‘Around Hermitage’, Pokolbin. and the Wine Media Conference
This is the first time the “Wine Media Conference” conference has been held outside the USA and the Around Hermitage vineyards will be hosting some attendees for a Hunter-Gatherers dinner and showcasing our wines.
With the coming of some 300 wine writers and bloggers to the “Wine Media Conference 2019 ” in the Hunter, I thought it might be worthwhile outlining some aspects of “Around Hermitage” in Pokolbin.
Pokolbin is a Geographical Subregion in the greater Hunter Valley region, dominated by a break in the Great Dividing Range. It is home to a number of Precincts that reflect the diversity of the microclimates and geological aspects that exist, as well as the history and traditions of the people who live there.
Around Hermitage area was part of the Rothbury Estate Subdivision sold off to finance the Mitchell Library in Sydney
Around Hermitage is one of those postage stamp clusters of vineyards that make up of the Pokolbin subregion. One thing that unites this diverse group of individuals around Hermitage Road, is their passion for wine along with their appreciation of the terroir and the history of the Hunter Valley more broadly.
There is no doubt that over the years the Pokolbin vineyard area has come up with some outstanding patches of ground–the combination of soil type, the aspect in relation to sunlight exposure, and importantly beyond the general climatic cover, some special individual microclimates.
We all know there are a number of factors that influence the way a wine tastes, the style that can be produced and even the longevity of the wine. The properties of a particular site are high among the factors we believe contribute to what happens from “Grape to Glass”.
Factors such as soil color (heat reflection and retention) and composition-clay, sand, riverbed, calcium limestone content as well as water permeability and runoff influence the outcome and choice of vines to plant. Semillon does well on the creek bed flats, Shiraz on the slopes, Merlot in heavy clay to avoid the roots drying out, for instance.
Such is the capricious nature of vineyard areas there can be variations in quality in blocks only a few hundred metres apart or even within a given block of vines.
This observation was made by one of our pioneers of wine growing, James Busby back in the 1830s, when visiting famous Shiraz vineyard on the Hill of Hermitage in France.
The 300 acres on the hill produced wines of varying quality. ‘The lower part is too rich to yield the best quality, and near the top is too cold to bring its product to perfect maturity’. ‘Even the middle region, the whole extent does not produce the finest wines’.
Busby noted a belt of calcareous soil crossing the hill enhanced the middle region. M. Machon who owned the property said ‘it required the grapes of the different soils to be mixed in order to produce the finest quality of Hermitage.’(Shiraz) So while externally the surrounding land seemed similar without the calcareous soil underneath the wines produced were of only half the value.
This observation is relevant to the Pokolbin subregion as it has a variable geological and soil mix and within some parts such as near limestone enriched soils, the quality of the red wines is enhanced.
At the northern end of Pokolbin, the ancient geological Belford Dome of Limestone exerts its influence. Many dams put in along Hermitage and Old North Roads have leaked due to the drainage through the porous limestone deposits. Red clay soils over the limestone is a feature of the area and often digging down a meter or two will reveal deposits of limestone and indeed clumps of fossilized seashells.
Also, our famous Hunter Semillons often come from the creek bed soils, sandy loams over deeper clay beds, such as along the Rothbury, Jump Up and Mary Ann Creek tributaries.
So in our area, there are a patchwork of soils that are more suitable to reds and other patches suitable to white wines. Local knowledge and experience have always played a role in vineyard selection in the great vineyard areas of the world and here in Pokolbin, it is the case also!
The WMC19 coincides with that time in the vintage cycle we are showing wines at the Hunter and boutique wine shows and releasing new and some aged wines.
It’s that time of the year when the white wines of the 2019 vintage have been bottled and the reds of the 2017/18 vintage have been aged in oak sufficiently to also be bottled and free up the barrels for 2020.
The vagaries of the geology and microclimates Around Hermitage produce wines of different styles so among the wineries and cellar doors there is a lot to choose from.
This is a unique opportunity to experience in a relatively small area, a great variety of single-vineyard wines that reflect both the terroir and the human input that makes great wines. Every cellar door has a story to tell, and they all exhibit multiple awards reflecting the excellence of their wines.
This unique part of Pokolbin includes soils from some of the most famous Semillon vineyards along the creeks and their tributaries. The wines include the Braemore Thomas Semillon, the Tintilla Angus Semillon, Glandore Semillon from Rothbury Creek soils and the Misty Glen Semillon from Mary Anne’s Creek.
There are Chardonnay’s on hand to try as well -Wombat Crossing 2014 ‘Malloch’s Block’ and Macquariedale Organic Wines Chardonnay! (after all the HVD block on Hermitage Road was the source of Murray Tyrrell’s original bottling of Chardonnay back in the late 60’s early 70’s); note some Chardonnay will still be in barrell at this time but prior bottlings will be available.
The influence of the Belford Dome of Limestone has enabled some outstanding Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet wines to be produced Around Hermitage. Misty Glen and RidgeView will be tasting their Cabernet Sauvignons and Tintilla and Ridgeview are showing their well-recognized Merlots.
Wombat Crossing and Tintilla Estate are showing their award-winning 2017 Shiraz, along with the Macquariedale Organic Wines Nothing But Grapes Shiraz-Merlot.
Belebula vineyard with the Brokenback mountains behind.
Two of the oldest growers of Sangiovese in the Hunter, Tintilla, and Belebula, with vines now around 25 years old will be releasing their wines -Tintilla Saphira Sangiovese 2017 and the Pokolbin Estate 2017 Sangiovese.
Emerging varietals including the Glandore “Cameleon” Single Site Savagnin and the Peter Drayton Wines Wildstreak Tyrian will also be on tasting.
This is a somewhat unique cluster of wineries centered around the Belford Dome and fringed by the Semillon loving creek beds sourcing their grapes locally, truly reflecting the Hunter terroir, its history and the people.
If you want to enjoy “The Good Life” the topography of this area is amazing, you can journey around Hermitage and Deasys Roads and take in the views from Old North Road and Sweetwater.
Breath in the atmosphere and see how the break in the Great Dividing Range extends across rolling hills to the Barrington Tops. The unique ability of this natural gap in the mountain range to draw in the cool sea air modifies the temperature adding to the complexity of the Pokolbin wines.
Views that rival the best in Burgundy or Tuscany with vineyards and olive groves plus our own Australian outback character. We recommend people make a long weekend of it and stay at one of the delightful boutique guest houses, book lunch or dinner at one of our highly rated restaurants.
Importantly stop off and taste the wines, talk to the winemakers and their families, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.
I have used the following in preparing this blog;
James Busby: Journal of a Tour through some of the Vineyards of Spain and France 1833 Stephens and Stokes Sydney
#aroundhermitage #huntervalley #bobsblog #tintillaestate
Author: Robert Lusby AM
©Around Hermitage Association