There’s nothing quite like a trip to the Hunter Valley to reinvigorate your adoration for Aussie wine. Our oldest winegrowing region, the first Hunter vines were planted in the mid 1820s, with the 1832 arrival of James Busby – and around 500 of his European vine cuttings – cementing the region’s future reputation for winemaking.
Semillon, shiraz and chardonnay are the Hunter’s most prized grapes, producing distinctive, world-class wines unlike anything else from Australia, but the region’s climate and soils have also proven its suitability for a number of alternative varieties, including tempranillo, barbera and vermentino.
While there are around 150 cellar doors to choose from, a weekend in the Hunter should be always be about quality over quantity. Here are four of our favourite ‘must-visit’ spots to add to (the top of) your list.
You’ll find it hard to miss Hungerford Hill (2450 Broke Rd, Pokolbin; open daily 10am-5pm) as you turn into Broke Road. A local institution, Hungerford Hill is led by 2012 GT WINE Winemaker of the Year Finalist Bryan Currie and is renowned for producing the Hunter classics shiraz and semillon, as well as exceptional cool-climate wines from Tumbarumba and Hilltops.
As good as the wines are, the Hungerford experience is also about incredible food; take part in a mini degustation as the cellar door or make a booking at the two-hatted Muse Dining for an unforgettable experience. Headed by chef Troy Rhoades-Brown, it’s regarded as the Hunter’s best restaurant. Wrap up your visit with a stroll through the sculpture courtyard or a coffee in the Espresso Bar.
Next up, head to Pepper Tree Wines (86 Halls Rd, Pokolbin; open daily 9.30am-5pm). Established in 1991 and one of the region’s stalwart wine companies, Pepper Tree’s unique offering includes wines from the Hunter Valley and Orange, as well as Wrattonbully and Coonawarra in South Australia, providing a deep and fascinating insight into the climatic differences between these regions.
Their range of wines is significant so take your time here; their Venus Block Chardonnay, Coquun Platinum Shiraz and Elderslee Road Cabernet Sauvignon are worth seeking out.
Further down Broke Road, past the Hunter Valley Gardens, Oakvale Wines (1596 Broke Rd, Pokolbin; open daily 10am-5pm) is nestled as the base of the iconic Brokenback Range.
Established by the Becker family in 1995, with second generation James Becker overseeing the winemaking, Oakvale embraces a philosophy of minimal intervention, resulting in a suite of wines showcasing the true expression of each vineyard, free from unnecessary manipulation. Oakvale’s friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to assist wine lovers of all levels explore their range of incredible and sustainably produced wines.
Lastly, head to M&J Becker Wines (2144 Broke Rd, Pokolbin; open daily 10am-5pm), the exciting collaboration between husband-and-wife team Meagan and (Oakvale winemaker) James Becker. Focusing on purposefully made wines with that same philosophy of minimal intervention, the Beckers produce wines that expressive of both season and site, with varietal typicity, great vibrancy and exceptional balance. The line-up is diverse and ever-changing, meaning no visit to M&J Becker Wines will likely ever be the same – what better way to round out your Hunter Valley trip than with taste of the region’s future?