By James Atkinson
One of the Hunter Valley's most exciting young winemakers has called for his counterparts to explore more contrasting styles of the region's flagship grape, Semillon.
Gundog Estate winemaker Matt Burton told TheShout that Hunter winemakers only have themselves to blame for the slow take-up of Semillon, given that so many of them are making it in exactly the same style.
"I think if you can branch out into off-dry styles, or fume styles, you're actually bringing new markets to the variety," he said.
Burton pushed the boundaries of convention with his 2011 Wild Semillon, which he fermented in part using naturally occurring yeast while the juice remains on skins, in much the same way as a red wine is made.
"It was a very 'out there' style in terms of Hunter Valley Semillon," he said. "We launched it at the cellar door and sold it out in two months."
Burton believes that like Riesling, Semillon is a blank canvas for winemakers in that "you can play around with it".
"The Adelaide and the South Australian guys have probably been a bit more adventurous than we have… there's guys down there now doing five different styles of Riesling, rather than everyone trying to do the same thing," he said.
"I always find it a bit ironic that we've got winemakers sitting around saying 'it's so hard to sell Hunter Semillon'.
"I think well, everyone's trying to do the same thing – that might be one reason why it is difficult. We're all trying to make a style that literally only appeals to your wine nerds, your wine journos, your wine shows, and one per cent of the population."
"I've sold wines like the semi-sweet and the wild Semillon through the cellar door this year to people that have never even bought Semillon in their life," he said.