FIRST the good news - Brokenwood has just released a terrific batch of Hunter, Beechworth and Orange wines from the 2014, 2018 and 2019 vintages.
They are the $66 Brokenwood 2014 Trevena-Kindred Vineyards Semillon, 2019 Forest Lodge Orange Chardonnay ($66), 2019 Indigo Vineyard Beechworth Pinot Noir ($75), 2018 Indigo Vineyard Beechworth Shiraz ($66) and 2018 Tallawanta Vineyard Shiraz ($140).
And the bad news: bushfire smoke taint means Brokenwood will get no 2020 grapes from its usual sources in Canberra, Gundagai and Beechworth and only a minuscule amount from the Hunter and Orange.
CEO-chief winemaker Iain Riggs said last year was the Hunter wine country's hottest since 1900 and brought memories of the 1968 Brokenback Range fires that swept through Pokolbin and Lovedale burning vineyards, buildings and the historic Daisy Hill winery.
Searing heat at the end of 2019 saw the Gospers Mountain fire erupt in Wollemi National Park forest and burn for three months, shrouding Hunter vineyards in smoke haze and creating the insidious threat of smoke taint for which there was no means of prevention or removal.
For Brokenwood the outcome has been dire: "We have virtually written off 2020 production from the Eastern Seaboard," Iain told me last week.
The response has been to expand Brokenwood's grape sourcing in Western Australia's Margaret River to chardonnay and sauvignon blanc as well as established cabernet sauvignon purchases.
Iain said they have excellent grapes from McLaren Vale and will also make 2020 chardonnay from Yarra Valley, pinot noir from Tasmania and New Zealand's Central Otago area and shiraz from Barossa Valley.
Hunter smoke taint was lowest in the Wilderness Road and Lovedale areas and Brokenwood was able to harvest 100 tonnes of semillon from there that would make a high-quality white. And they managed to get a small amount of shiraz fruit from the prized Broke Road, Pokolbin, Tallawanta vineyard that will produce a 2020 Rosato.
There will also be 2020 Cricket Pitch white and red, with the white coming from Griffith sauvignon blanc and Hunter semillon and the red a mix of McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon and shiraz and Margaret River merlot.
The Hunter had been lucky to get three consecutive top-class vintages in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Iain said. The 175 millimetres of rain that fell at Brokenwood in March "got the vine roots wet", filled dams and lifted the prospects of a good 2021 vintage.
VIBRANT PINOT NOIR
WITH other new releases, this Beechworth Brokenwood 2019 Indigo Vineyard Pinot Noir is at at the Pokolbin winery and brokenwood.com.au. It has 12.5% alcohol, ruby hues and quince jelly aromas. Vibrant raspberry flavour shows on the front palate, pomegranate, blueberry, mint and mocha oak on the middle palate and savoury tannins at the finish.
DRINK WITH: tapas.
AGEING: 10 years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
FROM Forest Edge vineyard on the slopes of Mount Canobolas at Orange, the Brokenwood 2019 Forest Edge Vineyard Chardonnay is brassy gold and has scents of mango and almond and ripe golden peach front-palate flavour. Melon, cumquat, shortbread and coconutty oak show on the middle palate and slatey acid at the finish.
DRINK WITH: pork and glass noodles stirfry.
AGEING: five years.
RATING: 4.5 stars
TALLAWANTA TOPS IT
TALLAWANTA is one of the Hunter's great red vineyards and that shines out in this superb Brokenwood 2018 Tallawanta Vineyard Shiraz. It has 13.5% alcohol, bright garnet hues, potpourri scents and intense plum front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows cassis, spice, spearmint, cloves and vanillin oak and the finish earthy tannins.
DRINK WITH: fillet mignon.
AGEING: 12 years.
RATING: 5.5 stars