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The Mysterious Lady: Hunter Valley Semillon

Hunter Valley Semillon is the reclusive star in Australian wine. While other Australian wines have been all-singing, all-dancing on the world stage, Hunter Valley Semillon has been elegantly waiting in the wings or outside the theatre smoking a cigarette with an attitude of whatever, so what? I don’t like fashion and I’m not signing autographs. For Hunter Valley is the oldest wine region in Australia, nearly 190 years old, and has seen a few fashions come and go. As a style, it has been seriously unimpressed with the fashions over the past 20 years for high-alcohol, oak bombs despite the rest of the country diving in head first. It could not be a fruit bomb even it if tried; it is inimitable and timeless. That is why Jancis Robinson once described this unoaked white wine as, “Australia’s unique gift to the world”.

Despite the fashions, Hunter Valley Semillon has remained slender and elegant: generally 12-12.5% alcohol, mostly boutique production, excellent aging potential and no oak whatsoever. Sounds familiar… The parallels between Hunter Semillon and German Riesling are uncanny; both undervalued and both are overlooked by the majority of wine drinkers and buyers for being difficult. Which only makes the perverse collector want it even more, especially as it repays cellaring over and over again. It can be astringent and sulky when young, but really, if drunk young, all it needs is some food rather than being drunk raw as an aperitif. For when its acidic soul becomes mellowed it goes from luxury honey to honeysuckle; lanolin to beams of light. The tenderness it develops from cellaring is unlikely to disappoint those whom can wait through the downtime years (again, the same as Riesling) for you may agree to care about wine as Greta Garbo says about people, “anyone who has a continuous smile on his face conceals a toughness that is almost frightening.”


Featured in Landmark Australia Tasting and recommended future superstar: 05 Thomas Estate Braemore Semillon

Image: Greta Garbo and her film, The Mysterious Lady

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