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Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1992

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 1992

My Weekend Wine feature has looked at many different bottles over the past few months, largely from the classic European regions, many from France, but also the Mosel, Rioja and solitary examples of both Sherry and Port. This belies my drinking habits; my preference is for structured wines, capable of developing intriguing secondary characteristics with bottle age (rather than simply surviving), with fresh and vibrant acidity, so that every mouthful pulls you back for more.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 1992Of course, it would be foolish to suggest that nowhere outside of Europe offers such wines, and indeed this is not my point, not at all. There are such wines, but even though California, Australia, South Africa and so on have potential and, in some cases, the track record, this is not where my expertise lies. This is reflected in my website content; there have been lots of updates recently to my profiles for Germany, Bordeaux and the Rhône, whilst those of wineries further afield languish, gathering dust. But I do drink these wines from time to time, as is the case this week, with the Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon (Hunter Valley, NSW) 1992. I bought this bottle (and a few others just like it) six or seven years ago now, and on tasting it back then I vowed to leave them well alone for at least five years, and indeed I suspected that a more realistic outlook would be a ten or even fifteen year wait before these were really at peak. Last week I opened the second of my quartet of bottles. Six years on and it still has a deep, rich, golden hue. On the nose it still seems remarkably youthful, with a sweet, honeyed, golden feel to it. It has notes of smoke and minerals, and has much less overt fruit than previously, but that lovely lime-tinged honey-on-toast character that can characterise fine Semillon, such as this, is still there. On the palate it has a charming density, with a warm, rounded texture. But it is in no way a soft or easygoing wine, rather it is structured and grippy, full and yet upright. It has a very solid backbone, on which hangs a rich although rather reserved texture. Overall it has remarkable, firm presence in the mouth, despite it having only 10.5% alcohol. My only criticism is that is has a rather bare, open, woody feel to it, although as I have never thought of this as a wine dependent on barrel ageing; oak aged Semillons tend not to have the longevity displayed by a wine such as Tyrrell’s Vat 1. Nevertheless, there is a good depth of complex flavour. On the finish it displays a lot of structure still, firm and spicy-peppery, and it has a delicious length, the orange and cinnamon spices lingering for some considerable time. Really very interesting to drink, and I will look forward to even more complexity in future bottles. Unsurprisingly, I still think I will be waiting another five or even ten years time to see these at their best. 17/20 (9/4/07)

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