• Simon Reilly

Wine of the week #9 2016

Wine of the week this week is one from my past. I lived in Australia (Sydney mainly) for 4 years from 2004-8. After a weekend up in Hunter Valley quite early on in my time there, my love of Hunter Semilon was cemented. Lovedale by Mount Pleasant was one of my favourites and I still buy it regularly now, more than 10 years later.

We were members of the Mount Pleasant wine club, which got us not only discounts at the cellar door but invites to special dinners and events run by the winery. The highlight of these was the annual Lovedale dinner, which launched the new vintage of Lovedale. In 2005, the 2000 vintage was released. It is always released after 5 years as it starts to reach its drinking window. It then develops further complexity for a good 20 odd years.

However that year, for a change, they decided to release a small batch of the 2005 that had just been bottled. So the first time I tasted the 2005 was at this dinner. The dinner itself was one of the highlights of my life. Hosted at Guillame at Bennelong, the restaurant at the Sydney Opera House and at the time a Sydney Morning Herald "3 hat" restaurant, equivalent to probably 2 Michelin stars if Michelin ever get down there.

So if the food and setting was amazing, the wine was even better. I still have the menu, check this out.....

An array of 6 vintages of Lovedale showed the ability of the wine to not only age gracefully but, with the newly bottled 2005, show real freshness. However the highlight of that night by miles was the sauternes. A mix of fruit from 1946 and 1966, it was an unbelievable wine, so concentrated. They were literally the last bottles in existence and a pleasure to drink.

And what was the cost of this amazing night in a 2* restaurant in the Sydney Opera House with more than 10 brilliant wines? $190 a head, and in those days it was about $2.5/£1, so about £75.... oh, and you also got a bottle of the 2000 Lovedale to take home, which was then probably about £20 retail. I hate to think what a comparable evening would cost now in London....£300? £400?

That special wine wasn't actually sauternes of course, but a locally produced sauternes style dessert wine. This was commonplace in Australia, to use European names for similar locally made wines in the days before the DOC. Hunter Semillon in its time had been called everything from Hunter Riesling, to Chablis, to Rhine Gold, even Hock!

Lovedale Semillon, Mount Pleasant, 2005

Anyway, back to the current day, and the 2005 Lovedale, drunk this week more than 10 years after I first tried it in Sydney....

Almost a green tinge to the light gold colour. Classic Hunter semillon nose of lemon, straw, toast and olives in brine. Really energetic mouth feel opens across the palate with peppery spice. Grapefruit and lime acidity on the long finish. Still feels very young with lots of life ahead of it. The complexity actually grows in the glass as it warms up a bit, more buttery with flavours of asparagus and lemon.

£25, Slurp.co.uk (for the 2007 vintage)