Wouldn’t you know it. It was Margan Winery’s 20th birthday celebrations, media had come from all over, and after an outrageously long period of hot, dry weather, suddenly there was a biting, chilly wind.
So, as we stepped off the bus at the top of the hill that overlooks the bulk of Margan’s 250 acres of vines in Broke… bang! The wind hit us. Speculation that Tasmanian media man Winsor Dobbin brought the cold weather with him can’t be confirmed. But blow it did.
And even a pork belly slider washed down by one of Andrew Margan’s newest additions, a dry vermouth made of semillon, brought limited relief.
I should point out that was the only negative on the day. A vertical tasting of Margan wines – semillon, barbera, shiraz and shiraz mourvedre was as tasty as it was informative. Margan, to his credit, produced wines from across the 20 years that he felt represented his progress.
Let’s face it, it takes guts to put up a wine and declare openly that it has bretanomycese.
But that’s one of the things I liked about Andrew Margan. He’s direct, to the point of being blunt. Ask a question and the answer won’t be sugar coated.
The tasting was followed by lunch where the five courses were paired with two wines each. No surprise that the food was superb – we’ve eaten at the Margan restaurant enough times to know the quality of their food, most of which is from their own estate.
And a quick mention of his albarino. We had it at lunch and it is one to watch.
But rather than go through all the wines, here are a few observations.
His semillons are typically Hunter and ageing slowly and gracefully. Despite that he believes stylistically his wines tend to be fuller in the mid palate than the majority of the Pokolbin semillons and age a touch faster. I told you he was forthright.
But having said that the oldest semillon we tried was 2005 and while obviously developed, it was still full of beans. Plenty of life in the old girl yet. The 2006 was Margan’s favourite, although I couldn’t split it from the 2007 – neck and neck. And I think right across his wines, the 2011s were excellent. And the 2014? Just give it time! A great starting bracket.
This marches out the cellar door we were told – and I’m not surprised. It’s floral and enticing on the nose, it’s soft, it’s layered and it’s downright tasty. There’s a nice perky line of acid at the back too that brings real freshness and appeal.
"This is the first ever vertical tasting of Hunter Valley barbera in the history of the world," said Andrew with a smile on his face.
We tasted 10 barberas dating back to 2003 (which Andrew noted had brett). The 2014 will be a star, just give it time. I know, just like the semillon.
Other vintages to shine for me were again the 2006 and 2007 and the 2011. Winsor Dobbin, who was the next table, really liked the 2010, but I preferred the 2011.
On the evidence of this group of wines, I think it’s fair to say barbera has a huge future in the Hunter. It’s medium bodied and fragrant, goes with food, is very approachable as a young wine, has genuine complexity yet has an easy drinking charm… it just ticks a lot of boxes.
Oh, and speaking of acid, I asked Margan how long he though these wines could last given a strong vintage with this backbone of acid. He said there’s no reason the good vintages couldn’t still be going in 50 years. Yep, 50.
I’ve drunk a lot of Margan shiraz over the years and I confess, I grabbed a case of his 2014 vintage a couple of months back. The standard shiraz – as opposed to the White Label reserve wine – by the way, is at $25 one of the best value Hunter reds from the stellar vintage full stop. A steal .
Anyway, I knew it was a star, but there were other strong vintages. The 2009 is picking up some leathery aged complexities but has more than enough fruit to carry it – lovely – and, again, the 2011 impressed. Strong category as you’d expect right across the vintages.
I haven’t drunk a lot of mourvedre – I’ve enjoyed it in GSM blends though… sometimes my research has even taken me into the wee small hours. But I must admit I didn’t really know how this would go but it works all right.
For me the mourvedre seems to fill out the end of the palate and bring a noticeable line of tangy acid. It’s not offputting, just different somehow. All part of the package. Anyway it brings just enough difference to really give it a newness to the district. 2014 first, then the 2007 for me.
So there it was. A top day, really good wines, equally impressive food.
They’ve come a mighty long way in 20 years.
Margan Winery & Restaurant is at 1258 Milbrodale Rd, Broke www.margan.com.au