As the saying goes, nothing worth having comes easily – and the exquisite, hard-won wines of the Hunter Valley are no exception. With a sometimes challenging grape-growing climate, this region is a rewarding place for vignerons up to the task. Six local winemakers tell us why they love the region and which of their wines they are most excited about now.
The word bimbadgen stems from the local indigenous language, meaning “place of good view” – take a trip to this Hunter Valley winery, and it’s easy to understand the inspiration behind the name. The cellar door’s open-plan winemaking facility and exceptional outlook make for a stunning backdrop to enjoy world-class food and wine experiences. “The Hunter Valley is the birthplace of Australian wine and one of the country’s most visited wine and tourism areas,” says winemaker Richard Done. “The region is steeped in viticultural history, with some of the first families to establish vineyards in Australia still producing outstanding Hunter Valley wines today.”
The Bimbadgen cellar door
- These historic familial roots are interspersed with young, innovative winemakers like Richard, bringing a fresh outlook to Hunter classics. “There have been some exciting bottlings recently,” he says. “Our T Tempranillo Rosé and 2020 whites – including our Single Vineyard McDonalds Road Semillon and Single Vineyard Palmers Lane Semillon – are the next to hit the bottling line. It is always a pleasure to see these wines come to life in the bottle.”
Local tip: “When you first start discovering a region’s wines, it is best to begin with the champion varieties to gain real insight into not only the wines but also the climate and characteristics of where they are grown.”
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Guests enjoy a tasting at Thomas Wines
“The Hunter Valley is unique not only to Australia but also internationally. It’s Australia’s oldest wine region and with ancient soils and amazing old vineyards is an exciting place to be a vigneron” Andrew explains. “I love the elegant, mid-weight shiraz our region produces and the piercing mineral purity of young Semillon, which you can drink by the bucket load. I’m excited to be releasing our 2018 Shiraz range – 2018 was a superb vintage and produced pure and vibrant wines capable of long ageing in bottle.”
Local tip: “There’s plenty to do in the Hunter when you’re not drinking amazing local wines – ballooning, helicopter tours, cycle paths, the Hunter Zoo, golf, day spas and cute historic villages like Morpeth and Wollombi, and that’s just to name a few”.
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Mount Eyre Vineyards
Mount Eyre Vineyards is a family-owned and operated business, focused on making small parcels of wines that reflect the Hunter Valley terroir. Vigneron Aniello Iannuzzi describes their team as quiet achievers. “Neil Grosser, our viticulturist, has managed vineyards in the Hunter Valley for over 50 years and is certainly a Hunter legend in his own right. We have named our premium whites in his honour,” he says. “Our winemakers, Michael McManus, Andrew Spinaze and Mark Richardson, are all au fait with the classic Hunter styles, but very willing to work with us on newer styles, too.”
The Mount Eyre Three Ponds vineyard
These newer styles are something that excites the Mount Eyre team, which has been responsible for pioneering the Italian varieties fiano and nero d’Avola in the region. “Both grow well in our warm, sunny climate and have proven to be popular with our winemakers,” Aniello says. “We are also very pleased with our three sparkling wines in white, rosé and red.”
James Halliday founded Brokenwood alongside Tony Albert and John Beeston, all Sydney-based solicitors at the time, and paid a then-record price of $970 per acre for a 10-acre block in the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges. The block was originally destined to be a cricket ground, but it was instead planted with cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. When the land was purchased, piles of wood were cleared for the planting of the vines, which is the reason for the name Brokenwood.
Make time for: “When visiting, try the latest releases as well as museum wines to compare them in youth and with cellaring. Many producers have now ventured into alternative varieties, so keep an open mind and discover all the wonderful products on offer.”
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Guests enjoy the outdoor area at the Brokenwood cellar door
- This year marks the 50th anniversary of Brokenwood and the release of the highly anticipated 2018 Graveyard Shiraz. Senior winemaker Stuart Hordern describes 2018 as the finest Hunter Valley shiraz vintage since the acclaimed 2014 harvest. “Our Graveyard Vineyard is acknowledged as the jewel in the crown of the Hunter Valley,” Stuart says. “We believe in selecting vineyard sites that show the truest representation of the variety and where it is grown, allowing us to ensure that our wines are of the utmost quality year after year.”
Good to know: “Brokenwood is based in the Hunter Valley, but it makes wine from premium regions across the country, so a visit to its cellar door can take you on a journey throughout Australia.”
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A tasting outdoors at Briar Ridge Vineyard
Alex champions the label’s diverse range of boutique wines. “In recent times we have expanded our Mount View vineyard plantings beyond that of Hunter classics semillon and shiraz to include varieties of Mediterranean origins such as fiano, albarino and tempranillo”. Diversifying their vineyards which were first established in 1972 has been a deliberate decision for Briar Ridge Vineyard, and shows their commitment to understanding the Mount View climate and terroir on which their vineyards are planted. Setting your map to Briar Ridge Vineyard, Mount View is a must on your next visit to the Hunter Valley.
Mistletoe was established in 1989 and has three generations of family currently involved in the day-to-day operation of the vineyard and winery. Mistletoe has been rated as a five-star winery since 2007, and its winemaking philosophy is captured in the motto “quality without compromise” – an edict that is applied rigorously from the vineyard through to the bottle. Winemaker Scott Stephens has over 25 years of winemaking experience in the Hunter Valley.
Make the trip: “A visit to the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine-growing region and home to many a talented winemaker, chef, farmer and artist, gives you a taste of what the good life is all about.”
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The sprawling grounds and sculpture garden at the Mistletoe cellar door
- “Recently, the region has seen the departure of most of the larger Australian wine industry players and is now an area where small, artisanal, family-owned wineries dominate,” Scott says. “These smaller producers are extremely passionate about the Hunter and making the best wines possible.” Just a two-hour drive from Sydney’s CBD, the Hunter Valley often acts as a pressure relief valve for the city’s large population. But according to Scott, despite the proximity, the Hunter still retains its quintessential country character.
Local tip: “When visiting the Hunter, seek out the producers who own their vineyards and wineries. Check out the stalwarts of semillon, shiraz and chardonnay, by all means, but be sure to try some of the emerging Italian varietal wines as well.”
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Discover the Hunter Valley in our essential guide.
*This article was produced by Halliday Wine Companion in partnership with the featured wineries.
Top image credit: Wine Australia