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Introducing Hunter Valley

A filigree of narrow country lanes crisscrosses this verdant valley, but a pleasant country drive isn’t the main motivator for visitors – sheer decadence is. The Hunter is one big gorge fest: fine wine, boutique beer, chocolate, cheese, olives, you name it. Bacchus would surely approve.

Going on the philosophy that good food and wine will inevitably up the odds for nookie, the region is a popular weekender for Sydney couples. Every Friday they descend, like a plague of Ralph Lauren–polo-shirt-wearing locusts. Prices leap up accordingly.

The oldest wine region in Australia, the Hunter is known for its Semillon and Shiraz. Vines were first planted in the 1820s and by the 1860s there were 20 sq km under cultivation. However, the wineries gradually declined, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that winemaking again became an important industry. If it’s no longer the crowning jewel of the Australian wine industry, it still turns in some excellent vintages.

The Hunter has an important ace up its sleeve: these wineries are refreshingly attitude-free and welcoming of viticulturists and novices alike. Staff will rarely give you the evil eye if you leadenly twirl your glass once too often, or don’t conspicuously savour the bouquet. Even those with only a casual interest in wine should be sure to tour around – it’s a lovely area, and a great direction to turn to if the weather drives you from the beaches.