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.
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 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.
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.”
“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.
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.
“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.”
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 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.
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 www.youtube.com/McGuiganWines.
Published in the saturday extra magazine November 15th 2014