Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New England Wine Regions - Hunter Valley

Located approximately 160 kilometers north of Sydney with a population of around 700,000, the Hunter Valley is New England's best known and Australia's oldest wine growing region.

In 183o George and Margaret Wyndham purchased "Annandale" in the Hunter Valley, renaming the property "Dalwood" and building Dalwood House as a home.

In 1828 George had planted his first grapes using 600 cuttings purchased from James Busby. Following the purchase he immediately made the first commercial planting of shiraz at "Dalwood". Then in 1831 he brought the 100,000 acre property "Bukkulla" near Inverell on the edge of the Northern Tablelands and there established another vineyard.

The first "Dalwood" vintage produced in 1831 was not a great success which due to the "extremely hot conditions promised to make good vinegar." Thereafter wine growing expanded rapidly. By 1860, Wyndham's total holdings were producing 11,000 gallons of wine.

The story of these early days can be found in The Generations of Men (Oxford University Press, 1955) by Judith Wright, one of Australia's best know writers and herself a member of New England's Wyndham/Wright pastoral dynasty. "Dalwood" itself is now the home of Wyndham Estate Wines.

The Hunter Valley offers great variety in scenery and activities.These range from the surfing beaches around Newcastle to the mountain country of the Barrington Tops to the Myall Lakes to the open rolling country of the Valley itself.

The Valley is relatively compact in geographic terms.This allows visitors to easily experience a range of scenery and activities. However, time needs to be allowed if you are to really enjoy the variety of wine tasting opportunities!

There are a number of wine growing areas within the Valley, with vineyards ranging from major commercial enterprises to small boutique operations. It's not really possible to visit them all, so you need to plan your trip.

There are many Hunter Valley web sites. One of the best from a wine and food viwepoint is http://www.winecountry.com.au/. Another general site is http://www.huntertourist.com.au/.
Many of the vineyards have their own sites as well.

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