The Hunter Valley is named such after a river. Yes, you guessed it, the Hunter River, which was discovered in the late 1700s by European settlers. It turns out they were looking for a fugitive and instead found a gorgeous river valley which became a wine region in the early 1800s when a mere 20 acres of vines were planted along the river.
James Busby, who has been considered the father of Australian wine, purchased land and then went throughout South Africa and Europe taking hundreds of cuttings to replant. Throughout the rest of the mid 19th century into the 20th, Hunter Valley wines were grown and awarded at competitions all over the world. It’s Busby’s Shiraz that is credited with being the founding roots of the Shiraz grown today.
Australia’s oldest wine region boasts over 3,500 hectares of vineyards and 160 wineries. However, it doesn’t get to benefit from any happy climate. The weather in this region is pretty lame- heavy rains around harvesting time, warm and humid temps all year round, plus some pretty significant areas of poor soil. There are places where the wine gods line up and where that happens, beautiful wines are created.
Although winemakers here do heavily produce Shiraz, the popular grape of Australia, the real treasure here is Semillon, a light and airy white that gets sweeter and richer as they age. Semillon is compared to Riesling, mostly for the fact that both are light and citrusy when picked early but late harvesting creates a jammy, honeylike quality that is irresistible. You can also find Chardonnay and Verdelho as the other two-star varietals of this region, plus a few others scattered around.
Because the Hunter Valley has never fallen to the woes of phylloxera, it houses some of the oldest vines in the entire world, and even though the region only produces 2% of Australia’s wines, this area is on the rise. The history of the region means that the winemakers of the Hunter Valley have long-standing reigns of hundreds of years like the McWilliam and Tyrrell families.
What’s better than great wine and artisanal pizza?
The New York Times described Ridge Monte Bello as “America’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon.”