A lot can happen in 40 years. Just think, way back in 1983, the Sony Walkman was king, the Hick from French Lick was dominating the NBA and a little-known Aussie winemaker was putting the finishing touches on a remarkable first release. Flash forward to the present day and St Hugo has become one of our greatest exports, producing vintage after vintage of incredible reds, but this year marks something special.
To celebrate four decades since the inaugural St Hugo release, the South Australian icon has unveiled a new collection that pays homage to its humble beginnings. The new 2020 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2021 Shiraz and 2022 GSM do the heavy lifting in terms of production, but the real star of this show is the 2015 Vetus Purum.
Latin for ‘ancient and pure’, the wine is St Hugo’s tribute to Coonawarra and Cabernet, with the rich fusion of varietals making for an enticing drop. According to chief winemaker Peter Munro, less than 1 per cent of grapes harvested made the cut for Vetus Purum, which he describes as the perfect blend of ‘elegance and power’.
“2023 marks 40 years since we started crafting wines, and it all started with a Coonawarra Cabernet,” Munro said. “Vetus Purum is our tribute to these beginnings and the 2015 vintage is truly exceptional. This wine comes off our best vineyard in Coonawarra, arguably one of the best in the region.”
For wine lovers, that statement may be a little hard to swallow, but Munro is backing the new release wholeheartedly. Priced at AUD$220, the 2015 Vetus Purum is a culmination of years spent harvesting the top yields for the sole purpose of celebrating the unique terroir of South Australia.
“The team and I taste the fruit, row by row, striving to unveil the optimum harvest time for each section of the vineyard, when the varietal characters are at their most intense and pure, with tannins that have ripened to perfection,” Munro explained.
“During the blending process we individually taste every barrel for absolute quality then we make a deliberate and considered decision to choose only a select few barrels, typically less than 1 per cent of our harvest, that meld together synergistically and seamlessly resulting in the pinnacle of quality that Vetus Purum represents. Then we only make Vetus Purum in the best vintages, making this not the best wine of every vintage but the best wine from the best vintages.”
Importantly, Vetus Purum isn’t the only triumph on offer. Each release in the new collection stands on its own and with the price point coming in at under AUD$55, represents outstanding value. Take the St Hugo Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, for example. The classic drop has been awarded Gold for every vintage released, with this year’s edition housing ‘varietally assertive’ tannins complemented by dark floral fruit.
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According to Munro, the sleeper in the pack is the 2021 St Hugo Barossa Valley Shiraz. An intense and full-bodied drop, this release comes off the back of one of the best years on record for the Barossa, with 2021 marking a near-perfect vintage. Similarly, the 2022 St Hugo Barossa GSM offers a bright, vibrant red complete with perfumed fruits of spice, raspberry and blueberry with complex minerality.
When you look at the quality on offer, it’s sometimes hard to fathom that St Hugo has only been around for 40 years. The refined structures of the wines, coupled with the stringent attention to detail have provided a foundation of top-tier releases that ensures this legend of wine doesn’t go the same way as the Walkman.
The new St Hugo collection, which includes the Vetus Purum Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, 2020 Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, 2021 Shiraz and 2022 GSM will be available to purchase from the St Hugo Cellar Door, at select national retailers and online.
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