The Hunter Valley wine region is over 185 years young, arguably the birthplace of Australian wine and certainly one of Australia’s most revered wine regions. The Hunter Valley crafts less than 2% of Australia’s wine production, yet is home to some of the industry’s oldest and most well-known wine making families and consistently produces an impressive array of varieties and styles.
Though it is Semillon that has put the Hunter Valley on the world wine stage, the diversity and sophistication of the range of wine styles and varieties is ensuring that people of all tastes can enjoy a Hunter Valley wine. By 1823 some 8 hectares of vineyards had already been planted on the northern banks of the river and what is now the Dalwood / Gresford area between Maitland and Singleton.
The early pioneers of the Hunter Valley’s long winemaking history were George Wyndham of Dalwood, William Kelman at Kirkton and James King of Irrawang. The Hunter Valley region like the rest of Australia’s wine future was assisted by the arrival of amateur viticulturist James Busby - who, returning from his second of two extensive study tours of the winegrowing regions of Europe, arrived with a collection of some 500 vine cuttings drawn from Europe and South Africa.
By 1840 the Hunter Valley region had a registered vineyard area exceeded 200 hectares. From these beginnings, the Hunter Valley flourished, with several families establishing vineyards in the area. The Tyrrell, Wilkinson and Drayton families’ history all started in the latter part of the 19th century as did the viticultural activities of Dr Henry Lindeman.
By the 1930’s the Pokolbin area had built-up a reputation for producing quality wines. The great families of the Hunter Valley, some of which have been in the area for six generations, made what the region is today. The Tullochs, Tyrrell’s and the Drayton families’ are respected pioneers of the Australian wine industry, who continue today to leave their mark on the Hunter Valley and the wider wine industry.
In the late 1930’s until the early 1960’s the Hunter Valley experienced a decline in vineyard activity due to the depression and war as well as the public's liking for fortified wines that were produced more cheaply in other regions. In the late 1960’s the market changed again and fine, dry table wines were increasing in popularity and the wine industry could once again grow.
The regions winemakers pioneered two distinctive styles of wine (the dry Semillon and oaked Chardonnay) and have retained a strong connection with them both. The Hunter Valley's most famous wine style is its distinctive dry Semillon, made in the area since the 1870’s. It was also here that Australia's first Chardonnay was made, from vines planted by the Tyrrell family in 1968.
Today, the Hunter Valley wine region is certainly one of Australia’s most well-known, with over 150 wineries producing a wide array of exceptional wines reflective of their origin, with the Hunter Valley Semillon enjoying a special place in the world wine industry.