PULLED back from the brink and now ready to drink! Vintage 2021 in the Hunter Valley was much like a paragraph lifted from one of Max Lake's writings:
"The wines, like the great wines anywhere, are only just made, each vintage; dodging most years, between disasters of one kind of another; to emerge in the glass, as one of the marvellous gifts of capricious nature." - Max Lake, 1979.
Most definitely. Rain falling in December, just prior to harvest, had most winegrowers nervous at the thought of another year of lost crop.
But, then, just like the fabled nursery rhyme, out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain.
"We came pretty close to calling it quits, but then it all turned around on a dime with a flood of sunshine and some warm winds to help dry everything out," Chris Tyrrell told me, back in January.
You've got to love this place, huh? The paradox persists, as evidenced by a series of fresh, new releases hitting physical and virtual shelves in recent weeks.
Most wines feature generous flavours flourishing right across the palate, driven by a high fidelity of natural acidity.
Hunter Valley vintage 2021 is the year where fruit forwardness and freshness combine for the ultimate in timeless assuagement.
Here's five Hunter wines worth seeking out this year.
Comyns & Co., Pokolbin, 2021 'Popsy Sparkling; Gruner Veltliner' ($30)
Picked in the wee small hours of the morning (4am, to be precise) - to beat the heat and retain as much natural acid as possible - Gruner is traditionally cool climate varietal, most at home in the Alps of Austria, or closer to home around Canberra or Hahndorf.
This is a bright young thing of splendid refreshment: Crunchy pears, golden apples, with a lick of lime juice, lifted by finely-spun and fantastically fun bubbles.
Seek out a bottle of Comyns' still, off-dry, version of this unusual and groovy grape of the Hunter.
Tyrrell's Wines, Pokolbin, 2021 'Hunter Valley Semillon' ($25)
The standard bearer of Hunter Valley semillon; archetypally Tyrrell's, quintessentially Hunter; a bona fide classic of world wine born from an amalgamation of some of Australia's greatest semillon vineyards.
Picked in the cool hours of the early AM, gently pressed before rendering to a ferment in steel, then left on lees for some time to build in texture and complexity: Sweet lemon, white florals, beeswax, and kaffir lime. A very inexpensive, lovely and youthful white wine.
Margan, Broke-Fordwich, 2021 'Ceres Hill Albarino' ($35)
A sixth vintage stranger to the Hunter Valley; far more common in places like Portugal and Spain. Yet, here, the Margan's break new ground with this fun-to-say and easy-to-drink white wine made from one of the most delightfully refreshing wine grapes grown on the Iberian Peninsula; Albarino.
It's pretty perfume bursts from the bottle; ripe pineapple and lemon pith, with white nectarine lightly salted by briny ocean spray.
Their best bottling yet. We should be so lucky to have such pioneering winegrowing, right on our doorstep.
Krinklewood, Broke-Fordwich, 2021 'Sauvage River Blend' ($45)
Wines of provenance and place are all the rage these days. Of course, the best have always been about honouring and nurturing their home. Sauvage is French for wild and wild this River Blend wine is.
Pale, white, and slightly cloudy that gives a luscious texture upon which this wine was built. Soft and delicate, orange pith and lemon rind, water lilies, springtime florals, lychee and pear. Concentrated yet understated in presence and light.
This wine honours the place within which grows gewrzt, verdelho and chardonnay, down by the gentle flow of the Wollombi Brook in Broke.
Usher Tinkler Wines, Pokolbin, 2021 'The Enneagram' ($30)
Wine, like life, need not be so serious. Enter the Enneagram; composed of nine different wine grape varietals grown on the Tinkler's family farm; meant to represent the typology of the nine interconnected personality traits of the Enneagram.
Each grape is cosily co-fermented together in the one tank before being pressed into a wine of real rapture and joy.
Hot neon pink, scented like a glass of candy apple red Cottees cordial, like strawberry flavoured Roll-Ups, or, like a defrosted red-flavoured Icee. Lightly-textured and lots of fun for winter, spring, or summer seasonal sipping.
Other 2021 Honourable Mentions
Hart & Hunter 'Ciccia Blanco', Vinden Headcase'Lost in The Dream' and De Iuliis'Pecorino'.