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January 7, 2020

Tyrrell’s: The First Family of the Hunter Valley

“Our wine business has been in the family for over 160 years, which is an amazing thing. We are lucky enough to make wine from vines planted by our great great grandfather in a time when they had no electricity or any of the luxuries we have today. It is an honor to work with these wonderful assets” -Chris Tyrrell

Chris Tyrrell

Established in 1858, Tyrrell’s could be called the First Family of the Hunter Valley. While at the Wine Media Conference in Australia this past October, I got to partake in a lovely excursion to Tyrrell’s where we visited the property and tasted through some pretty special wines. Our tour guide was Chris Tyrrell, 5th generation family member and now the COO.


The Tyrrell’s Coat of Arms

In 1963 Tyrrell’s released their iconic Vat 1 Hunter Semillon. This wine is now the most awarded white wine out of Australia. According to Chris, it is known for elegance, power, and strength. Vat 1 came out of the Winemaker’s Selection range when Murray Tyrrell wanted to isolate the best wines of each vintage. He named them after the cask in which they were matured. They are now only bottled in years when they believe the quality is high enough to warrant a separate bottling.

Below are the Vat 1 Semillon wines we had the privilege of tasting while on our excursion to Tyrrell’s. According to Chris, with Semillon, there’s nowhere to hide. Simple and minimal winemaking, which allows the fruit to shine.

*FYI, no oak has been used in these wines at all since the 1980s.

Vat 1 Semillon 2019

A young Hunter Sem showing nicely. On the nose, green fruit, stone fruit, plus a hint of tropical fruit (cantaloupe?) moving into vanilla and delicate white flowers. My tasting notes actually say: delicate white flowers blowing in the wind. But I could have been hallucinating and on a high as I had just seen a kangaroo in the vineyards 🙂

Vat 1 Semillon 2009

This wine is showing the beginnings of age on the nose: petrol and a struck match. These notes are what makes me LOVE aged Hunter Semillon. A beautiful wine with a fruit basket palate and a slight perfumed note.

Vat 1 Semillon 1998

When you taste this wine, you pause. I almost felt like I needed someone to take my hand and walk me through this wine. It is that different and special. Bracing acid that you would expect from a Semillon. Overall, this wine has a full, rounder mouthfeel that other Semillon’s I’ve had.

Working my way through that 1998 Vat 1

“I look forward to continuing to push the barriers of quality in viticulture and winemaking whilst
never forgetting the deeds of the people that got us here.” -Chris Tyrrell

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles-based certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer.

Brianne has educated and entertained over 10,000 people through her in-person and virtual wine tasting experiences.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping people Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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Sample Policy

As a wine writer, I frequently accept samples for review on my  website and on my social media channels. Please contact me at to discuss sending samples for review. I promise to always be honorable with the samples. I will evaluate all wines in good tasting settings and with no distractions.

All reviews are my opinions, and mine only. Because of the volume of samples I receive, I cannot promise that all samples received will be reviewed, but I will do my best.

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