Hunter Valley Facts
The Hunter Valley is located 160km north of Sydney and is home to Australia's first commerical vineyard area with vines being established in the early 1800’s and is home to Australia’s first boutique winery, Lakes Folly, established in 1963 and produced Australia’s first Chardonnay in the early 1970’s.
Throughout the 1800’s vineyards were planted in Pokolbin, Broke-Fordwich, Scone, Muswellbrook, Raymond Terrace and Morpeth. Morpeth was particularly important to many industries during this time as it was the only way goods (wine) could be transported by river then to the open ocean to coastal colonies like Sydney Cove. The Hunter River was vitally important as it provided deep water access all the way to the township of Singleton and beyond. Wyndham Estate, Dalwood winery is a prime example. Built on the Banks of the Hunter, it was one of Australia’s first commercial wineries. However with the boom, then the bust and then the great depression. Many of these vineyards were removed or left to go to ruin. The majority of today’s vineyards are now found in the lower Hunter, Upper Hunter and Broke.
The Hunter's three distinct areas are the Upper Hunter, the Lower Hunter and Broke – Fordwich, all three unique. The majority of the lower Hunter vineyards are located beneath the Broken Back Mountain that is splintering the Great Dividing Ranges to the west of Cessnock creating a unique micro climate.
The Lower Hunter has an elevation of 60-100 meters of predominately undulating country with an average annual rainfall of 700mm per year with the wettest months being January and February which also happens to be our harvest time making vintage some years quite challenging for its winemakers. An old saying amongst winemakers in the Hunter is “if you can make a decent drop here you can make wine anywhere.”
However, due to the Lower Hunter's relative closeness to the Pacific Ocean (40km), the Hunter experiences a refreshing, cool, coastal afternoon breeze that quickly it reduces the humidity. The Hunter vintage period is hot and short resulting in being the first wine region in Australia to start harvesting grapes and, as a result, produces unique wines that the world recognises, particularly the flagship varieties Semillon, Shiraz and continues to produce excellent examples of Chardonnay and emerging varieties such as Verdelho.
The soils in the Hunter Valley are quite varied and found generally to be impoverished. However, there are some pockets of very good soil throughout the undulating hills and flats which comprise of Red Clays, Clay Loams, Sandy Alluvial Loams and Volcanic Loams in those luckier spots. Generally the white grapes are planted on Sandy Alluvial Loams and red grapes on Clay Loams through to Volcanic Loams.