A wine-lover’s guide to the Hunter Valley
Some things are classics for a reason: Beyoncé, Friends, flat whites. The Hunter Valley is the same. Every Sydneysider and their dog visits the Hunter on the weekend, but it’s a must for all Australian wine lovers.
Just two hours’ drive away from Sydney’s CBD, it’s the oldest winemaking region in Australia. Its epic claim to wine fame is its semillon; some experts say it’s the best in the world.
Hunter semillon grapes are picked early with a low alcohol level of about 10-11%, and after being fermented at cold temps in stainless steel, they emerge as zesty, crisp youngsters, almost water-white in colour. But give them some time (like 5+ years) and the best examples are deep-golden graceful beauties, with honeyed, toasty, grilled nut characters that will knock your socks off.
We love that Hunter semillon can be enjoyed young or aged, giving hope to us all.
Other top Hunter drops to get into include shiraz, chardonnay and verdelho. Hunter Valley shiraz is medium bodied and savoury, gaining complexity as it ages. The verdelho is fresh and bold, and the classic chardonnay burns bright with ripe peach and creamy oak flavours.
Throw a grape in the Hunter and you’ll hit a winery. There’s more here than in any other wine region in the country. The problem? Choosing which cellar doors and fine feeds to pack into your visit. Give this list a whirl for starters…
There’s no town, there’s no high street. But my lordy, there’s wine. In Pokolbin, the region’s wine capital, you’ll find the highest concentration of wineries and accommodation.
Book in at Audrey Wilkinson’s cellar door for the best view around. Sip a moreish moscato at the foot of the Brokenback Mountain Range and you’ll ease in nicely to your Hunter sojourn.
Hipsters should then head straight for Usher Tinkler for adventurous blends (semillon chardonnay, shiraz merlot, anyone?) and slamming salami in the original Pokolbin church. The coolest cellar door on the block has to be Harkham Wines. The vineyards are farmed sustainably, the fruit is handpicked, and the winery work is done with no chemical additions, flavour adjustments, filtration or fining. Most wines are bottled with no added sulphites, in some cases with just a small sulphur addition.
For Hunter Valley classics, swing by De Iuliis for a limited release semillon or shiraz, then Scarborough Wines for its famed chardonnay and sit-and-sip tasting experience. Scarborough Wines gets bonus points for having massive Jenga and chess, so you can even take the kids, if that’s your thing.
If you’re a sparkling supporter, make a beeline for Peterson House. Make yourself comfortable on the deck and take your time choosing from 40 varieties of sparkling wines. Word on the street is that their fruity pink blush rosé is a firm favourite.
Lovin’ on Lovedale
Slow down a bit, and head to sleepy Lovedale. Start at Gartelmann Wines for brunch at The Deck Café. Then play the winemaker at their Blending Masterclasses next door. For something smaller, try Lucy’s Run boutique winery. At their shed-like cellar door, look out for their charmingly named Sweet Sophie Verdelho and their Woof Woof Red.
Swing by in May to catch the Lovedale Long Lunch, a festival flaunting the treasures of the region, including good food, wine and music.
Bistro Molines put Mount View on the map with its fancy French fare. Sit in the courtyard, marvel at their epic wine list and imagine you’re in Provence. Bon appétit, mes amis.
Best of the rest
1. Hop on ya bike Forget the designated driver or booze bus. There’s a 12km designated bike path along Hermitage Road so you can cycle between wineries like Keith Tulloch Wine, which houses lush contemporary restaurant Muse Kitchen, and Adam’s Leap Wines. Cheat the hills with an electric bike hired from Sutton Estate.
2. Want to live large? Get a true appreciation of the region with a scenic flight from Cessnock Airport.
3. Pair your wine with history Wollombi has to be the prettiest village in the valley. Think sandstone buildings, a classic general store and, of course, a tavern. Undercliff Winery has full-bodied reds plus a petite art gallery.
Feel like heading to another region right now? Shop it here.