The wonders of aged Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon is a wine trade secret, of course; stunning quality that is still so modestly priced. To celebrate 160 years of the winery, Chris Tyrrell was in London with a flight of Vat 1 Semillon (2017-1998), a flight of the Johnno’s plus some amazing Shiraz. Our roaming contributing editor Roger Jones was on hand to pick out his favourite vintages.
Even bumping into the Beckhams in the downstairs bar couldn’t take pride of place of an evening that was pure Tyrrell’s Semillon indulgence.
The Hunter Valley is synonymous with Semillon, world famous for this slowly maturing white wine that gives so much pleasure as it ages. Therefore, it was a delight to be asked to join Chris Tyrrell at HIDE for a tasting and dinner to celebrate 160 years’ of Tyrrell’s wines.
Not on show on the evening, but equally important in their ‘Semillon indulgence’ are Tyrrell’s Lost Block Semillon and Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Semillon both offering exceptional value and outstanding in their youth.
It was also rather interesting, as earlier in the day I had joined Chris Mullineux to look through a vertical of his Old Vine White that had, since the 2014 vintage, taken some Semillon Gris into the mix; his wife Andrea makes a stunning 100% Semillon Gris for the Cape Wine Auction. So here is the interesting bit, in South Africa (and very rarely seen outside) with age the Semillon vineyards can mutate into Semillon Gris, with the grapes changing colour and identity! The mutation happens slowly, Chris Mullineux explained that it starts at around 30 years and then by the time the vines are 55 years old up to 70% of the vines can change, which they pick individually as they only want the Gris for their best wines. I digress.
Over to Chris Tyrrell and I asked him if there are any significant Gris in his vines, dating back to the 1920s? “None whatsoever, its something rather special to the Cape.”
We were glided seamlessly through eight vintages of Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon starting with the 2017 and finishing with the 1998. With alcohol levels between 10% and 11.5%, 100% stainless steel, dry-grown these are beautiful wines to enjoy now but evolve gently into masterpieces with age.
In 1998 they sealed a percentage of their wines in both Stelvin and cork, but have been 100% Stelvin since. I have enjoyed many Vat 1 1998s in cork, but have also had some variation and a few that have been ruined by the cork and am delighted that all these wines are now safely sealed. The first ever release was in 1963.
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2013
Bright, clean and focussed, the freshness is amazing, there is a wonderful purity to this, making you go back again, perfect with oysters with some bonito and chilli flakes
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2006
A real star, spiced, vibrant, it has amazing aromatics, although I think Chris said the 2013 was his favourite his Dad, Bruce told me this was the one! There is a great depth to the fruit on the palate, lusciousness but the freshness carries it to another level.
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2004
Wow, I thought the 2006 was a star, but this has the wow factor, this has evolved into a beauty of a wine, whilst the 06 is still running around the playing fields this wine has taken an armchair and is totally relaxed and generous in its flavour, character and intensity. Soft perfume on the nose, a delicate aged Riesling tick, soft stone fruit, honey, just a delight to drink.
Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1998
More youthful than the ones I have in cork, fresh and bright, focussed, a Riesling taint, beautifully clean, lingers precisely on the palate, would be perfect with fresh ceviche of sea bream with extra virgin olive oil and sevruga caviar.
What an outstanding masterclass…. but then Chris brings out his Jonno’s!
Tyrrell’s Jonno’s Semillon 2017
Orange blossom, honeyed, mandarin and pink grapefruit, a lovely bright acidity similar to the finest Australian Dry Riesling, the freshness and vibrancy is amazing.
Tyrrell’s Jonno’s Semillon 2014
Multi-textured, finesse of ripe stone fruit, vibrant, amazing acidity and clarity. Orange blossom aromas, pink grapefruit.
Tyrrell’s Jonno’s Semillon 2009
Planted in front of the winery in 1908, produced in the old fashioned method, this is highly textured, gently evolving around the palate with delicate, perfectly picked white stone fruit, hand picked and hand pressed in the original basket presses, this has a good price tag to reflect the next level of Semillon, a pretty amazing wine.
As dinner evolved we were showcased a fabulous array of red wines from a vertical of Old Patch Shiraz (2014 and 2007 were my highlights) followed by VAT 9 Hunter Shiraz, (2007 superb), Vat 8 Shiraz Cabernet (2011), but that is for another day as for me the Semillons were the stars of the night, that was of course before we bumped into David and Victoria Beckham whilst having cocktails downstairs awaiting our carriages.
Importers for Tyrrell’s is Fells