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Terrific Tyrrell's

Photo: courtesy Maitland Mercury

“I hear you want to taste a few of my wines,” Bruce Tyrrell said down the phone.

I did. Very much.

I’d read the early reviews of the 2014 Vat 9 shiraz and wanted to get my hands on some. And the Old Patch shiraz too. They sounded mouth-watering, and I knew they wouldn’t last long.

This was, after all, the dazzling 2014 vintage we were talking about. Tyrrell's other top reds – produced in very limited numbers, I should point out - the Four Acres Shiraz and Johnno’s Shiraz had already been snapped up.

I like Tyrrell’s, and not just for their wines. You go there and it’s a working winery, not one of those massive, monochrome structures that you find here and there that somehow seems to lack soul. Hell, it’s even got a compressed dirt floor out the back.

Oh, and while I'm on the subject, take a minute next time you're there to take in the view. It's picture postcard Hunter Valley.

So there I was in Bruce’s tasting room off the side of the house when he broke the news – no Old Patch, no Vat 9. Those canny mailing list members had snapped up the lot before they’d even made it to the cellar door for tasting.

Those dirty, rotten … and I mean that in a constructive way.

“Don’t worry,” Bruce said. “We’ll find something for you.”

He was gracious enough to drag out a couple of other members-only wines that hadn't been sold yet, along with some other bits and pieces.

First up, an unusual white. Nothing fancy, a quaffer, but a good ’un. It was the 2015 Part & Parcel white, a blend of semillon (mostly), chardonnay, verdelho and gewürztraminer. Rich creamy stonefruit flavour up front, then loads of lemony acid to finish. It’s good summer drinking.

“I really like it,” Bruce said. “Nothing fancy, but tasty and fresh.”

Next up, a 2015 chardonnay semillon blend. This used to be all the go, but it fell out of fashion. Pity, I quite like it.

I suspect winemakers probably started treating the blend a bit shabbily and dumping some sub-standard fruit in there. Anyway, I enjoyed this white too. Bruce mentioned he's drinking quite a bit of it himself.

Next we had a chardonnay – from Australia’s oldest chardonnay vineyard no less – and then a pinot. Both good.

But it was the reds I wanted to get at.

All the while we were chatting away – about our old high school (we both went to Maitland Boys High), Australian cricket, the weird weather and how long until he could pick his reds, off-field rugby league scandals, his palate…

It was a good day. And he’s a top bloke but I digress.

In the end it came down to three reds - the Vat 8 shiraz cabernet, the Old Hut shiraz and the Stevens shiraz. I'm not sure which is members only here, but think Old Hut probably is for sure.

The Vat 8 is one of the biggest I can remember, oozing flavour, but with everything in check.

The Old Hut is the little brother of the famed Four Acres – younger vines. I found it a really interesting wine and, for my mind, unusual for the Hunter. Vibrant red fruit – juicy, mouth-filling raspberries mostly, some spice and seriously perky acid. It will need a bit of time to settle fully, but I loved it.

And then the Stevens which is the exact opposite. Older vines, more depth, dark fruit, chocolate, terrific length. A classic in the making.

In the end I went for the Old Hut and the Stevens. I have no doubt in the world that in seven or eight years’ time I’m going to be drinking some seriously good wine here – and they’ll go on improving well after that too.

Call me greedy though, but I still wonder whether I should sneak back and grab half a dozen of that Vat 8. After all, I have everything I need – a credit card.

Decisions, decisions.


You can visit Tyrrell’s at 1838 Broke Road, Pokolbin or buy online at