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Now here's a Hills Semillon!


Whitey’s in love with an athletic hurdler of a wine from Charlotte Dalton Wines at Balhannah.

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This is personal. After Tuesday’s hissy about common or garden/grassy Sauvignon blanc being a tad too mindlessly garden/grassy and offering very straightforward ethanol while lacking wine-like character and enjoyable gastronomic comfort, I found an antidote right under my nose.

In that whinge I’d reflected on a couple of Sauvignons I really like because they were principally the Semillon variety, and were blended after the dry white recipe of Bordeaux. Trouble is, since the ’70s, the Adelaide trade has always said it can’t sell Semillon, sometimes because they regard it as a Hunter Valley variety but usually because “nobody knows how to pronounce it”.

Funny how we all learned to pronounce Pinot noir and Viognier.

As a result, there’s very little Semillon grown here, which is silly as it was a key variety from the beginning of the colony. It’s nearly all gone.

Charlotte Dalton Wines are the work of Charlotte Dalton Hardy, of Basket Range. She sent two versions made from 30-year-old vines at The Deanery Vineyard at Balhannah, one called Love You Love Me, which was so drop-dead lovely that Charlotte’s quickly sold it all. There’s some left in a couple of the better shops, and “on pour” in a few wine bars and of course Fino, but if you don’t have the urge to hunt, there’s an even better one available to hold you over until the 2017 LYLM release, which is about to hit the bottles.

Charlotte Dalton Wines Ærkeengel Adelaide Hills Semillon 2016 ($42; 12.6% alcohol; screw cap), like the Love You Love Me, is barrel-aged and lees-stirred, but with more yeast lees and a lot longer in the barrels. Which is not to say it’s oaky. Rather it has all the slender stylish poise of the Bordeaux types.

But it’s also very Australian: as fit and fast as Sally Pearson: not one wasted gram of fat or flab.

So it has the basic frame of a lot of Savvy-b but it’s a vast step above: it has better form; it’s more determined to stand out for its rare finesse. It’s tighter. It clips no timber in the hurdles and barely touches the grass which is far too dominant in those Savvies that I can’t hack.

It flies straight, looking neither to left nor right till the job’s done and the medal’s won.

Bouquet? While it has just the perfect degree of that grassy methoxypyrazine, the natural insect and predator deterrent the Sauvignon skins produce until the seed is ready to germinate, in this instance the stuff is oxidised until it’s like that dusty, sacky whiff of burlap or hemp. It gives the wine a subtle country zephyr, a summery edge. Then comes a lovely assemblage of carambola, cherimoya and Bosc pear, all dryish and fine but maintaining that perfect athletic poise.

And it’s very gently buttery, like my current favourite, the French Elle and Vere. Yes, I’m being unfaithful to Paris Creek.

Combined with the pear influence that buttery bit reminds me of loquat.

The texture is the first part of the drinking to impress: it’s firm and very slightly granular, like that Bosc pear. This immediately sets the juices a-flow, stirring the hunger so a whole flick-pack of food images whirrs through the mind, stalling on the odd dry white cheese and a fresh sliced Bosc, or the even more granular Passe-Crassane, my favourite among pears.

This wine leaves the tongue twitching for more in a most thought-provoking manner, but is sufficiently complex and impressive that it’s also quite satisfying.

Above all that, it has amazing staying power. Under this screw cap, it’ll last longer than me.

So. A great wine of significant gastronomic intelligence, made by such a person for grown-ups.

Take a bow, Charlotte Dalton Hardy.

PS: There’s also a very racy, intense young punk of a Shiraz, but that’s another story …

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