Hunter Valley Views

Hunter Valley: The oldest wine-growing region in Australia

The first wine vine cuttings were brought to Australia by Captain Arthur Phillip on the first fleet in 1788, but the first vines planted in the Sydney area died because of unsuitable soil. The Hunter River was “discovered” by European settlers in the late 1700s, with the river taking its name from the Governor of New South Wales at the time, John Hunter.

The early pioneers of the Hunter Valley’s long winemaking history were George Wyndham of Dalwood, William Kelman at Kirkton and James King of Irrawang. Another key influence was an amateur viticulturalist, James Busby, who arrived in the colony of New South Wales with around 500 vine cuttings from collections and private plantings in Europe and South Africa. The first Hunter plantings occurred in the early 1820’s on the northern banks of the Hunter River and what is now the Dalwood /Gresford area between Maitland and Singleton.

The Tyrrell, Wilkinson and Drayton families’ history all started in the latter part of the 19th century as did the viticultural pursuits of Dr Henry Lindeman. The Tullochs, the Tyrrells and the Draytons are considered pioneers of the Australian wine industry and to this day continue to leave their mark on the Hunter Valley and the wider industry. Lindermans is another of the great families who have made a great contribution to what the Hunter Valley is today.

The Hunter Valley (now referred to as “Wine Country”) is Australia’s oldest wine growing region and is only a two hour drive North of Sydney, or one hour West of Newcastle. The lower valley is a major tourist destination in New South Wales, and is also home to many coal mines. The land in the upper valley is used primarily for livestock grazing, dairying and agriculture.

The climate in the Hunter Wine Region is warm and humid with a reasonably cool winter, and generations of growers and winemakers have developed some distinctive wine styles for these conditions.

The Hunter Valley still grows the grape varieties brought along by James Busby, most significantly the Semillon, which is the premium white variety grown in the region. Hunter Valley Semillon is regarded as one of the most unique and interesting wine types in the world. Shiraz is the prominent red variety grown in the Hunter. Other wines doing well in the Hunter region include Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay and Riesling. Traminer and Verdelho are grown in the Broke Fordwich area.

There are now over 150 cellar doors in the Hunter Region, including some world famous producers and many small boutique wineries. The region is also developing its name as a gourmet paradise with many Cafes and fine dining restaurants to be found throughout the valley. A number of the wineries themselves have award winning restaurants offering delicious fare and fine dining for a complete gourmet experience. Other attractions such as the the Hunter Valley Gardens and various other activities make the Hunter valley a must visit destination.

More history and details on visiting the area can be found at the Hunter Valley Wine Country Tourism website.

You can enjoy the delights of the Hunter Valley on our luxury small group day tour from Sydney.