Monday, February 3, 2020

Exploring the Delicious World of Hunter Valley at Wine Media Conference

The 2019 Wine Media Conference was the first time this gathering of wine communicators (formerly known as the Wine Bloggers Conference) gathered in Australia.  The participant list included a number of North American/U.S. wine bloggers who were eager to learn more about the region that was hosting them - the Hunter Valley.

On day one of the conference, an educational session was led by a local historian and winery folks. They provided participants with a historical perspective as well as a comprehensive understanding of the region today. 

Dr. Julie McIntyre is the author of Hunter Wine - A History.  She told the conference attendees that Hunter Valley grapes were planted in 1828 and that it is the oldest continuously producing wine region in the country.  She revealed the character of the region when she told the group that there are continuing generations of the same families farming the land and making the wine over the course of many years. 

Australia's history in wine dates back to 1788 when British colonization brought wine grapes to the colony.  The first fleet carried wine purchased from the Canary Islands, Rio, and the Cape of Good Hope.  At the time, wine was used as medicine.  Grape vines were brought to Australia on ships from the Cape of Good Hope. 

In 1792, the first Australian wine was made and it was noted to be "strong and red." 

During their days in the region, the wine media conference participants tasted many Hunter Valley wines.  I was not alone in expecting to find boldness and strength in the Shiraz.  But the Hunter Valley style of this wine - sometimes called Syrah - was actually more elegant than we had expected.  A new trend of harvesting the grapes earlier was holding back some of the alcohol. The resulting wines had plenty of fruit but also a bit more restraint than the bold Shiraz we'd come to think of as Australian.

We liked the change and took back many bottles from the oldest continuing producing wine region in the land down under. While it may be that Australia can still produce strong red wines as heralded over 200 years ago - today they may be a little less powerful, more balanced, and fully delicious.


P.S. - A footnote about the region after the recent wildfire season.  While Hunter Valley was not among the hardest hit regions, it was affected.  Consider buying, drinking, and sharing Australian wine as a way to support the hard-working wineries as they come back from the destruction.

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