Monday 18 May 2009



david ellis

A BUSINESS-savvy retired builder and a young-gun winemaker have joined forces to put the Hunter Valley's Ballabourneen label back on the shelves.

Alex Stuart established the brand back in 1994 when he and wife Di retired out of Sydney and set up a small vineyard at Lovedale, contracting the late Alasdair Sutherland to make their whites and Andrew Thomas their reds.

They amassed a swag of trophies and medals before selling-out in 2006 and retiring for a second time; then last year a chat with Daniel Binet re-kindled Alex's enthusiasm for the industry once again, and over a hand-shake the two formed a partnership to re-start the Ballabourneen label.

"I had tremendous respect for Daniel from when he was Alasdair's assistant winemaker," Alex says. "He had enormous self-belief, solid training, a passion for Hunter wine and the like most young-guns a desire to make his own wine."

With Ballabourneen already well-known and with stocks of previous vintages still in storage, the duo had a good basis from which to start, and bought fruit from local growers for their first "new start" wines. One of their initial releases is a 2009 Semillon that's already showing all the signs of becoming a Hunter classic: it has intense lime aromas, a lean and elegant backbone and with a decade's cellaring will reward with classic Hunter honeyed complexity.

If you can't wait until 2019, pay $22 now and enjoy with pan-friend white fish.

ONE FOR LUNCH: HARDYS have released a marvellous 2008 Chardonnay Pinot Gris blend under their Chronicles label, sub-titling it "The Gamble" in deference to founder Thomas Hardy, a 20 year old who took a punt and left Devon, England for Australia in 1850, and with a mix of passion and daring created one of Australia's most celebrated wine companies. A beautiful blend of peach and creamy Chardonnay flavours and pear, green apple and minerality from the Pinot Gris, it's ideal to enjoy with any shellfish; pay $16.99.




[] RISEN like the Phoenix: out of retirement and back on the shelves.

[] LABEL's deference to Thomas Hardy's punt and passion.

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