Determining the best Australian grape is a quest many wine lovers are eager to embark on. Our Inspiring Australia journey will find you savoring every sip and acquaint you with different varietals within the Hunter Valley and beyond. After talking with Nick Williams, Cellar Door Manager of Hungerford Hill winery in the Hunter Valley, we’ve learned that the beauty of Australian wine is so much more than one perfect grape.
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The Hunter Valley’s Australian grape
The Hunter Valley, just a few hours’ drive from Sydney, is the oldest wine region in Australia. For almost 200 hundred years this warm climate wine region has been producing top Shiraz and Semillon enjoyed all over the world. In particular, the Hunter Valley boasts an aged Semillon and a medium bodied, earthy Australian Shiraz. What makes the Hunter so special? Nick explains, “You’ve got multiple generations working across multiple wineries over the years, sharing their knowledge travelling around the country and the world and then bringing that knowledge, that skill and those initiatives back into a wine region.”
The future of the Hunter Valley
With such a rich history, wine enthusiasts can’t help but wonder what’s next for the Hunter. “The Hunter Valley really is a region that is caught between traditional values and constantly innovating and redeveloping itself, Nick comments. “Everyone’s ready to give something a go in the Hunter but you always have to look at where you’ve come from.” From where and how vines are planted—such as planting vines higher off the ground—to new techniques to increase yield, there’s no shortage of experimentation.
Climate change also requires adaptation. “The rise of alternative varietals and seeing different growers trying to push what they can grow…We need to look at what we can swap around, taking out some clones of Shiraz and putting in Tempranillo,” Nicks says. “Everyone’s doing something a little bit different. We currently have on tasting two different sorts of the same fruit from the same block. One is very sweet and the other is quite dry. It’s almost bone dry. They were only picked a few hours apart but it’s the natural residual sugar in them just makes them pop.” In fact, Hungerford Hill has something for everyone.
This Australian winery is in a unique position to offer a breadth of varietals while embracing the grapes that the Hunter Valley is known for. “What we do at Hungerford Hill and what a lot of other but not all wineries in the Hunter are doing now is giving you a sample of what Australian wine can be…We are very fortunate in the Hunter Valley, where we are at Hungerford, to have a lot of different varietals but also to have a fairly broad wine philosophy: We make wine for people.” This philosophy embraces the ideology that wine is meant to be drunk. “It’s not to hide away it’s not to just give us a gift. It’s to crack open to pour a glass and to share with your friends your family your loved ones.”
Most of Hungerford Hill’s wines are from the Hunter Valley, but they also bring in fruit from Tumbarumba, the snowy mountain region in the south of New South Wales, and the hilltops region in the middle of New South Wales. Bringing in grapes from wine regions differing in climate and soil offers guests the opportunity to find the best Australian grapes that they like.
Food and wine tasting
During your visit to Hungerford Hill you’ll enjoy an Epic Tasting Experience. You’ll explore how food and wine interact as you try six different wines paired with small plates from their onsite Muse Restaurant. While these specifically tailored pairings change seasonally, Nick shares a few favorites. You might try the classic pairing of the lemony notes of Semillon with seafood or Sangiovese and duck. Or, enjoy the winery’s full-bodied EPIC Shiraz paired with a sausage roll made with Wagyu Beef. With Hungerford Hill’s focus on the guests, your tasting will find you sampling some of the 40 wines that are open each day.
Try something new
Nick recognizes that wine drinkers have different tastes, and not just in varietals. “Sometimes you just need your security blanket of wine and then sometimes you might want to try and have a compromise wine with a friend.” He’s eager to give you freedom to stick with your favorite Australian grape as well as explore what Hungerford Hill has to offer on your tasting journey, from the Hunter Valley and beyond.
The perfect Australian grape
In short, what makes the perfect Australian grape? “The perfect Australian grape makes a wine that someone wants to drink.” Nick says. “It’s not something that you look at. It’s something which is fit for purpose, something which calls out to you, or calls out to the winemaker, which then transcends into the bottle.”