We have spent the last few days exploring the Hunter Valley area which is Australia’s oldest wine region. Mike had done his research beforehand and lined up five boutique wineries we could easily peddle to from our Caravan Park in Nulkaba. Boutique wineries are basically small production wineries that don’t make enough to sell commercially through retail outlets. Some can be sourced in restaurants but most is sold through Members Clubs and the Cellar Door. Petersons had a beautiful Member’s Room and I’d happily sign up for membership if I lived out here as their wines were definitely the best in this area!
When John the Pom, as he likes to be known, at Petersons asked me what wine I liked to drink I said, “not Chardonnay”. “You’re an ABC”, he said. None the wiser, I asked him what that was. John the Pom replied, “Anything But Chardonnay”. John has the most plummy accent ever despite living in Australia for the past 38 years. He was adopted as a child in Somerset and had a successful career as a food critic before joining Petersons. His large frame supports his many tales of degustation and he is a great fan of Heston Blumenthal. He was an entertaining story teller and told us about his close friend in the tasting industry called Clittie. We thought he was having us on but no, it is her real name. She’s become quite attached to it and has named her business Clittie Tasting (no pun or porn intended).
Being winter the terrain is quite brown but it was still possible to spot lots of kangaroos in the vineyeards. The roos do sometimes attack the fruit but bats and very high temperatures are more of a problem. The area is best known for its Semillon and Shiraz both of which do well being cellared for 5 to 10 years. The small boutique wineries we visited explained they do not have the luxury of holding on to their stock because the Australian government charges them a Wet Tax year on year.
About eleven years ago we did a Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Sydney. Back then we particularly enjoyed our visit to Ernest Hill where the wines were given some interesting names according to where the ashes of various dead relatives had been scattered. We went back again this time to taste some more of their full bodied wines. There have been no recent family bereavements but their Cab. Sav. really was to die for! We did tastings at Iron Gate Estate, Ivanhoe Wines and Hanging Tree Wines and have replenished our depleted wine stock with ten beauties: six reds, three whites and one rose. Friends and family we’re about to visit are in for a rare treat as we can’t bring them home.
Uncle Ken, as he likes to be known, at Hanging Tree Wines was determined to knock me off my ABC pedestal. We had already learnt the 123 theory which states you should never judge a wine until you’ve had three sips. On this basis Uncle Ken produced a bottle of their Chardonnay and provided strict instructions on how I was to drink it. The first sip was just as it came from the bottle, the next sip was to be taken after I had allowed my glass to sit in front of the fire for a few minutes and the third sip was to be taken following a nibble of smoked cheddar. The end result was amazing – I actually found their Chardonnay to be a really drinkable wine!
So now after Yarra, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare, Margaret River and Hunter Valley Wine tastings Sheila, as I like to be known, is officially an MMEA – a Much More Educated Alcohfrolic!!! Cheers.