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The lust list: the most wanted wines in the Hunter Valley

We all want to drink great wine – right? And let's face it, there's plenty of it in the Hunter Valley. But did you know we have half a dozen cult wines that will make your wine snob mates go bananas?

Yep, we're talking the crème de la crème of wines that wine collectors worldwide lust over.

So how do we know they're the most coveted, collectable wines in the Hunter Valley? Because they've all made it onto 'The List'.

In wine circles that means the Langton's Classification List – a rollcall of the top drops around the country that's released every four years. First published in 1990, when it included just 34 wines, it has become the benchmark for Australia's finest wines.

Three decades later the seventh edition, announced in August last year, features 136 of Australia's top-performing and most wanted wines… and there are six Hunter Valley wines that made the cut.

Just so you know, the wines are divided into three tiers – Exceptional, Outstanding and Excellent.

Brokenwood's Graveyard Vineyard Shiraz achieved the highest accolade – making it on the list of Exceptional wines, a position it has held since 2010. It's been on The List since the start, originally classified as Outstanding but has since moved up to the vinous stratosphere.

And if you're wondering why this flagship wine has such a gloomy handle, it's because it was named after the original plans for the patch of land where the grapes now grow. Yep, it was originally supposed to be a cemetery in Pokolbin but luckily they planted Shiraz grapes there instead.

It went from gloom to kaboom when the first vintage was released in 1983 and this seminal wine is still sourced exclusively from the same one vineyard. It's a premium wine with a premium price tag (around $250 plus) but OMG it's Hunter Shiraz at its sensuous best – soft, savoury and sumptuous.

Tyrrell's Vat 1 Semillon is in the Outstanding tier, acknowledging its mighty reputation as Australia's best Semillon.

First produced in 1963, it's made with grapes grown on vines planted in 1923 and is the most awarded wine in Tyrrell's long history. And that's saying something. No surprise then that it's the Grande Dame of Hunter Semillon, an aristocratic classic that can still turn heads when its 20 or even 30 years of age.

It's made using a blend of grapes, usually from the same three vineyards, but unlike many Hunter Semillons, this flagship white isn't released until it has had five years "resting" in the bottle. That means it has already developed a hint of the toasty complexity and richness to come when you buy it.

While very approachable at five years old, it's one of those rare white wines that will age as well as the country's top reds, so you'd be mad not to give it more time to develop.

And next up is the Excellent honour roll, which includes four Hunter Valley drops.

One of them is another Tyrrell's wine with a pedigree dating back to the decade of bellbottoms, ponchos and platform shoes. It's the Tyrrell's Vat 47 Chardonnay, first released in 1971.

The story goes that Murray Tyrrell pinched Chardonnay vine cuttings from the Penfolds HVD vineyard, which he believed was the finest white wine vineyard in the Hunter, and used the grapes from the cuttings to make Vat 47.

Tall tale or not? Who knows, but his Chardy quickly became one of the icons of the 1970s.

The style has changed over the years but it's still a classic Chardonnay, golden hued with ripe peach and creamy oak flavours. It's a real beauty.

Another Hunter trailblazer that stuns all who sip it is the Lakes Folly Cabernet Blend. When founder Max Lake decided to plant just two grape varieties in 1963 – Chardonnay and Cabernet – locals thought it was a 'folly' (hence the name). Boy, did he prove them wrong.

His elegant, medium-bodied wines quickly picked up a passionate band of loyal followers. According to Wine Ark, the Cabernet – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Shiraz – is the most collected Cabernet in Australia.

If I had to sum it up in three words, I'd say silky, sophisticated and sublime. It also has extraordinary ageing potential – up to 20 years.

Mount Pleasant's Lovedale Semillon is another blue-chip wine to make The List. This highly acclaimed single vineyard wine is textbook Hunter Semillon.

Named after the original landholders, the Love family, the now famous Lovedale vineyard was planted in 1946 by legendary winemaker Maurice O'Shea, with the first Semillon made in 1950.

Year in, year out, this vineyard produces Semillon with quintessential lemon and lime flavours with zesty acidity.

Oh, and you've probably driven past it as the vineyard sits proudly right beside Wine Country Drive as you head into Pokolbin.

The final label is Mount Pleasant Maurice O'Shea Shiraz, another wine that wins awards hand over fist.

Named in honour of the founder of Mount Pleasant, it was first produced in 1987 with all fruit sourced from the Old Hill vineyard (the original vineyard O'Shea bought in 1921) but is now crafted using select parcels of fruit to create an exceptional wine that is the essence of the Hunter.

Plush, plummy and potent, it's no wonder it's an A-list celebrity famous the world over. And it's another of those superstars that age well – after struttin' the stage for 20 years this legend will still have a youthful glow.

As you'd expect of wines of this calibre, there's a catch if you want to buy a bottle – they disappear fast. Wine club members get first pick and they're no slouches when it comes to ordering. So you'll probably need to sign up and go on a waiting list but you know what they say… some things are well worth waiting for.


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