Photo: Tyrrell’s famous HVD Block: sits in the lee of the Hunter Valley’s landmark Brokenback Range.

John Rozentals gets up close to a chunk of fabled Hunter Valley dirt

I guess that the over-reaching image that visitors to Tyrrells Wine in the Hunter Valley’s Broke Road leave with is that of the brooding, almost sullen Brokenback Range which dominates the landscape.

It overwhelms the vines and old winery.

It overwhelms even the characters who’ve inhabited that winery, even though they have often been long-living giants — men such as the winery’s founder Edward Tyrrell, the legendary Dan Tyrrell who officiated over an astounding 69 vintages, the effervescent Mouth of the Hunter Murray Tyrrell, and most recently Bruce Tyrrell who I’m sure hasn’t played all his cards yet.

No grapes are more obviously overlooked by the range than those of the Hunter Valley Distillery Block, also known as the Sign Post Block, source of the world’s oldest chardonnay grapes and some of the valley’s landmark white variety, semillon.

The vines date from 1908 and their grapes have a relaxed aura of elegance to them.

The wines age beautifully, and I have no doubts about why they are so reverred, both by the Tyrrells family and by wine lovers everywhere.

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TOP SHELF with John Rozentals

Tyrrells 2019 Hunter Valley
Semillon ($25)

I’m not going to claim for a minute, not even a second, that this wine has the potential to develop into an HVD. It’s just not that sort of beast, but it will develop its own style of charming complexity as it ages. Right now, its drinking ridiculously well, with grassy, stalky flavours to burn, and a lovely burst of lemony acidity. Why are we bothering with sauvignon blanc from NZ when we have treasures like this in our midst?

Tyrrells 2017 Single Vineyard Stevens Hunter
Shiraz ($50)

This dry red would normally make the Wine of the Week rating but for an excellent performance from an aged semillon. It’s a lovely drop in its own right, showing the medium-bodied, food-friendly style that the Hunter does so well. Look for dark berry flavours and spice, and match it with a good, rare steak or a bowl of classy red-sauced pasta.

Tyrrells 2014 HVD Vineyard Hunter Valley
Semillon ($35)

You only have to glance at the gold medals that adorn the label of this dry white to realise how Tyrrells has ruled the aged-semillon classes at Australian wine shows. And not without reason. The family company has an excellent back catalog of these golden wonders. This wine exemplifies the breed and is simply gorgeous in its depth of flavour and complexity. It shows a touch of honeyed-toast for which aged semillons are famous and, thanks to screwcap closure, has many years of secure life ahead.