The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest producing wine region, with vines first planted in the 1820’s. It is Australia’s most visited wine region.
The Hunter Valley lies approximately two hours drive north of Sydney and to the northwest of Newcastle.
The Hunter Valley is based on the catchment of the Hunter Valley River & includes the Upper & Lower Hunter areas.
Hunter Valley wines are light & elegant in style, making them a perfect partner to food; they are lower in alcohol than those of many other regions.
The Hunter Valley is not only Australia’s most famous Semillon region it is also Australia’s most historic family wine region. When you taste the Hunter Valley you taste the work of more than 100 husbands and wives, mums and dads (and children) who are passionate about making the best wines in the country. Tasting the Hunter Valley is all about peeling back layers of discovery – learning that Hunter Valley Semillon is a unique Australian white wine which keeps getting better with age, understanding that the region’s tough growing conditions actually produce some of Australia’s most famous Shiraz and that the region’s young winemakers are at the forefront of innovative new varieties and styles such as Tempranillo.
Australia ’s oldest wine region with vineyard’s dating back to the 1860’s, still in production, with some of the oldest vine stock in the world.
The region is currently home to about 130 wineries.
The region has a rich history of Australian wine pioneers (Maurice O’Shea, Murray Tyrrell, Audrey Wilkinson & Len Evans,) and great wine families, some six generations old & some in their infancy.
The Hunter Valley is warm, even hot, with relatively warm nights allowing the physiological process that ripens fruit, to continue.
- Soils vary from sandy alluvial flats to red clay loams & chocolate brown podsols.
The region’s aged Hunter Valley Semillons are widely considered a world benchmark style.
Hunter Valley wines are lower in alcohol than those of many other regions, making them a perfect accompaniment to food.
As well as being famous for wine, the Hunter Valley region has an outstanding reputation for quality regional produce and a vibrant calendar of events throughout the year to capture the imagination of all wine lovers.
The Hunter Valley is warm, even hot. However, temperature, within broad limits, has nothing to do with quality, but affects only style. In addition to hot days, the Hunter Valley has relatively warm nights when the physiological processes that ripen fruit can continue. The days are also quite humid, reducing moisture stress and allowing the leaves to keep their pores open longer during hot weather. This allows photosynthesis and growth to continue when, in drier air, it would not. The Lower Hunter Valley around Pokolbin is a little wetter than Broke Fordwich and the Upper Hunter Valley but is closer to the coast and benefits more from cooling sea breezes.
Very broadly, there are three main soil types in the Hunter Valley. The first is the red clay loam that appears on the hilltops and slopes. You’ll see this most clearly in the Lower Hunter Valley on the Lakes Folly and Rosehill vineyards, on the slopes around Mount Pleasant, near the Tyrrells winery and on the upper slopes either side of the Wollombi Brook near Broke. In the Upper Hunter Valley, they again lie on the higher slopes. Red soils are well-drained and provide a good medium for vines; these are where the best Shiraz is grown. On some slopes you’ll also find chocolate brown podsols which are also good for red wines. You’ll find the third major soil type on the flats along the creek beds where grey sandy loams overlie white or yellow clays. Casuarinas are a good indicator for these soils and this is where whites grow best - mostly Semillon and Chardonnay. In the Upper Hunter Valley, these soils tend to be a little deeper and grade into black loams.
Semillon: A world benchmark wine, Hunter Valley Semillon is the stellar white variety in the region. Semillon is at its delicate best when picked early to make a wine of ten to 11.5% alcohol and almost invariably has ripe flavours at low sugar concentrations. This is the style of wine that best responds to bottle age, during which it develops outstanding lemon curd and toasty complexity and becomes barely recognisable from its demure beginning. Most companies release their Semillons when only a few months old when they are crisp and lively with a light body and fresh, lemony and grassy fruit. A few keep some wines for bottle-maturation and release after five years or more when they have deepened in colour, become rounder and softer in the mouth and developed the most brilliantly complex flavours of vanilla and buttered toast.
Chardonnay: Chardonnay started its Australia-wide popularity when the late Murray Tyrrell produced the 1971 Vat 47 Pinot Chardonnay. Today, virtually every winery in the region produces a Chardonnay with three different styles produced. The first is the traditional style with a rich peachy flavour, new oak & a full body; the second is an earlier picked tighter style, lighter in body & a little higher in acidity; the third is an unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnay that has been fermented in stainless steel.
Verdelho: Verdelho ripens early in the harvest, so there’s usually little difficulty in getting very ripe flavours and a full body. Verdelho is made using the same methods as Semillon, with the exception that it’s usually picked somewhat riper. It goes into bottle early and is usually at its best in the year or two after it’s made, when it shows ripe, tropical flavours. It’s easily appreciated flavours make it a popular variety for cellar-door sales.
Shiraz: Shiraz is undoubtedly the Hunter Valley’s outstanding red grape. The typical young Hunter Valley Shiraz is a medium bodied wine showing red and dark berries, spices and plenty of soft tannin. It is quite deceptive, as the best can age for a considerable time, more than their constitution often suggests. With bottle-age, it becomes much more complex, with earthy, leathery overtones and a beautiful perfume. It also acquires a silkiness and grace, becoming a smooth, wonderfully complex and richly flavoured wine.
Other varieties: The Hunter Valley has successfully produced Cabernet Sauvignon for many years & of recent has introduced several Mediterranean varieties such as Tempranillo, Sangiovese & Pinot Gris.
Map Coordinates: 32º 50’S
Altitude: 200-400 metres
Heat degree days, October-April: 2070 (cut off at 19ºC (66.2ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 530 millimetres (21 inches)
Mean January temperature: 23.7°C
Relative humidity, October-April, 3 pm: Average 49%
Harvest: Mid January - Early March
Map Coordinates: 32º 15´ S
Altitude: 150-250 metres (492-820 feet)
Heat degree days, October-April: 2170 (cut off at 19º C (66.2 ºF) but otherwise not adjusted)
Growing season rainfall, October-April: 400 millimetres (16 inches)
Mean January temperature: 22.3-24.6ºC
Relative humidity, October-April, 3 pm: Average 43%
Harvest: Mid January – Early March
Iain Riggs, Chief Winemaker, Brokenwood, Hunter Valley, NSW
From 1970, when Brokenwood was first started, through to 1982, it was solely producing red wine. The following year however saw a bright, vibrant early drinking Semillon launched into the market place.
“Hunter Valley Semillon is unique in the world of table wine. Low alcohol, no oak, grassy/hay through to citrus and lime flavours as young wines, they have an amazing ability to bottle age. At five to 10 years they take on a green-gold hue and rich toasty characters. Our ILR Reserve is only released at five years of age,” Iain says.
"The Graveyard Vineyard was first planted in 1968, using cuttings from old vineyards in the area. The Valley soils vary from old sea beds (great for Semillon) to outcrops of red volcanic and rich clay loams that form spurs leading up to the impressive backdrop of the Brokenback Range."Hunter Valley Shiraz is characterised by its medium-bodied, savoury structure. With 26 vintages under this icon label, quality is paramount. Low yields, hands-off processing and high quality French oak are the norm. Like Semillon, the wines have a great ability to age. The wines of Maurice O'Shea, arguably the Hunter's greatest winemaker, at 50-60 years of age are sublime.
"The Brokenwood vineyard and winemaking team adheres to tradition as well as providing a quality wine instantly recognisable as 'Super Hunter'."