Looking at the calendar, we were alarmed that quasi “half of the year is already over”. Time flies, it seems. What have we been doing? How could it go so fast? Consequently, we spontaneously decided to celebrate this event with a wine tasting on the last evening inJune.
Merlot was our choice of the day. Our wine cellar had only two brands left:
● a 2003 Hungerford Hill, Orange Merlot from the Hunter Valley and
● a 2004 Two Hills Merlot from the Upper Goulburn Wine Region.
The Hunter Valley (www.hunterweb.com.au) is one of the oldest wine regions in Australia. Its flagship wines are Semillion and Shiraz but it has also pockets of cool climate sites. The Upper Goulburn Wine Region (www.uppergoulburnwine.org.au) is a significant cool climate grape growing area in Victoria with quite remarkable diversity of varieties and wine styles.
We had the two wines after dinner with a most delicious cheese, a Brie “au lait entier”, processed according to traditional methods by “Paysan Breton” and fresh baguette.
Both wines come from cool climate regions. Hungerford Hills Merlot belongs to the regional series of the brand (www.hungerfordhill.com.au). It is produced in Orange in New South Wales, a rather new location on the Australian wine map (established in 1983). Formerly it was know as the Central Highlands centred on the slopes of Mount Canobolas which is an important fruit producing area (apples, pears, cherries). The first commercially planted vineyards were established in the 1980s. The location of some of the vineyards for this regional wine is above 600 m altitude.
The 2003 vintage is under cork whereas the Orange Merlot 2004 is already under metal capsules. Both are available at duty free bottle shops in Jakarta, retailing for about 23 to 26 US$ per bottle. The internet order form of the winery shows 28 A$ per bottle for the Merlot (22.40 A$ for wine-club members). Whereas the 2003 bottle does not show wine awards stickers, the 2004 shows a gold medal and other distinctions at the 2006 Sydney International Wine Competition. The winemaker is Philip John.
As you probably know, Two Hills Vineyard also produces cool climate wines. The Geographical Indication (GI) for the Upper Goulburn Wine Region was only recently identified (formerly also called Central Victorian High Country) but grapes have been grown there since more then 30 years. The vineyard is a single site on a slight northerly slope. The 2004 vintage is under a DIAM cork closure. The wine is made by Alan Johns, the owner-winemaker cum viticulturist of Yering Farm Wines in the Yarra Valley (www.yeringfarm.com.au). Retail price at the Old England Hotel (www.oldenglandhotel.com.au) in Heidelberg, Melbourne should be around 15-17 A$/bottle. It can also be obtained at the upcoming Upper Goulburn Wine and Food Expo (Saturday, 11th August, in Alexandra Town Hall).
Both wines show excellent dark crimson red colours. The nose of the Hungerford Merlot shows complex aromas of wild berry fruit with a slight nose of liquorice and nutty French oak. The wine is a blend from different vineyards in Orange. It is medium bodied, has a soft finish and displays balanced tannins.
All wines at Two Hills Vineyards are hand crafted. The grapes for Two Hills Merlot are coming from a single site, the vines are hand pruned and the grapes are hand harvested. The ‘2004 Two Hills Merlot’ also displays ripe wild berry fruit but not the liquorice and nuts flavours. The wine is very subtle, elegant with great finesse. It is medium bodied, dry, with good acidity, and a long finish. Its tannins are firm and give the wine a fine balance.
Hungerford Hill, Orange Merlot 2003
14% alcohol, matured in 60% new and 40% old French oak for about 15 months
Two Hills Merlot 2004
13.5 % alcohol, matured in 90% old and 10% new French oak for about 18 months