How Hunter producers rate 2018 vintage | John Lewis

HARVEST: The Elbourne vineyard 2018-vintage picking team, with Alexys Elbourne in the straw hat and blue shirt.
HARVEST: The Elbourne vineyard 2018-vintage picking team, with Alexys Elbourne in the straw hat and blue shirt.

FAST, furious and felicitous – that summarises a 2018 Hunter vintage in which key producers rate their whites marginally below and reds slightly better than the outstanding wines of 2017.

Fast and furious it sure was, with Little Wine Co winemaker Suzanne Little noting that her vintage kick-started on January 12 and by February 20 she had two 2018 whites bottled.

“That was pretty extraordinary given my first Hunter vintage in 1993 started in the last week of February,” she said.

A felicitous 2018 too, as Suzanne commented: “We’ve jagged another great vintage with three, 2014, 2017 and 2018, out of the last five being absolutely brilliant. Not a bad strike rate considering 2015 and 2016 were pretty good too.”

Thomas Wines’ chief Andrew Thomas declared: “I see 2018 as an almost carbon copy of the awesome 2017 vintage” and Leogate Estate senior winemaker Mark Woods observed “Overall a terrific 2018 with wine quality at a premium”.

Vintage’s early onset surprised some vignerons and none more than Adam and Alexys Elbourne of the eponymous Marrowbone Rd, Pokolbin, vineyard.

They took their two children for a pre-vintage Gold Coast break only to learn their chardonnay was demanding to be picked.

A quick flight home was impossible because Williamtown was closed by bushfires and they had to rely on great friends Brook and Alberta Noden to marshal the usual volunteer squad of friends, relatives and wine club members to pick the chardonnay.

The Elbournes made it home for the rest of harvest and to host the traditional pickers' after-harvest feast – which Adam admits probably costs more in food and wine than the value of the grapes.

The 10 Hunter producers I survey each vintage gave their 2018 whites scores of between 7 and 9 out of 10, compared with 2017 scores of 8.5 to 9.

They scored their 2018 reds between 8.7 and 10, with an aggregate 0.4 points above that of 2017.

Here are the scores, with 2017 in brackets: Little Wine Co – whites 9, reds 10 (8.7 and 10); Tyrrell’s – whites 7.5, reds 9 (8.5 and 9)

Scarborough – whites 9, reds 10 (9 and 9);  McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant – whites 7, reds 8.5 to 9 (9 and 8.5 to 9); De Iuliis – whites 8.5, reds 9.5 (8.5 and 8.5); First Creek – whites 8.5, reds 8 (9 and 9);

Meerea Park – whites 9.2, reds 9.4 (9 and 9.5); McGuigan – whites 8, reds 9 (9 and 9.5); Leogate – whites 8.5, reds 9 (9 and 9); Andrew Thomas Wines – whites 8, reds 9 (8 and 9).

WINE REVIEWS

WELL-AGED CHARDONNAY

THIS beautifully aged Elbourne 2013 Hunter Valley Chardonnay has brassy hues, scents of apricot and macadamia and ripe peach front-palate flavour. The middle palate has fig, lemon curd, brioche and cashew oak and the finish slatey acid. It’s on elbournewines@bigpond.com. Marrowbone Rd vineyard tastings arranged by appointment on 4998 6996.

PRICE: $35.

DRINK WITH: scallops.

AGEING: 10 years.

RATING: 5 stars

FORDWICH-FAVOURED RED

THE Fordwich-grown Margan 2016 Hunter Valley Shiraz benefited by avoiding the 2016 Pokolbin drenching. With 13.5% alcohol, ruby hues and earthy scents, it has spicy blackcurrant front-palate flavour. Bramble jelly, mushroom, cloves and cedary oak show on the middle palate and minty tannins at the finish. It’s at margan.com.au and the winery.

 PRICE: $25.

DRINK WITH: pasta.

AGEING: six years.

RATING: 4.5 stars

BLISS FROM BRAEMORE

FROM the prized Braemore vineyard, this fine Meerea Park 2013 Alexander Munro Semillon shines green-tinted straw and has ginger blossom scents and elegant ruby grapefruit front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows nashi pear, mineral and lime curd and toast characters and the finish flinty acid. It’s at cellar door and meereapark.com.au. 

PRICE: $45.

DRINK WITH: oysters.

AGEING: 15 years.

RATING: 5.5 stars