The #WorldWineTravel writers have been traveling virtually through Australia this year. I raised my hand to host the discussion on New South Wales White Wines. We had visited the region in “the before times”. It was our last trip in October of 2019 before the pandemic had us locked down.
The #WorldWineTravel writers will gather on Twitter on July 23rd at 8 am Pacific Time to discuss White Wines of New South Wales and Beyond. I’ll be honest, these wines can be hard to track down out of the region, so we opened things up to the writers to choose a wine outside the region if they needed to. It is our last virtual trip to mainland Australia, so we will color outside the lines a bit and celebrate Australian Wines. You can join us on Twitter on the 23rd, just follow and use the hashtag #WorldWineTravel. You will be able to find the articles my colleagues wrote if you scroll to the bottom of this post.
New South Wales Australia
First let’s get a bit of perspective on where we are in Australia.
New South Wales is on Australia’s East Coast. It is the area around Sydney.
We spent two weeks exploring the region, from the Shoalhaven Coast and Southern Highlands in the South to Mudgee and Orange to the West and the Hunter Valley to the North.
While there are lots of varieties of grapes grown here and tons of diversity, if you look at what they are likely most famous for it would be Semillon. This Bordeaux white grape finds its legs here.
Semillon is used in Bordeaux to make both dry and sweet wines. The great wines of Sauternes are made with Semillon in the blend with Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle, but Semillon leads the blend, it is sensitive to botrytis, the noble rot that gives these sweet wines their distinctive flavor.
This thick-skinned grape, when made into a dry white wine, ages like Roussanne, deepening in color and building complex nutty flavors. When we were in the Hunter Valley we attended a wonderful event at a vineyard with 10 winemakers, each had their most recent vintage of Semillon as well as a 10-year-old vintage. We indulged ourselves on oysters on the half-shell under the setting sun in the vineyard, tasting and comparing the younger and older wines as each of the winemakers spoke about them. (It was pretty magical).
We had visited the Shoalhaven Coast before heading to the Hunter Valley and enjoyed Semillons grown on the Coolangatta Estate, a historic property in the region. They have vineyards there and then their wines are made in the Hunter Valley by Tyrrell’s, which is perhaps the most historic winery in the Hunter Valley.
So when I looked in my cellar, I had a 2014 Belford Vineyard Hunter Valley Semillon from Tyrrell’s and a 2005 Coolangatta Estate Semillon from the Shoalhaven Coast. This was kind of blissful, being able to compare these regions and see the difference between an aged and younger Semillon.
I’ll toss out one other thing here. Both of these wines were under screwcap, which holds for the majority of Australian wines. Here was also an opportunity to see how this wine aged under a screwcap. So often we hear people say how screwcaps are wonderful for young wines, but that they don’t allow wines to age. (We will dig further into the newer technology behind screw caps and oxygen exchange in the future.)
First, let’s talk a bit about the regions and the differences.
The Shoalhaven Coast and Coolangatta Estate
Sitting 2 hours south of Sydney the Coolangatta Estate was established in 1822, by Alexander Berry. He arrived in Australia with a grant to establish the first European settlement on the south coast of New South Wales. The estate was built by Convicts (land owners according to the grant, took charge of 1 convict for every 100 acres). We stayed at this historic and beautiful property and tasted through wines with owner Greg Bishop.
Greg’s father Colin acquired the historic property in 1947 when it was in disrepair. Colin and his wife lovingly restore this historic property and turned it into a historic resort. In 1972 they added the vineyards. It’s not an easy place to grow grapes due to the marine influence and the disease pressure for the grapes, not to mention the birds, who have been known to decimate a crop.
In addition to their Semillon (which is award-winning), they grow Verdelhol, Chambourcin, Tannat, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Hunter Valley and Tyrrell’s
The Hunter Valley is the most well-known region in New South Wales. Again 2 hours from Sydney it is a weekend destination for many. It is Australia’s oldest wine region. James Busby, known as the father of Australian wine brought vine cuttings to the region in the 1820s. Several other pioneers planted grapes, one of those being Edward Tyrrell who planted his first vines in 1861.
The Hunter Valley has over 150 wineries & cellar doors giving it more than any other Australian region. The region is filled with great tasting & culinary experiences alongside down-to-earth people.
Tyrrell’s is run today by Bruce Tyrrell, the 4th generation in this family.
The estate is in the foothills of the Brokenback Range and many of the vines are over 100 years old. Bruce’s father Murray Tyrrell was considered a visionary in Australian Wine. The family was one of the founding members of Australia’s First Families of Wine, an organization highlighting and preserving the history of Australian Wine.
2014 Belford Vineyard Hunter Valley Semillon from Tyrrell’s
This wine is made from grapes just north of the Tyrrells winery, which was planted in 1933 by the Elliot family. Soils here are alluvial sand. They say the soil is so fine that it looks like talcum powder.
This wine was pale pale lemon in color with intense aromas of lemon, grapefruit, saline, chamomile, beeswax, crisp white peach, wet stones, and lemon pledge. Yes, lemon pledge, it is that lanoline note that you get in Semillon which can be a bit strange the first time you smell it.
In my mouth, it is dry with high bright acidity. It is fruit forward and lush in your mouth, more than you would expect from what you smell in the glass. This is after all, not a “new” vintage, it is 2014 so it is 8 years old, but it still reads as youthful in many ways. The texture, a waxiness on the palate that slides off my teeth, I find that I really enjoy. It sits at 12% alcohol.
Flounder in Tumeric with sweet potato quinoa and citrus, radish salad
I wanted something light but filling to go with this wine. I found that seabass was a good pairing so we went to look for that at the seafood counter, only to find that it was currently running $38.99 per pound. Well…maybe not. So searching for a similar style of fish, flounder came up and we bought some frozen flounder.
I wanted to create a bowl with salad and fish, but Michael needed more than salad. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, young goat cheese, citrus, turmeric, and dill, all came up as flavors that would pair well.
I marinated the fish in lemon juice and turmeric for 30 minutes, while I made some quinoa in chicken stock. The sweet potato was diced small and then dusted with turmeric, salt, and pepper and cooked in olive oil until fork tender and golden brown. This was tossed with the quinoa.
I supremed an orange and reserved the remaining juice, which I mixed with olive oil, salt, and pepper for a dressing.
The fish was sauteed in olive oil and set aside to rest briefly.
Our salad was romaine with thinly sliced radish, orange supremes, and fresh dill tossed with the dressing and topped with crumbled goat cheese.
This was plated with the salad on one-third of the bowl, quinoa in the next, and the flounder in the last.
As a side, we had salt & pepper calamari.
How did it pair?
The wine appeared spritzier in my mouth with the food. The orange and goat cheese paired beautifully with the wine and the dill became very aromatic in my mouth.
The salt & pepper calamari? Well, that was the perfect bite with this wine.
2005 Coolangatta Estate Semillon from the Shoalhaven Coast
Grown in Shoalhaven at the Coolangatta Estate and vinified at Tyrrell’s in the Hunter Valley, this wine (also under screwcap) was medium gold in the glass with aromas of warm honey, caramelized nuts, cedar, fresh cut wood, mineral, and that lanoline and lemon note in the background. It was a bit of heaven to stick your nose in the glass. Still dry, with medium plus acidity and medium body it sits at just 10.2% alc.
In my mouth, it was juicy fruit, with an apple juice-like viscosity. There were notes of Meyer lemon, citrus, citrus zest, and unripe pineapple.
I found this wine to have something exotic and unfamiliar about it that was really intriguing. It had a lovely long finish.
Lobster with sweet potato & butternut squash pureé
With this wine, I wanted something richer and lobster fit the bill. We picked up 2 small lobster tails which we boiled.
I made a pureé from steamed white sweet potato, salt & pepper, and butternut squash soup (yep, I had a box in my cupboard and it worked to bring this flavor profile in).
I’ll be honest, I had planned to fry up some cubed pancetta, and I forgot. The dish was good, but it would have been better with this addition.
The puree went on the bottom, the lobster tail on top with a bit of the foam from melted butter and fresh dill.
How did it pair?
The richness of the dish and the sweetness from the puree and the lobster paired well with this wine. I only missed the pancetta, although I didn’t realize it at the time (it was just yesterday I found it in the fridge and realized I had not used it! LOL!).
The #WorldWineTravel writers all made attempts to find a white wine from New South Wales. Not all succeeded. If you want to taste these wines, keep asking for them and bring up the demand!
Don’t forget that you can join us on Saturday, July 23rd at 8 am Pacific time on Twitter to discuss this region in Australia and beyond!
Join us next month as we explore Sparkling wines from Tasmania!
Here are the articles from my colleagues:
- Jeff with Food Wine Click is sharing “Why Does WSET Love Hunter Valley Semillon?“
- Wendy with A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Yellow Tail Wine Round 2 and the Weekly Menu“
- Terri of Our Good Life shares “Simply Summer’s Best: BBQ Pork Steaks and Rock It Like a Redhead Sauvignon Blanc“
- Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon and Seared Salmon Steaks“
- Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator shares “Burning Man 2022: Waking Dreams, Secretly Abandoned Spaces, Minstrel Cramp, and the Fox in the Henhouse“
- Deanna with Wineivore shares “Korean Bar Snacks with Biodynamic Somos Orange Verdehlo Wine”
- Cam of Culinary Adventures with Cam shares “A Sémillon from New South Wales + A Snack from Japan”
More on Australian Wines from Crushed Grape Chronicles
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.