One of the more unusual wine marketing campaigns of late is surely New Generation Hunter Valley. If its central image reminds one why mixing metaphors is generally a bad idea, I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment behind the campaign. The Hunter Valley, though often a favourite of wine writers (myself included), seems to suffer an image problem, especially outside of its core Sydney market. So any attempt at reinvigoration is welcome, because I suspect history will show we are in a very exciting period for the region, several producers doing great work with its classic Shiraz and Semillon styles, driven by a desire to see more deeply into vineyard and site. Of course, being such a fan of the region, I completely missed the recent New Generation tasting here in Brisbane, much to my disappointment. Thankfully, I have been able to obtain some samples that, I hope, will provide a good snapshot of the more interesting current releases.
First up, the Thomas Wines Sweetwater Shiraz.Thomas Wines is a producer whose wines I have enjoyed on many occasions, though I’ve never before tasted this label. Diving right in, the nose is strongly influenced by fresh red dirt and textured oak, notes that combine to create an impression of sharp savouriness. This isn’t a nose that seduces through plushness or promises of rich fruit flavour. Rather, it’s a wiry, angular aroma profile, suggestive of a hard-earned, lean muscularity. Fruit notes, such as they are present, are firmly in the red spectrum.
The palate is a burst of savoury freshness, acid playing the dominant structural role. On entry, a real tingle of fresh red berries, sliding sharply to a middle palate that introduces the nose’s dominant notes – earth and oak. Though oak is quite prominent, its character is terribly well judged, seeming both old and slick at the same time. Though the wine is light to medium bodied, intensity is very impressive, helped along in terms of impact by all that acid. The finish settles to a surprisingly soft, almost plush, flavour, expressed within a still-nervy framework of textural acid and loose-knit, coarse tannin. This might be really challenging to someone with a taste for Barossa Shiraz, but that’s precisely what I love about it.
This is all Hunter, a no compromise style that confidently expresses the region’s charms. Take it (preferably with a bit of bottle age) or leave it.