Andrew Margan’s introduction to the Hunter Valley came in his school days: father Frank Margan was part-owner of a vineyard in De Beyers Road adjacent to the Tyrrell winery, and Andrew accompanied his parents to the Hunter on weekends. My contact in the late ’60s and early ’70s was Frank Margan’s restaurant The Cottage, where he was chef, the only source of good food in Cessnock. Andrew was befriended by Murray Tyrrell who encouraged him (Andrew) to enrol in Agricultural Science at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College (and employed him). Not only did he graduate, but completed a second degree in Environmental Science. It was there that he met fellow student Lisa, the start of a life long partnership.
For her part, Lisa undertook a teaching degree (Bachelor of Applied Science). After several years teaching while Andrew was working at Tyrrell’s, they married, and set off for France (1990-93) working in Bordeaux (and elsewhere). Lisa had long-wished to become a chef ‘in a male-dominated industry with terrible working hours,’ she says. So she had trained with the highly regarded chef Robert Molines (in the Hunter).
She continues ‘It was in Bordeaux I developed an appreciation for quality produce, technique and the unique appeal of food and wine in the context of a premium wine region, and we put together the blueprint for our future business.’ When they returned to the Hunter, Lisa went back to university and completed a Masters Degree in Science and Nutrition, focusing on organic food production. In all, Andrew had worked at Tyrrell’s for 16 years before he left to start their small wine brand in 1996. Lisa had raised their three children, two of whom now work in the business, Ollie as winemaker, Alessa as viticulturist.
Today 30 work in the business, there are 100ha of estate vineyards, and production of 25,000 dozen estate bottles are the sure indicators of a very good Hunter Valley winery, the frequently hatted restaurant written in the sky.
2023 Margan Family White Label Fordwich Hill Semillon
Like its shiraz sibling, the single 1ha vineyard had been planted in 1974. No frills winemaking and none needed. The wine has awesome flavour having spent three months on lees in stainless steel. It has exceptional depth and length, and will repay decades of cellaring.
96 points, drink to 2043, 12.5% alc, Screwcap, $40
2022 Margan Family White Label Fordwich Hill Shiraz
Planted on volcanic red soil at Fordwich. Matured for 18 months in 1yo French barriques. The bouquet screams Hunter Valley, the palate that and more thanks to its velvety red and black fruits matched with ripe, carefully managed tannins.
96 points, drink to 2042, 13.5% alc, Screwcap, $50
2023 Margan Family White Label Ceres Hill Albariño
This 4ha block of albariño was planted in 2014, said to be the first in Australia. 2023 was quite a vintage for Margan, this another special wine, with depth and a spicy frizzante subtext.
94 points, drink to 2027, 13% alc, Screwcap, $40