Laithwaites Wine Club
Laithwaites Wine Club
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Hunter Valley

Lying close to the coast, north of Sydney, but in an extremely hot area, it is the cooling coastal breezes that make the production of white wines possible in this area. The Hunter is famous for its unique Semillon wines, which have the most incredible ageing potential – rich, ripe, and yet with a unique streak of acidity, which carries them through the years. The Semillon has been grown here since the 1850s. One hundred years later the Tyrrells company started to produce Chardonnay, and the Hunter is now also famous for this, as well as Shiraz. Both wines are distinctive, but bold in style – not delicate, but full bodied, ripe, with bags of character and a more traditional take on the grape varieties.

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Hunter Valley Wine Prices

Case price from: £65.99
Per item: £65.99 £57.99
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Brokenwood ILR Reserve Semillon Hunter Valley
Case price from: £22.19
Per item: £22.19
Tyrrell's Hunter valley semillon
Case price from: £16.99
Per item: £16.99
Audrey Wilkinson Chardonnay
Case price from: £37.99
Per item: £37.99 £33.99
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Brokenwood Hunter Valley Shiraz
Case price from: £21.95
Per item: £21.95
Brokenwood Hunter Valley Semillon
Case price from: £11.99
Per item: £11.99 £5.74 (with voucher)
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Hummingbird Verdelho
Case price from: £225.78
Per item: £37.63
Mount Pleasant Rosehill Shiraz
Case price from: £35.99
Per item: £39.99 £35.99
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Tyrrell's Wines Single Vineyard Stevens Hunte...
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David Andrews, DipWSET

David Andrews, DipWSET Student

Read the article by David below.

David brings great enthusiasm to the wine industry, starting with Majestic Wine in 2019 and now joining us at Winesdirect in 2023. He has completed his WSET Diploma qualification and looking forward to share his expert knowledge and tidbits of the wine world.

As an industry enthusiast and expert, David also writes a regular blog on instagram. Check it out here @oinosattheoikos

Read more articles by: David Andrews

Riding around the Hunter

Hunter Valley Wine Tour

Keen Aussie wine drinkers might know a thing or two about (*Australian outback accent*) “The Hunter”. By which I of course mean the Hunter Valley! Just over a year ago to date I was out in Sydney, and being a wine man if I do say so myself, felt it was the ideal opportunity to go and visit one of Australia’s most renowned regions. It helped it was also the closest region of any note.

A little Background

The Hunter lies just North of Sydney and is Australia’s oldest wine region. It accounts for something like only 3% of Australia’s wine production, yet picks up the most awards in proportion to its size. The climate is more or less tropical (it was certainly a hot day when I visited) with the only real respite coming at night. The top 3 grapes are Shiraz, Chardonnay and Semillon.

What are the wines like?

What it is really known for is its unique and brilliant expression of Semillon. Semillon is something you may have come across in white Bordeaux blends with Sauvignon, or indeed often in dessert wines like Sauternes. In The Hunter, it makes dry, light-bodied wines with very high acidity and low alcohol (10-12%). Younger wines have zippy citrus flavours and can be akin to a Pinot Grigio in many ways, albeit with higher acidity and more intensity. But, you can age these wines remarkably well, decades in many cases. Age brings much more complexity and further enhances the aromas. You’ll find toast, honey and hay seep into the mix. As a result, it is common practice there to keep the Semillon wines back and age them in cellar for a few years before release. Probably the best known producers would be Tyrrell’s, BrokenWood and Mount Pleasant.

Chardonnay’s range in style from oaked and unoaked, ripe to citrus led. Shiraz is often spicy and intense with red and black fruits and generally influenced with oak. One other grape of note at the moment in the region is Verdelho, which is best known for its use in Madeira. It seems to have come into its own in the Hunter making still unfortified wines with tropical flavours. More on that later. Like any wine region, they make a number of styles of wine with Rose, Sparkling, Dessert wines and anything in between. It is just harder to find these outside the region!

The Wineries

Naturally the tour jumped from winery to winery, and even a cheese making shed where we got to eat some of the freshest cheese imaginable. The goat’s cheese was only about 4 days since milk form! But, I enjoyed it both for the wine and variety we got to taste, but also the fact these were not your big names but smaller, boutique, local producers.

Saddler’s Creek Winery

The first stop was Saddler’s Creek Winery which greets you instantly with vines, kangaroos, wine barrels and a lovely outdoor tasting area. On top of a traditional method sparkling, Semillon, a Rose and two Shiraz’s, my favourites were the Verdelho and Bortytis Semillon (A.K.A dessert wine). It was a great start to classic Hunter with some more interesting wines you don’t get to see in the UK too. Not to mention that already after 7 glasses you could feel the alcohol effects in the heat!

Some kangaroos lazing under the shade of a tree amongst the vines was a uniquely nice leaving present.

Saddlers Creek Winery
Saddlers Creek Vineyard
Saddler’s Creek Vineyard 2

McLeish Estate

Driving in past yet more kangaroos amongst the vineyard set me up nicely again but I didn’t expect the very proud Scottish roots, if you couldn’t tell by the name. McLeish Estate even has a sort of statue of a bagpiper as well as Mr McLeish himself playing them as the homepage image. The tasting room had a slightly more premium feel to Saddler’s and seemed well set up for groups and long nights of enjoying their wine at the bar.

We kicked off with a great sparkling, the Culloden Duke Cuvee, which had some lovely peach, bread and brioche flavours to it. After another great zippy Semillon, we then tried the Auld Killie, an off-dry Semillon showing a lemon sorbet, green apple and grapefruit along with a little sweetness. This was probably the highlight in fact. These were then followed by a delicious creamy Chardonnay, textured Rose, floral and soft Merlot, spicy Shiraz and earthy Cabernet. Amongst these was also a Chardonnay-Semillon blend called Chelsea which had the more ripe, tropical flavours of hot climate Chardonnay underpinned by Semillon’s sharp acidity and citrus. A great wine.

It is hardly surprising the Semillon wines were again a highlight here, not just because of the Hunter’s affinity with the grape but also the winemaking: McLeish won World’s Best Semillon at the London International Wine Challenge 2016 and Australia’s White Wine of the Year in 2014.

McLeish Estate Winery
McLeish Estate Grape vine
McLeish Estate Vineyard

After McLeish we swung on to lunch at a swanky looking golf club overlooking nearby vineyards before heading to the cheese shed for lunch. An added bonus I hadn’t foreseen was the Cheese shed was right next to McGuigan and opposite Brokenwood, some of the biggest names in Australia, let alone the region.

Ernest Hill Wines

After lining the stomach somewhat with delicious cheeses we hit our final winery, Ernest Hill. It came across as the most quaint of the three. Family run and only about 24 acres in size with an idyllic tasting room, you could tell there was passion here. It was also where I learnt that they hate the kangaroos who eat a lot of the leaves, subjecting the grapes to sunburn (yes they can get burnt).

Of course, we started with a Semillon (Cyril Semillon) filled with citrus fruit and structured acidity. Next came my new found favourite grape in the Rosalie Joan Verdelho offering some pineapple, melon and passionfruit notes. The Cracklin Rose made from Shiraz was quite interesting too boasting a lot of red fruit flavour and deeper colour than the common Provence style we get. Then the more meaty Shareholders’ Shiraz had a lovely peppery note alongside red and black fruits and vanilla undertones.

But, my favourite of the trip and arguably the most suprsing was the Moondance. This is made from late-picked Gewurztraminer making a Turkish Delight of a wine. Sweet, Rose, lychee and floral make this truly delicious.

Whilst there, we were talked into buying one of the last of a few remaining bottles of the William henry 2017 Shiraz which has gone collector mad after picking up a myriad of awards. As I understand it, they were only available at the cellar door or a shop in Singapore! Not opened it yet but judging by the expert opinions I am in for a treat, if I’ve managed to keep my hands off it for the next decade or so…

Ernest Hill Winery
McGuigan Winery
Ernest Hill vineyard

So, if you couldn't tell I am now a big advocate for Hunter Valley wines and wish we would import a lot more of the styles they make and get some of the smaller wineries onto the shelves too. Please do have a look above at what you can get your hands on in the UK!

Laithwaites Wine Club