Mcguigan Torode lunch Hunter Valley

John Torode creates new semillon wine with McGuigan

I’ve found my new favourite wine, Hunter Valley semillon from Australia, with the help of one of the UK’s most popular chefs,  Masterchef’s John Torode.

John has joined forces with chief winemaker Neil McGuigan from McGuigan Wines to work on a special project Vine to Glass. They have made a new limited edition Hunter Valley Semillon together and along the way have captured the story in a series of videos.

Hunter Valley semillon Torode McGuigan wine
Hunter Valley semillon Torode McGuigan wine

I met them both Down Under and their enthusiasm for their shared project is contagious. Their deep love of food and wine taste explosions, together with the chemistry between each other – a brotherly professionalism doused in humour – could in itself be bottled.

I drank alot of semillon in Australia. (I know, but it was warm and I was thirsty.) As a young wine it is light, fresh and limey. As it ages in the bottle it takes on toast, nut and honey notes with no help from oak.  It’s just helped along its way by a magical Hunter Valley alchemy.

If you love gooseberry-edged sauvignon blanc, or a lime-cut riesling, then a young semillon from Australia is a fantastic option if you want to try something new. It has a fresh citrus lift and is happy on its own or with food.

John Torode Mcguigan wine
John Torode describes the Vine to Glass project

John explains: “You don’t have to have rules on wine and food you should drink what you want to drink, but semillon is amazing with Thai curries. It is stunningly perfect with Asian food.”

So why did Neil and John decide to make a wine together.

Says John: “I have partnered with Neil McGuigan for a few years now, and I have always enjoyed working with him because we share a mutual love of creating great food and wine matches for people to enjoy.

“I wanted people to understand the relationship between food and wine and why they work together, so when Neil approached me to see if I would be interested in producing a special wine with him I jumped at the chance.”

Their new wine came into its own at a special lunch at McGuigan’s Hunter Valley vineyard when it was paired with chopped lobster and avocado with fresh chilli and lime. A citrus spice explosion.

The Mcguigan Torode lunch menu and wine pairings
The Mcguigan Torode lunch menu and wine pairings

Neil says of the wine:  “The result is an amazing wine, with beautiful colour, an intense sherberty nose with lime rind and rich, refreshing and zippy in the mouth.”

John Torode Mcguigan wines vineyard guests
Cheers! John Torode and some of the McGuigan vineyard lunch guests

“This is properly delicious, exciting, vibrant, refreshing; a bit naughty.”

But making the wine was just one part of the Vine to Glass project. You can watch their journey – and camaraderie – in the 10-part video series.

Mcguigan semillon vineyard lunch
(I was at the lunch too!!)

Says Neil: “We wanted to create something that everyone can understand. We wanted it to be good fun, exciting.”

The episodes follow all the steps in the winemaking process – from picking the grapes and blending right through to the delivery of the bottle to John’s door.

Neil McGuigan winemaker vineyards Hunter Valley
Neil McGuigan in a vineyard at his home in the Hunter Valley.

Neil McGuigan winemaker Hunter Valley vineyards Neil says: “John and I set out to break down the barriers of winemaking and show people what it takes to make a fantastic wine in a way everybody could understand.

“We also wanted people to see the critical role food plays in the wine journey and how the two go hand-in-hand. We really achieved what we set out to do.”

Neil McGuigan & John Torode semillon
The Neil McGuigan & John Torode Collection Semillon

The new McGuigan Torode wine isn’t available in the UK, but if you want to venture into semillon world, a couple of other McGuigan wines are a good starting point.

McGuigan Classic The Semillon Blanc
McGuigan Classic The Semillon Blanc

McGuigan Classic Semillon Blanc 2013 (RRP: £7.99, Tesco and Sainsbury’s) has a floral lift on the nose and a full zesty finish. A definite shoo-in for anyone wanting to cross the bridge from sauvignon blanc country to becoming a semillon fan.

McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon
McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon

Then there’s a class act in McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2007 (RRP: £14.99 available at Tesco wine by the case) which won the Decanter award for best White Single Varietal under £15. Judges described it as having a “rich, spicy, pear and apricot nose with hints of beeswax, kiwi, exotic fruit and grassy notes”.

The Vine to Glass episodes are being released from this month. You can watch them at

Click here to view Episode One from the Vine to Glass series with John Torode and Neil McGuigan


Published in the saturday extra magazine November 15th 2014 

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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