Just 190 years ago the Hunter Valley was little more than wild country at the end of a winding bush track heading north from Sydney Town. Its low slung hills and flat plains looked like attractive farmland to young Englishman George Wyndham and so he set up his property in the Upper Hunter, including a small vineyard.
Today that small start has grown into one of Australia’s greatest wine regions and a wonderland for the weekend traveller. No wonder that it is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.
While the Hunter now offers fantastic dining experiences, bushwalking, golf and day spas it is the high quality wines that bring most people to this tranquil valley. Two grape varieties in particular stand out for the exceptional quality and ageworthiness of their wines – shiraz and semillon.
The Hunter Valley shiraz is much more earthy and savoury than the big Barossa style, a little lighter in weight and always food friendly, especially when crafted from the region’s extensive old vine vineyards. Semillon is also a leading light, providing bright and juicy dry whites that drink well young but can also improve in bottle for two decades or more. While sometimes forgotten, Hunter Valley chardonnay can be brilliant with robust peachy fruit, which is usually accompanied by toasty oak from French oak maturation.
The Hunter Valley wine traveller’s itinerary is often dominated by the big name cellar doors. Mount Pleasant, Brokenwood and McGuigan are household names and offer a great tasting experience. But alongside these wineries are other, often lesser known producers, that also offer an opportunity to taste some of the Hunter Valley’s finest wines, if off the well-beaten track. Thomas Wines, Meerea Park and Lake’s Folly are three of the Hunter’s must-see wineries, when they are open.
Perhaps the Hunter’s finest jewel though, and one of its oldest, is Tyrrell’s, founded in 1858 and currently overseen by fourth generation winemaker, Bruce Tyrrell. Bruce is a great character and ambassador for the Hunter Valley, but puts his finest step forward in the quality of his wines. Always balanced with great regional character the Tyrrells name is always a sign of quality Hunter Valley wines.
What is your favourite Hunter Valley wine?