (which was blended in fairly even ratios), we had a significantly reduced quantity of 2015 Hunter Shiraz available, which meant we were limited to a little over 10% in this wine. On the tasting bench we decided it was most definitely still worthwhile as an inclusion, being an amount that served to soften the young tannins of the Canberra component, and add a really lovely savoury element that enhanced the overall complexity of the blend.
This dish has become a permanent addition to the family cooking repertoire, with at least two (non-competitive!) incarnations enjoyed over the Christmas / New Year break. It’s a wonderfully simple dish to serve as part of an elegant Sunday lunch, and pairs beautifully with an aged Gundog Estate Semillon, or vibrant young Gundog Rosé.
I lifted the original recipe from the Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine, and then added the Salmon roe for even more decadence; just for those special occasions!
INGREDIENTS Serves 6
120ml extra-virgin olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
500g lobster, cooked and meat removed from shell and chopped into large pieces
1 celery heart – trimmed and roughly chopped
250g mixed cherry tomatoes – halved
4 spring onions – trimmed and roughly chopped
3 tbsp capers – drained
2 cups watercress sprigs
1 small bunch basil – leaves removed
1 small bunch mint – leaves removed
1 tbsp Atlantic salmon roe
Combine olive oil, lemon juice and zest in a small bowl and season
generously with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place lobster, celery, tomatoes, spring onions, capers, watercress,
basil and mint leaves in a serving bowl or on a platter.
Carefully mix, pour over the dressing, garnish with the salmon roe,
and generously season again with sea salt and
freshly ground black pepper just prior to serving.
Letter from thE GUNDAROO vineyard February 2016
From the western window of the vineyard office there is an outstanding view of our hard-working Cabernet Sauvignon block – the grape source of GUNDOG ESTATE Rosé, of which the 2015 vintage was recently awarded 94 points by James Halliday. “Vivid, clear crimson, this is a boisterous rosé, jumping with fountains of pure cassis fruit cut by a riverbed of stoney acidity and a twist of herb. Seriously impressive,” writes James.
As the setting sun, which has been rimming the leaves of the vineyard’s canopy with golden halos, becomes lost amongst dense gathering storm clouds I wonder about the forthcoming harvest and how the precious boisterous berries will handle the weather extremes they are still experiencing as the El Nino influences on our climate gradually fade away. Currently the vines are at growth stage 33 of the 47 steps to maturity and harvest (as per the modified E-L scale), with about 8 weeks left for the berries to fatten, soften, change colour and create sugar to the level that Matt requires. Always optimistic, I think we are comfortably on track to deliver.
One of the major risks to the grape crop during these periods of alternating rain events and extremely hot days is the proclivity to produce moulds and mildews on the grape skins which can easily develop into fruit rot. Viticulturists have an armoury of safe but effective sprays to combat this threat provided they get the application time right.
Recently whilst pursuing more detail on the phenology of grapes I discovered that the plants themselves have their own inbuilt defence systems against these vineyard hazards. Under stress the vines are able to produce a powerful compound that encourages cell longevity and strength. This compound is known as Resveratrol (C14H12O3).
First identified by a Japanese scientist in 1940, researchers over the following decades confirmed the powerful anti-oxidant qualities of resveratrol and undertook animal and human testing of its health effects. Many claims have subsequently been made: it can prolong cell life by 70%, lowers LDL cholesterol, improves blood cell health including erectile dysfunction, improves eyesight, prolongs brain cell life, improves memory, limits the growth of cancer cells. A true Elixir of Life!
Public interest in ingesting resveratrol via its presence in red wine (it is transferred to the wine from the skins of red grapes which generally soak in the ferment for extended periods unlike the production of white wines) came to a head in the late 1980’s by way of interest in the so-called French Paradox. How come the French enjoy a high fat, high cholesterol diet yet have one of the lowest incidences of heart disease in the world?
People began to look at other components of the diet that could explain this paradox and France’s higher consumption of red wine was a strong favourite. In 1991 CBS in the USA broadcast a documentary on the Paradox supporting the view that it was all up to the resveratrol in red wine. During the following year red wine sales in America increased by 44% with some retailers advertising their wines as “health food”!
Considering the effort Matt and his winery team put into hand plunging the red skins of our Shiraz grapes I suggest that if you are interested in exploring the beneficial qualities of resveratrol a very good source could be GUNDOG’S ESTATE SHIRAZ and MARKSMAN’S SHIRAZ.
See you at the next Member’s and Friends function! Geoff Burton