An exerpt from a recent article in Traveller. Read the entire article by Rob McFarland online here.
THE WINE PLAYGROUND ... TELL ME MORE Wine House Hunter Valley is an innovative tasting hub where you can sample more than 40 wines from 20 different wineries.
WHY WE LOVE IT Given the region's bewildering number of cellar doors, the ability to try a variety of wines under one roof can save you a lot of time and effort. Once you've figured out what you like, the centre's knowledgeable staff can recommend specific wineries to visit. We particularly like the Icon Wine Journey package, where you can use a pre-charged tasting card to self-serve premium offerings such as De Iuliis' gold medal-winning 2017 shiraz.
DON'T MISS The Cocoa Nib Chocolate and Wine Tasting experience, which pairs four delicious handmade Cocoa Nib chocolates with four premium Hunter wines.
Perhaps it's the region's proximity to Sydney (two hours on a good day) that encourages this sense of familiarity. Or maybe it's the blurry memories of boozy bus tours in our youth.
Whatever the reason, it's easy to overlook the Hunter's impressive credentials. These include the fact that not only is it Australia's oldest wine region (the first vines were planted in the early 1820s) but it also has the highest number of cellar doors (more than 150).
Despite producing less than half a per cent of the country's wine, its flagship varietals are world-renowned. British wine writer Jancis Robinson famously described Hunter semillon as "Australia's unique gift to the wine world".
Bright and citrusy when first picked, it ages graciously in the bottle, developing mellow honey and brioche characteristics. Hunter shiraz also has a trademark style, medium bodied with a fruity sweetness. And let's not forget chardonnay, the region's most ubiquitous varietal, which comes in a range of styles, from clean, crisp peachy numbers to rich, buttery and oak-infused.
While the Hunter is best known for these seminal grapes, a new breed of maverick winemakers is experimenting with lesser-known vines and innovative techniques.
One area in which the Hunter has consistently over-delivered is as a culinary destination. Restaurants such as Muse, Bistro Molines, Margan and Restaurant Botanica are worth the drive from Sydney alone. All four are enthusiastic supporters of regional produce and three were awarded 2020 Good Food Guide hats.
While food and wine are the Hunter's most championed drawcards, the region also boasts distilleries, breweries, health retreats, family attractions and activities from horse-riding and hot air ballooning to bushwalking and golf. It's a reminder not only of the destination's broad appeal, but also that it's constantly evolving.
So, if the Hunter is somewhere you feel you've "been there, done that", here is a selection of innovative offerings (and not all confined to wine), recently tried and tasted by Traveller, that may well entice you back.