09 Feb THE HUNTER VALLEY, FOR LOVERS OF WINE, GOURMET FOOD AND NATURE
Recently, we visited The Hunter Valley, a region internationally recognised for its wines. It’s only a couple of hours drive north of Sydney.
It is a very popular place for Australians and an absolute must for travellers visiting the Sydney area.
It is an extremely beautiful area filled with green landscapes, although at times, like now for instance, it can become very dry. While visiting The Hunter Valley, you are introduced to a snapshot of rural Australian life as well as learning the importance of wine in the region.
There are many companies offering tours to the Hunter Valley from Sydney, but we were especially struck by a local company, DiVine Tours. They are a small, family company, mainly running small group tours with very personalised service, and they exclusively visit the Hunter Valley area. Once on tour, the experience, professionalism, and good relationship that Roy and the guides have with the local wineries become evident.
Our tour started on the stunning Central Coast, an amazing coastal area a little over one hour north of Sydney. If you have the opportunity, we recommend spending at least a night in this area to discover its beautiful beaches and abundance of natural wonders. One of the many ways to reach the Central Coast is by train. This is a lovely trip during which you will cross the famous Hawkesbury River, just 40km from Sydney. Being surrounded by at least seven national parks makes it one of the best and largest waterways in Australia to explore by boat. This magnificent river is navigable for more than 54 nautical miles or 100 km from its entrance at Broken Bay all the way to Windsor Bridge.
From the Central Coast it took us an hour to get to the Hunter Valley, and as soon as we arrived we saw our first wild kangaroos resting in the shade of the trees. This area is also famous for the number of kangaroos that can be seen. They are wild kangaroos, totally free, and you can enjoy them in their natural habitat. Roy, the guide, was kind enough to stop and let us take pictures and admire these unusual yet graceful animals. It really is an experience to see your first kangaroo in the wild.
We continued our journey to our first official stop, the GunDog Estate winery.
Our guide Roy then taught us the basics of wine tasting, enabling us to make the most of the day ahead. Although wine tasting can appear complicated, making us think we should leave it to the experts, with a few simple tips anyone can become a wine taster!
We were then greeted by a lovely lady who introduced herself and gave us the list of wines we were going to taste. Each wine was explained to us in detail including information such as: when the grapes were collected, the duration of fermentation, the time in which each wine was in the barrel and in the bottle, the smells and tastes that we were likely to experience and what kind of food we could match with these wines to complement their unique characteristics.
The wine tasting tips we were given include:
- Choose the most appropriate glass (although on a tour this is out of your control). The type of glass can influence the perception of flavours in a very remarkable way.
- Observe the cleanliness and colour of the wine. You can use a white surface background to better appreciate the colours.
- Smell the wine to make sure there are no unpleasant odours, and also to enjoy the subtleties each wine brings to your senses.
- Swirl the wine to promote contact with oxygen and intensify the aroma.
- Finally, taste the wine in small sips. They recommend taking several sips and taking your time to enjoy the flavours in their entirety.
With these instructions to guide us we enjoyed every wine that was brought to us. It was interesting to see the difference in opinions of the group regarding each wine. Each person’s palate is different and there is no right or wrong answer.
In total we went to 5 different wineries. Each winery has its secrets and adds its distinctive touch to its wines.
One of the wineries we went to was called Vinden Estate. Our guide Roy showed us the facilities of the winery including fermentation tanks as well as the storage area. He also took the opportunity to explain how wine barrels work and the fact that each winery can choose the type of wood, the type of char inside, as well as the size of the barrel. The barrels are usually imported from France and cost around 2,500 Australian dollars.
During the tour we tasted a wide variety of wines, among them Semillon (Hunter Valley is particularly famous for this type of wine), Rosé, Shiraz, Muscat, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Merlot.
One of the things that surprised us was discovering the production of Tempranillo. It was introduced by one of the wineries a few years ago and seeing that it was quite popular, others have now incorporated it into their range.
We have mostly been discussing the wine, however the Hunter Valley also offers fantastic local cuisine, of which we were able to enjoy.
The tour includes a gourmet lunch as well as a tasting of cheeses and chocolates. Lunch exceeded our expectations. We were offered a choice of gourmet dishes at one of the local wineries in the area. They most certainly did not disappoint!
We also stopped at a chocolate shop to taste some of their products. For lovers of sweets like me, I assure you that you will not leave the store without buying something!
The last gastronomic stop was a cheese shop. We were able to taste a delicious selection of nine different cheeses and can assure you that the flavours will leave you wanting more.
After a day of tasting wines and local cuisine, we were content and ready for the relaxing trip home.
This is an amazing tour that we highly recommend, and we have included it in our selection of tours that we offer. The Hunter Valley is undoubtedly a paradise for lovers of wine and gourmet food. It is also a wonderful place to get to know the Australian culture, rural life and the natural wonders of the area.
We want to thank Roy and DiVine Tours for this unforgettable day in The Hunter Valley! Cheers!