Last weekend, Criterion’s Production team set off on a day trip down to the Hunter Valley. We began the morning bright* and bubbly** at Central Station, taking an early morning coach hosted by a lively guide called Sean. Sean liked to point out all the “lesser celebrated highlights” of Sydney as we drove by, including China Town’s ‘Eating World,’ Goulburn Street’s Scruffy Murphy’s Pub and the newly revitalised International Convention Centre…I hope the actual tourists on the bus weren’t taking too many notes.
We claimed the back of the bus, cozied in for the morning drive, and feasted on pastries and mini muffins. I have to say, I’ve lived in many cities throughout my life but I’ll never get tired of crossing the harbour bridge at sunrise.
On the outskirts of Cessnock, we arrived at our first vineyard. Kelman Vineyard is unique in that it’s community-owned, with all of the vines winding their way along residential land up to the front doors of the locals. Very picturesque! But as a group of serious wine connoisseurs (plus two soon-to-be converts), we weren’t just here to enjoy the view. Our first tasting commenced at 9:48am. Now, I don’t know about you, but that is definitely the earliest I have EVER begun drinking in my life. Everyone loves a good splash of semillon in the morning.
Other tasting stops included Drayton’s Family Wines, McGuigans Wines, the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company, the British Lolly Shop, and Pokolbin Estate.
However, throughout the drinking and frivolity, I did manage to learn a few interesting things:
1. Scotsman, James Busby, is considered the father of Australian wine following the first major planting of vines in the Hunter Valley in 1825.
2. Port can only be called port if it comes from the Douro Valley in the north of Portugal. Most Australian ‘ports’ are referred to as ‘tawnys.’
2.a) Tawny is much more economical if you buy it by the flagon.
3.Hunter Blue is a new wine produced by Drayton’s Family Wines which is, as the name suggests, a striking blue in colour. It’s made by blending white semillon with verdelho grapes…and blue food colouring.
4. The Hunter Valley’s very own McGuigan Wines have just won International Winemaker of the Year at London’s International Wine & Spirits Competition for a record fourth time. I’d definitely recommend their 2010 Late Picked Riesling if you want to know what liquid gold tastes like.
5. My favourite wine of the day, Pokolbin Estate’s 2015 Phoenix Shiraz Tempranillo was named so after a terrible fire which gutted their cellar door in 2011. Sometimes, out of the ashes something truly beautiful arises!
*Technically it was not bright. It was 7am in winter and the sun had barely risen.
** I use the term ‘bubbly’ rather loosely here. ‘Bleary eyed’ would have probably been a better term.