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Tasting: David Hook Pinot Grigio & Barbera

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In the past I have made it known that I do not taste Hunter Valley wines for the blog, given that I was working for a Hunter Valley winery. Now that that has changed, I don’t feel compelled to live by that mantra any more. I still live in the Hunter, but I work with wineries from all over…. so everything is fair game in my books. And anyway, one of these wines is from Orange, NSW.

Oh, I forgot I hadn’t posted in almost a damn year so there’s a lot to catch up on… maybe next post. For now, wine time.

A quick word about marketing – if you own a winery/vineyard and have a website, please put your story on that website rather than just nothing. Some of us aren’t just looking to buy wine or book a cellar door visit – we want to know more about the wines themselves, and those who make them. Needless to say, the website for David Hook Wines fails at this seemingly obvious task.

So, from information gleamed from elsewhere on the web, David Hook is a Hunter guy through and through having been born, raised and lived in the region his entire life. Safe to say, he knows the country. He’s worked for a number of Hunter legends along the way, including Murray Tyrrell and the indomitable Max Lake, before establishing his own vineyards in Belford in the 1980s.

He’s also done the time honoured Australian winemaker –thing– by travelling between Australia and Europe for vintages over the course of over a decade.

These days the plantings at the Pothana vineyard are supplemented by fruit grown elsewhere – Central Ranges and Orange regions leading the pack. The wines cover the spectrum, from crowd pleasing to serious booze. Here are a couple of wines from the base range.

2020 Hunter Valley Pinot Grigio

You’d struggle to call this wine pale lemon. I’ve never used ‘water white’ as a descriptor before, but it seems the ‘Somm’ films are all over it, so let’s do that here. A nose of medium intensity with lovely white flowers (elderflower, maybe?), musk, some nashi pear and lime zest and juice. Perhaps a tickle of unripe peach on the sides, maybe nectarine and a chalky quality I can’t quite get my head around.

Bone dry with light alcohol and not too ‘in your face’ acidity, the palate pretty much follows the nose – that nashi pear and stonefruit character the most obvious. A bit disappointed by the finish, if I’m honest, with a sour lemon citrusy character taking away from the overall experience.

The wine will please a lot of palates – it’s designed to drink young and fresh, but overall probably lacks a bit of complexity and length for me. Which is fine, because it achieves exactly what it sets out to be. Definitely one to be enjoyed the day you grab it off the shelf.

2018 Orange Barbera

I’m so accustomed to Hunter Valley Barbera that drinking one from a cooler climate challenges a little, but in a good way.

I don’t know what to call the colour – it’s a medium ruby, but there’s purple edges that stops me in my tracks a little bit and makes me think. Let’s call it ‘ruble’.

First thing that hits the nose is oak – smoky, charred wood into earth and then all the fruits – dark plum, dark cherry, dark everything – then back to oak with clove and cinnamon spices. The palate has decent intensity to the dark fruit characters, wrapped up in a web of fine grained tannins and balanced acidity. The alcohol is high, 14% (plus change), but balanced so whilst it is a feature of the wine, it’s not overt or distracting. Great length, admittedly, with those dark fruit flavours hanging around a bit.

Would you age it? You could, but it’s delicious now, so I’m not sure why you would. It will develop some complexity over the short term, maybe 5 years from now, but might lack a bit of depth to go much longer.

Good drink though.

Food match: Two wines with two very distinct flavour profiles – I want to lead with the obvious; white meat or fish for the PG, red meat for the Barbera. To make things a bit more interesting, crispy skin barramundi in a lemon and oil sauce would be prefect for the Pinot Grigio. The Barbera I want something with a bit of fat, a bit of depth – a beef goulash with creamy mash would be perfect.

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