“Oh, I know I should be concentrating on the wines. The delicious, lemony 10-year-old semillon; the beautiful, earthy five-year-old barbera; the seven vintages of aged-release shiraz — all the bottles that grape-treader Andrew Margan has opened for the 20th birthday celebrations at his family’s eponymous winery in the Hunter Valley. But Andrew just mentioned he’s made a new vermouth and now I’m a bit distracted.
So I sneak out of the winery barrel room and persuade Andrew’s son, Ollie — who is studying winemaking and works as a bartender — to pour me a taste. Margan Jr tells me it’s Australia’s first single-estate, vintage-dated vermouth: the base wine (2015 semillon), the fortifying spirit and most of the botanicals used to enrich the vermouth with their spicy, herby complexity were grown and made on the property. It’s bloody good, too: punchy fragrant green aromas, nice citrusy hint of sweetness, good, tongue-gripping bitterness. It makes me think of making a martini, but Ollie — who is a professional mixologist, after all — suggests a drink he calls the Hunter Gatherer: equal parts vermouth, aged rum and lime juice, topped with some rosemary-infused honey. Yum.”