Cellar Visit: Tyrrell's, Hunter Valley, Australia

Our Wine Buyer David was recently in the Hunter Valley, and spent a few hours as a guest at Tyrrell’s. Here are some of his notes from his visit.

The Tyrrell’s vineyards

Established in 1858, the estate now spans over 500 acres, encompassing some of the region's most esteemed vineyards. The maintenance is characterised by a combination of traditional methods and modern practices aimed at sustainability and quality. As of November 2023, Tyrrell’s is officially a certified member of the national Sustainable Winegrowing Australia program, which means that wines produced in their Hunter Valley Winery with grapes grown from their Hunter Valley owned-or-managed vineyards may now be classified as sustainable.

From sandy loams lying on ancient creek beds to heavier red clays over limestone, the variety of vineyards are all well established, with many sites bearing vines that are more than 100 years old.

Of the 16 different parcels, here’s a snapshot of just three:

8 Acres Vineyard
The 1.5-hectare 8 Acres vineyard, established in 1892, is located at 130 metres elevation below the 4 Acres vineyard. It features deep-red podzolic clay over limestone soil. Unlike the east-west oriented 4 Acres vines, 8 Acres vines run north-south, producing a distinct wine style. The vineyard also includes 1.7 hectares of Pinot Noir vines, planted in 1972 by Murray Tyrrell with cuttings from Mount Pleasant, aiming to replicate Burgundy's red wines. Traditionally part of the Vat 9 blend, one cask of wine from the 8 Acres vineyard has been bottled on its own since 2018, released as the 8 Acres Shiraz.

HVD Vineyard
The HVD vineyard, planted in 1908 by the Hunter Valley Distillery Company, is located 3.5 kilometres north of the winery. Initially used for grapes that were then distilled into spirits, Penfolds leased it in 1933 and bought it in 1948. Murray Tyrrell acquired it in 1982/83, praising it as one of the finest white wine vineyards in the Hunter. Situated at 85 metres elevation on alluvial sandy clay loam, the vineyard spans 4.29 hectares of Semillon and 1.1 hectares of Chardonnay, the latter being the oldest Chardonnay block in the world.

Johnno’s Vineyard
Situated at 135 metres elevation, Johnno’s Vineyard lies on alluvial sandy loam soils. Planted in 1908, it was renamed in 2002 to honour John Tyrrell, a fifth-generation family member. The vineyard spans 2.1 hectares of Semillon and 0.7 hectares of Shiraz. It produces two Sacred Sites wines: Johnno’s Shiraz, unique for its lighter soil origin, and Johnno’s Semillon, known for its pronounced texture.

The winemaking of Tyrrell’s

It was clear that the Tyrrell's winemaking philosophy emphasises tradition, quality, and a strong sense of place; the family's approach is deeply rooted in preserving the character of their vineyards and the Hunter Valley region. The winery employs traditional winemaking methods, such as open-top fermentation and basket pressing, techniques that have been passed down through generations.

However, while valuing their rich heritage, Tyrrell's also embraces innovation and experimentation, with releases each year that are basically just what the winemakers felt like making that year! They continuously refine their practices and adopt new technologies that enhance wine quality without compromising tradition. They had one of the only laboratories in the region, which smaller estates are welcomed to come and use. This combination of the “art” of traditional methods and the “science” of analysis was key.

The wines of Tyrrell’s

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon 2011/2017

But of course we must start with Vat 1. This iconic and multi-award-winning Semillon is only ever made using fruit from the best old-vine, dry-grown vineyards, centering on fruit from the Short Flat vineyard, where the oldest plantings date back to 1923. The soil profile in this dry-grown vineyard is unlike that of any of Tyrrell’s other vineyards, providing the Vat 1 with its amazing length and depth of fruit.

We have a few vintages of Vat 1 in stock, and always recommend opening one now and keeping one to age for as many years as you can bear (10+ is incredible).

Tyrrell's HVD Vineyard Semillon 2018

Situated between two dry creek beds, the HVD (Hunter Valley Distillery) vineyard has ideal soils for Semillon; free draining sandy soils over coarse river sand. The vines are dry grown and were planted in 1908.

The 2018 vintage was a strong Semillon vintage in the Hunter Valley. Dry, warm conditions meant cropping levels were smaller than average and produced wines of great concentration and length of flavour. It’s textbook HVD Semillon showing a lifted, generous floral aromatic and just beginning to show a hint of bottle age complexity.

Tyrrell's Sacred Sites HVD Chardonnay 2023

The HVD parcel is the oldest block of Australian Chardonnay in existence, planted in 1908. On the palate, it has a fine, soft texture complemented by a tight, almost mineral-like acidity. It’s a crisp, saline finish of excellent length, leaving a lasting impression. Delicious now, but will age beautifully for a few years.

Tyrrell's Sacred Sites Johnno's Shiraz 2022

Johnno's Shiraz is a captivating and sophisticated expression of Hunter Valley Shiraz. Nestled within the historic Johnno's vineyard, which saw its inception in 1908, the Shiraz vines thrive in sandy alluvial soils, a distinct contrast to the deep-red clay over limestone found in Tyrrell’s 4 Acres and Weinkeller vineyards.

While it can be enjoyed now in its youthful vigour, it promises to evolve gracefully over the coming decade or even longer.

Tyrrell's Sacred Site 8 Acres Shiraz 2022

An outstanding expression of Hunter Valley Shiraz, crafted exclusively from fruit sourced from the iconic 8 Acres vineyard. Flavours of dark fruit are complemented by a touch of spice, with a hint of mocha on the finish. The wine's acidity is well-balanced, providing a refreshing lift to the full-bodied palate. Put it out of sight, out of mind for a decade and be rewarded 100 fold.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.