Dig deeper than the tourist buses, golf courses and slicked up resorts and you come to one of Australia's oldest and most significant wine regions, located two and a half hours north of Sydney in New South Wales. Often unkindly dubbed the Disneyland of wine regions, the Hunter Valley offers a fun park of non-wine related activities amongst the most historical of wine region settings.
Early history in the region suggests that first colony vineyard pioneer James Busby sent grape cuttings to his brother-in-law, who had settled on the Hunter River, and that the early 1800's vineyard site held well. Front running wine producers of the 19th century included George Wyndham followed by the Tyrrell, Wilkinson and Drayton families, all whose names grace wine labels today. While the region embraces the pioneer grog loving spirit of the early predecessors, it has in recent decades also carved a unique niche for two of Australia's most iconic and individual wine styles – Hunter Valley Semillon and Hunter Valley Shiraz.
It is these wines that bring the region together. Hunter Valley Semillon is internationally unique. No other region anywhere in the world takes the variety as seriously as the Hunter Valley, nor do they get the same results. Bone dry, lower alcohol, skeletal and incredibly age worthy, Hunter Valley Semillon is remarkable for its complexity and uniqueness, and more the point amazing value. Suited perfectly to the devouring of seafood that occurs in Australia's coastal towns and cities, Hunter Valley Semillon is not only one of the country's prestige white wine styles but also a great food matcher.
Hunter Valley Shiraz also paves its own way. Known for its ‘leather and spice’, ‘earthiness’ and sometimes awkwardly called ‘horse-blanket’ characters, the lower alcohol red is a medium weighted friend in the cellar. We throw about the word icon here again, for top wines made from Hunter Valley Shiraz have captured the attention of fanciers, enjoyers and wine wankers alike. The serious wines produced have an incredible ability to age, and are contrary in style to the ballsy, blockbusters of South Australia.
The Hunter Valley isn't limited to Shiraz and Semillon, with noble varieties Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc also widely and successfully grown. Recent years have seen an upswing in interest with European varieties, with Sangiovese, Tempranillo and other Italian and Spanish grape varieties being planted and vinified widely in the valley.