Hunter Valley - New South Wales

Situated two hours drive north of Sydney, the Hunter Valley is Australia’s most visited wine region.

In 1830 the father of Australian viticulture, James Bushby, first planted vines and, since then, the valley has been expanding to become one of Australia’s primary wine producing regions. The area fell into depression for many years, but gradually made a comeback in the early 1960s. Today the region is booming.

Set under the Great Dividing Range, it is separated from the cooling influences of the sea breezes by the Watagan Mountains. This landscape means that the Hunter Valley often experiences a range of climate conditions from very dry summers to very wet winters. The Hunter is one of Australia's most well known, and historically important wine regions. Distinctive styles of Semillon, Chardonnay and Shiraz are the hallmark of this region The region is unofficially divided into the Lower Hunter and Upper Hunter Valley with one official sub-region Broke Fordwich. The greatest concentration of vineyards is in the Lower Hunter between Cessnock and Branxton.

The two main topographical features are the alluvial flats of the valleys and the gently undulating hills. The region is fed by the Goulburn, Hunter, Paterson and Williams rivers. The region has a hot, humid summer and cool winter.

Some critics believe that this climate would be unsuitable for producing quality vines, however, wineries such as Tyrrells, Rothbury, Brokenwood and McWilliams, to name a few, continually prove them wrong. The Hunter is also home to many small vineyards and boutique wineries.

The Hunter Valley's fertile river flats and its close proximity to the first colony at Sydney Cove led to its development as an agricultural region in the early 1800s.

The Hunter Valley is famous for its Semillon. Leo Buring a wine merchant in Sydney first sold Hunter Semillon under the popular Rhinegold label in the 1960s. Shiraz is the Hunter's premium red variety. Other varieties grown include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, which have all produced great Hunter wines.

There is a large concentration of wineries in Polkolbin which is also a major tourist destination.

Festivals such as Hunter Valley Harvest Festival, Budfest and Jazz in the Vines have fuelled enormous interest in the region that serves the very large population between Sydney to Newcastle. The recently opened Vintage Hunter, Wine and Visitors' Centre is also serving the industry as well as tourism by profiling the regions facilities and providing accommodation booking services.

Harvest time is late March to late April.