I’ve been around for long enough to remember the spirit with which Murray Tyrrell would inevitably declare each Hunter Valley season as The Vintage of the Century. It’s a shame he’s not around to experience the stunning qualities across the region in 2014, which has already delivered enough in the bottle to be called The Vintage of This Century. In saying that I’m fully aware that we have another eighty-plus vintages to go – the latter fifty of which might not be of much interest to me – but I do have some justification.
I’ve also been around for long enough to have enjoyed many a Hunter red from the classic vintages of 1965 and 1966, of which the former is rightly known as the best Hunter vintage in the memory of most people old enough to have an opinion on these things. In particular, the reds from Lindemans, Tyrrell and Tulloch are something quite outstanding, even if you find a well-cellared bottle with a cork that has survived today, some fifty-one years later. And I keep being told that Australian wines don’t cellar! Hmmm…
Some of the Hunter reds from 2014 have already sold out, but fortunately others are still being released or else biding their time. As a group, they are typically medium to full-bodied (the region has indeed rediscovered its Mojo in this space), deeply perfumed and then profoundly layered on the palate, unfolding remarkable depth and purity of perfectly ripened fruit supported by firm but pliant tannins. Their balance is quite remarkable and their potential for longevity will be able to rival that of the 1965s. Your challenge is a simple one – for how long can you keep your hands off them??
Names for the little black book include my regional favourites, namely Tyrrell’s, Brokenwood (is the 2014 Graveyard the best Hunter red ever made?), Mount Pleasant, Thomas, de Iuliis, Briar Ridge, Margan and Glenguin. And don’t forget Lake’s Folly, despite the obvious fact that it was planted to something entirely different!
Of these makers, the venerable Mount Pleasant label is showing signs of a serious rejuvenation, while the Thomas collection is irresistible. The Tyrrell collection is the finest for some years, while even the ‘basic’ Brokenwood Hunter Shiraz is a regional classic.
If you’re one of the many wine enthusiasts yet to taste a memorable Hunter red – since for a variety of reasons consistency in style and quality over the last 30 years has not been a strong point – this might well be the vintage that shows you that its perfumed, savoury, medium-bodied shiraz is up there with the best of them. Right up there indeed!