If ever a couple of wines could demonstrate the influence of a winemaker’s hand on a parcel of grapes, it is the new Like A Version package from Hunter Valley’s Thomas Wines.
The 2019 vintage was Andrew Thomas’s 20th in command of the esteemed Braemore Vineyard.
To mark the occasion, he invited mate Joe Holyman, of Tasmania’s Stoney Rise Wine Company, to try his hand at Hunter Semillon with a small parcel of Braemore fruit.
“The brief was simple – make a completely different style of wine to mine, with the same grapes,” says Thomas, a previous guest on the Drinks Adventures podcast.
The 2019 Braemore and its “cover version” have recently been released in a gift pack enabling direct comparative analysis.
That said, you don’t exactly need to pore over the two wines to see the contrasts. In fact, they are like night and day – much like the exterior packaging. (As an aside, I love the cover version artwork by Sindy Sinn.)
The original is classic Braemore: Gorgeous, enticing aromas of lemon meringue, nectarine, coriander, white pepper and floral notes.
There’s lovely fruit sweetness on the palate, framed of course by that intense, bracing acidity Hunter Semillon is famous for. Clean. Pristine. Focused.
Then there’s the cover version, which was produced in a minimal intervention style, as Thomas explains:
The fruit was foot trodden and left overnight before pressing the next day. No SO2, no finings, no settling the juice. Spontaneous fermentation with indigenous yeasts on full solids. No temperature control. The ferment was finished bone dry in just two days. Racked only twice over the next eight months. A minuscule SO2 addition just prior to hand bottling in December 2019 without fining or filtration.
It is funky as hell on the nose. There’s some tropical character there, but it’s overlaid by a whiff of BO. And strangely, curry powder. Lots of curry powder.
The palate is no less challenging; I found it mildly acetic. Would anyone identify this wine blind as being from the Braemore Vineyard? Or as a Hunter Semillon even? I doubt it, and I certainly wouldn’t be cellaring it with confidence.
It is a cover unlike Faith No More’s remake of Easy, or for that matter, Nirvana’s riff on The Man Who Sold The World, both of which I prefer to the original versions.
But all that said, I love the idea of releasing these two wines together as an experiment and an educational exercise.
Wine still takes itself way too seriously overall, so projects such as this are a breath of fresh air.
And at a time when consumers are being bombarded with dogma about ‘natural wine’, it is genuinely exciting to be able to see a direct comparison of two wines made from the same premier vineyard.
If it is to happen again, I would only encourage the cover artist not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Let us remain able to recognise the artistry of the original so we can better understand the individual brushstrokes of your interpretation.
The 2019 Braemore / Like A Version twin pack is $70, direct from Thomas Wines.