Aussies are a discerning bunch when it comes to wine, and this pretty valley, north of Sydney, is the place to navigate its viniculture map. The setting is unspoilt and rural. The vibe is serious decadence and all things delicious — chocolate, cheese, olives, and especially, wine. There are plenty of wineries to discover, pouring refreshingly citrus whites and distinctive reds to guests looking for top-notch wines in stunning surroundings.
Backed by vine-striped landscapes with shady terraces under canopies of peppercorn trees, many of this verdant valley’s restaurants or wineries could have easily become lazy and rested on their good-looking laurels. Not so here in the Hunter Valley. There are more than 150 vineyards across the region — most of which are amazingly idyllic and offer the full package: superb views, great food and excellent service, not to mention the wine.
After a two-and-a-half-hour journey from Sydney, you’ll arrive in Pokolbin, a village in the centre of the valley. Spend a morning wandering around a local market — from Handmade in the Hunter Markets you can pick up anything from fluffy marshmallows and billowing meringues, to quirky pieces of furniture, all crafted by local artisans. Next stop is lunch at one of the wineries: your options are seemingly endless, whether you plump for French-inspired cuisine tasting menus or refined Australian country fare that combines high-end grill dishes with creative cooking. When you’re not ogling the food, you’ll be gazing out at peaceful vineyard views. Undo your belt a few notches for an afternoon of more tastings before dinner in one of the wineries that hums until late with exquisite plates, washed down with excellent wines.
Your final morning should only be spent one way: taking a sunrise hot air balloon ride above the vines, the morning mist and mobs of kangaroos.
Meet the person behind the icon: Bruce Tyrrell from Tyrrells Wine
The Hunter Valley is the oldest continuous grape growing region in Australia, home to 11 separate vineyard blocks on their own roots. It presents a great combination of wine, food and leisure activities, with a range of wineries from large to tiny; the area is very closely knit; and we look after each other. The most unexpected thing about the Hunter Valley is the closeness to native flora and fauna, and wine styles that are based on fruit and acid rather than alcohol and tannin.
If you want to go away from the tourist trail, head to the top of the Bimbadeen lookout to get the full aspect of the area — many visitors miss out on this. But everywhere you go, you find a new and different view that you have never seen before.
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Among the waterfalls, the cool temperate rainforest, the rolling hills and the lush hinterland of this region, you’ll find a clutch of top wineries with clever cooking to boot, and a languid afternoon on one of its sun-drenched terraces is a seriously decadent day out for any foodie fan.
Mudgee, in the Cudgegong Valley, is for those that take their trips with some added refinement. Wineries here are outstanding and there are over 35 cellar doors to slip into, crafting some superb chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, all paired harmoniously with seasonal sharing plates in vineyards that couldn’t be prettier.
You can’t go wrong with a trip to this region, northwest of Sydney, with its cool climate and rich volcanic soils, nurturing some excellent grapes across 80 vineyards. Plus award-winning restaurants with old-school charm take care of some pretty spectacular menus. Time your trip for Orange F.O.O.D Week, held every April, showcasing the best of the area’s artisanal food and wine.
How to do it
Fly to Sydney with Singapore Airlines from £765pp return. Singapore Airlines offers four daily flights from London Heathrow and five flights a week from Manchester with seamless connections via Singapore. singaporeair.com