Australian white single varietal under £10
2006 McWilliams Mount Pleasant Cellar Release Elizabeth Semillon.
I first came across Phil Ryan, with McWilliams since 1969, one early morning after he came to collect me following an evening of excess and green Chartreuse with Len Evans and friends. Barely capable of speech, I placed my tape recorder in front of him, off he went and Igot the best interview of my career.
Phil Ryan can be justifiably proud of the fact that McWilliams’ Elizabeth Semillon has earned a reputation as the best value, bottle-aged Semillon in Australia with its combination of consistent quality and exceptional value.
Typically for Hunter Semillon, it’s low in alcohol at between 10% and 11% and the grapes, sourced from vineyards throughout the Hunter Valley, are hand-picked when the acids are high and sugars relatively low.
It’s this feature that helps Hunter Semillon age so well and it’s often a surprise to wine drinkers tasting an aged Semillon for the first time; firstly it shows little sign of ageing and secondly that it hasn’t been matured in oak. Why? Because it often has a toasty character that on first taste suggests oak.
This year is the 90th anniversary of the McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate which was established in 1921 by the legendary winemaker, Maurice O’Shea, working in an era when fortified wines dominated the Australian market.
In accordance with the tradition established by O’Shea, Mount Pleasant winemakers continue to bottle age commercial quantities of wines until they are considered at their peak.
The first vintage of Elizabeth was released in 1967 under the varietal name ‘Hunter Riesling’ to reflect the style it was considered to resemble. The wine was correctly labelled Semillon in the vintage of 1982.
The 2005 vintage is the one on the market but the 2006, a great vintage for Hunter Semillon, will be eagerly anticipated when it comes on to the market next year.