Does the Australian wine industry have a chip on its shoulder? Remember a time where Coonawarra Cabernet wasn’t compared to Bordeaux, and Australian Shiraz was still called Shiraz without the new French title of Syrah?

I asked Brendan Kaczorowski of Pokolbin Vintners his thoughts on this after tasting the inaugural release of his 2023 Pokolbin Mountain Dry Red.

“Well I love the Barossa and McLaren Vale reds, but it’s simply not possible to make those wines here (the Hunter Valley). You could put up a shiraz from the hottest Hunter vintage with a Barossa from a wet cool vintage, and it will still get blown out of the park. We’ve never been able to do it. And why would we want to? The best Hunter reds are of the Hunter River Burgundy style. An Australian pinot if you like”.


So no Syrah and we’re not allowed to use the term Burgundy anymore to describe Hunter reds, so Pokolbin Dry Red it is and it happens to be 100% Shiraz.

Brendan Kaczorowski is a Hunter local, working at Tyrrell’s for 7 years, before taking over winemaking at Keith Tulloch. He has worked and continues to work vintages in Burgundy, including Matrot of Meursault and one of Burgundy’s up and coming domaines, Bachelot Monnot. I asked if his overseas vintages had influenced his winemaking here, in Australia and his answer was a surprising one

“No. There is nowhere quite like the Hunter Valley, so you can’t take techniques from other regions and apply them to the Hunter Valley. What I really take away from these experiences is their approach. How they look at their site and interpret the fruit. When you taste back through different vintages with these producers no matter what the vintage throws at them there is a definite stamp of site and place.

Through the years they have an understanding of how to get the best out of their fruit, so the style doesn’t so much come from their choices, but rather what their vineyard yields them. With my wine, it’s a pretty special vineyard, and already after the second vintage, even though 23 and 24 were completely different, and we have to do things differently, you can still taste the DNA of the site. I think after a number of vintages and as the wines gain bottle age, we’ll see an alignment of characteristics, which are a direct reflection of the vineyard”.


The vineyard in question lies on the eastern slopes of Pokolbin Mountain, a stones throw from Tyrrells’ Old Patch and Mount Pleasant’s Old Hill & Old Paddock. Some of the coolest growing conditions in the Valley are found here, no doubt influenced by the proximity of natural forest and the vineyards not being exposed to the searing afternoon sun.

It was planted in 1972 by the Tinkler family who still grow and make their own wines. They also happen to be commercial fruit and vegetable growers and along with their excellent wines you are able to purchase their produce at cellar door. One of the best cellar door experiences in the Hunter Valley.

The soils are of red volcanic clay over limestone and the wines from here are the most mineral in the entire Valley. Brendan sources his fruit from the coolest part of the vineyard on the upper reaches of the block. When given the opportunity to buy fruit from genuine old vines from one of the Hunter’s dress circle of vineyards, it was Chris Tyrrell himself who pushed Brendan, telling him the opportunity was too good to pass up..Brendan had been wanting to do his own thing for a while, but we all need a push from time to time.

And what was he hoping to achieve?

“I didn’t want to add a style to the site, I wanted to make a wine of the vineyard, of the site. It’s definitely a Hunter Burgundy style, but not because I wanted to push the fruit in a particular direction, but because that’s what makes the best wine here and what makes the Hunter Valley different from the rest of Australia. I wish every vintage could be like 2023, acid driven, but with excellent fruit weight”.

Len Evans remarked that Hunter Valley reds had not the colour or weight of many of the world’s greatest wines, yet they aged and held better than most. Another legend of the trade, Kermit Lynch, opined that when buying Burgundy it’s best to cellar wines that don’t possess the darkest colours or strongest tannins.

I am firmly of the belief that the best Hunter Valley reds are of the Hunter Burgundy style. They are a companion at table, the most gourmand red wine in Australia, our most historic and one of the most individual wines.


Pokolbin Vintners Pokolbin Mountain Dry Red 2023

Intensely fragrant and you can smell the coolness of the site. Lavender, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberries, compost/earthy notes, mace, licorice, iodine and leather. Such an attack of freshness and tangy fruits. Medium bodied, yet all corners of the mouth are coated with tangy red fruits, chalky tannins, incredible levels of natural acidity and puckering limestone minerality. Lovely rails, the oak playing a minor but definite structural role.

The bottle was consumed over a couple of hours, revealing more succulence, savouriness and Turkish tobacco. Compact, coiled and spring loaded, a wine that never bent nor lost its precision and power. It’s utterly classic Hunter Burgundy, yet on the other hand, I’ve never tasted such a high-toned and acid-driven wine from the region. I only wish there was some large format bottlings! Brendan thinks this will be similar to the Tyrrell’s Sacred Site reds, hitting a sweet spot in 5 years or so, but I think we will have to wait longer, 10 years or so. I haven’t added to our cellar for a while, but I’ll be adding this. Waters Wine Co








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