The Hunter Valley: where it all began

The Hunter Valley: where it all began

At Hungerford Hill, we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to live and work in the Hunter Valley ‒ with breathtaking scenery, a fascinating history and a rich winemaking culture, there’s so much to experience and enjoy in our small pocket of the world. Just over two hours’ drive north of Sydney, the Hunter is Australia's oldest wine region and has earned a reputation for world-class wines, especially its exceptional semillon, chardonnay and shiraz. And as home of Australia’s first commercial vineyards, it was here that the nation’s forward-thinking winemaking culture was born.

The Hunter’s history as a wine region stretches back as far as the early 1820s, when the first vineyards were established on the northern banks of the Hunter River, in what is now the Dalwood area. The early pioneers of the Hunter winemaking were George Wyndham of Dalwood, William Kelman at Kirkton and James King of Irrawang. Another key influence was the amateur viticulturist, James Busby, who arrived in New South Wales in 1832 with 20,000 vine cuttings from collections in Europe and South Africa. Among these, were some of the semillon plantings that would eventually define one of our iconic regional styles.

By the early 1900s, the Hunter had established itself as a prominent wine region, both locally and internationally. Of particular significance was the emergence of single-varietal semillon wines, a style spearheaded by Maurice O’Shea of Mount Pleasant. These were thrilling table wines at a time when the vast majority of wine produced and consumed was fortified, and  helped spark a revolution that continues to shape Australia’s wine community. 

Today, the Hunter Valley is one of the most visited wine regions in Australia, with around 150 wineries producing a range of exceptional wines. With its iconic semillon, award-winning chardonnay and savoury, long-lived shiraz from some of the world’s oldest vines, the region continues to impress. Even as the birthplace of Australian wine, the Hunter is a region that refuses to stand still; a new generation of winemakers continue to combine innovative winemaking with our regions’ traditions. At Hungerford Hill, we’re incredibly proud to be a part of this rich viticultural heritage and it’s something we embrace in our own winemaking.

The Hunter’s great white grape

It’s impossible to explore the unique qualities of the Hunter Valley without considering one of our most celebrated wines: Hunter Semillon (Master of Wine and internationally renowned wine writer Jancis Robinson has even referred to it as “Australia’s gift to the world”.)

Originally from the south-west of France, semillon has successfully carved out its own niche here in the Hunter. The grape arrived early in Australia’s viticultural history and quickly made a home for itself in the Hunter Valley. The region’s warm, humid climate and frequent summer rains cause headaches for growers. Despite these challenging conditions, semillon has proven popular with winegrowers – its vigour, high yields and disease resistance made it easy to like.

In its native France, the grape is characterised by ripe citrus and tropical flavours and a generous mouthfeel, though in the Hunter it tends to display pithy citrus and herbaceous characters along with feather-light alcohol. And with the ability to morph over time from a zesty, crisp in its youth into a deep golden, honeyed wine with age, Hunter semillon is one of Australia’s truly unique wine styles.

For semillon to truly capture the Hunter’s distinctive sense of place, careful vineyard management and pristine winemaking is key. Whether crafting wines for immediate enjoyment or for ageing, our grapes are picked early to retain freshness, gently handled in the winery and crushed with minimal skin and seed extract; the juice is fermented at cold temperatures in stainless steel and transferred to bottle as soon as fermentation stops.

Hunter Highlights Semillon 6-pack

Explore these different sides of Hunter Valley semillon with our Hunter Highlights Semillon 6-pack. A mix of semillons from our current release and exclusive back vintages, classic range and single vineyard expressions, this case highlights the character and evolution of Hunter semillon. This varietal pack is the perfect way to see semillon in all its guises and includes 3 bottles of the 2021 Classic Semillon, 2 bottles of the 2017 vintage and a very special bottle of 2013 Blackberry Vineyard Semillon. 

Check out the special mixed pack here.