EATS & DRINKS
WINE: 02 OCTOBER 2014
By JOHN ROZENTALS
Murray Tyrrell ... memories of one of the greatest Hunter Valley champions
I first met the late, great Murray Tyrrell at his Hunter Valley winery in the mid-1970s, when I was just beginning my wonderful journey through the world of wine.
It was harvest time and he was obviously in his element, sleeves rolled up to his armpits, his hands plunging into a vat of fermenting red grapes, the deep crimson juice rolling down his arms and staining his shirt.
“Look at that colour,” he said. “This is going to be a great wine.”
Murray was one of the Hunter’s greatest champions, matched probably only by the late, equally great Len Evans, whose writing did so much to build Australia’s enthusiasm for wine.
I don’t know if I ever did get to taste the particular wine that exited Murray that day but the vision certainly encouraged me to delve much further into things associated with grapes.
And while that was a red, I think that his particular passion was Hunter semillon, which, alongside Rutherglen muscat and Great Western sparkling shiraz, is one of Australia’s few unique wine styles.
When made the right way, Hunter semillon starts its life as a really austere beverage “mean and squinty-eyed” is how one my former wine-writing colleagues, the also late Mark Shield, described it.
But with a half dozen or more years of cellaring, it can develop amazing richness and complexity, with golden colour and a bouquet that I can best describe as honeyed toast, though the palate remains completely dry.
It’s perhaps an acquired taste, but once acquired it seems quite insatiable.
The late Murray Tyrrell ... a great champion of the Hunter Valley and its semillons.
Tyrrells 2009 Vat 1 Semillon
Tyrrells 2009 HVD Semillon