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18 Jul 2016

Sounds obvious for a wine maker that the passion for the red and white would be all consuming.

In Andrew Thomas’s case, he is also passionate about the red and white in the jersey of the mighty Sydney Swans. For a country New South Wales boy situated in rugby league heartland this might seem strange.

You have to go back a step and realize he is McLaren Vale born and raised. His dad, Wayne Thomas, was well known in South Australian wine circles and has a scholarship named after him. Hence the love of the all-dominant game of AFL.

The grape doesn’t fall far from the bunch, as wine folk who admired the work of his father are also impressed by the enthusiasm and finesse of Andrew’s wine making skills. Throw in a big dose of larrikinism and a ‘tell it like it is, no bullshit’ policy, and you have Andrew in a nutshell.

Roseworthy College gave him his degree in oenology. He has worked on vintages in Sonoma, Piedmont, Tuscany and Provence. These iconic wine making areas lend themselves to structure and finesse, hence the pull of Andrew towards the Hunter Valley. He worked for Tyrells for an invaluable 13 years.

Andrew had an opportunity to lease wine making facilities and enjoys relationships with some of the best fruit producers in the region. The first vintage was in 1997. He has recently opened a designated cellar door in Pokolbin. The website is 

Semillon and Shiraz rule in the Hunter. It can be a tough place to make wine with tropical rain and thunderstorms peppering some vintages. So when these winemakers create little masterpieces, the wine world should stand and applaud.

All wine regions should be idiosyncratic in their final product. The Hunter is indeed this. The Semillons are usually grassy with citrus notes, and have sharp acidic finishes. They last for decades and transform into highly sought-after wines. The reds, often described with funk and leather, sweaty etc. have been created in a fresher mid-weighted wine style.

As the palate of this writer develops, you appreciate the affection great wine writers like Len Evans and James Halliday have for the Hunter. Noone else makes anything like these expressions of Semillon and Shiraz. Andrew as opened a designated cellar door

Wines tasted

2015 Six Degrees Semillon Hunter Valley - pale lemon/lime color. Bouquet - white peach aromas with and interesting mushroom/herbal complexity, from subtle suspended yeast contact. Palate - this is an off-dry style, with 38 grams per litre of residual sugar. It will not appeal to all palates due to its sweetness, but I believe it to be a balanced wine with a lush, fruit-driven style and supporting acids. At 8 per cent alcohol, it’s a great lunch wine with a fisherman’s basket. It could serve as an aperitif with soft cheeses.

2015 Braemore Semillon Hunter Valley - pale lime colors. Bouquet - classic Hunter Semillon with grassy lemon notes. Palate - quite lush with fruit. It finishes somewhat mid-palate, with a crisp flinty, acidic structure. This wine has won many trophies and medals and will cellar for 12-plus years.

2014 Elenay Shiraz Hunter Valley - garnet in color. Lush red currant notes with vanillin oak aromas. There are smoky herbal notes that make this wine quite alluring. It is a medium-bodied red with a full anterior palate and mid-palate structure. Have with a charcuterie plate. Cellar for five to seven years.

2014 Synergy Shiraz Hunter Valley - purple garnet in color. A deeper red currant maraschino cherry nose. Hints of violets and Chinese Five Spice. A lush full wine with lovely mouth feel and structural tannins.  Any Japanese food would match. Cellar seven to 10 years.  

Published: 18 Jul 2016