The definition of Wine sounds simple enough:
An alcoholic drink made from fermented grape juice.
But the end product of fermenting the juice results in many and varied types of wines from reds to whites, from rosés to sparkling and even dessert wines, each type consisting sub groups based on colour, clarity, flavour note and even alcohol content.
(I found this wonderful chart that details the Different Types of Wine.)
– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –
When In Rome, what do you do?
You do as the Romans do! Or in other words, you adapt yourself to the customs of the places you visit and finding ourselves in the Hunter Valley, what else is there to do but to visit a few vineyards and sample the end result of their fermenting processes.
Our chariot arrived at 9:20 am yesterday and we were whisked away to taste our first grape juice less than half an hour later. I consoled myself by saying “Oh well, it’s 5:00 pm somewhere!” and so began the flow of Chardonnay, Sémillon, Shiraz, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gewürztraminer, Verdelho, blends and fortified wines.
We visited three boutique breweries. Kevin Sobels Wines was our first stop where we learnt the art of wine tasting and were treated to sampling twelve wines. Some of the wines were served by Jason Sobels, the winemaker, who shared many stories about the making of their particular wines.
Then it was onto Audrey Wilkinson and another eight wines to sample and finally Leogate Estate Wines where the sampling simply continued. I must say, the Leogate Estate Wines were by far the best (in my opinion) but also the most expensive. (The one wine I really liked was only available to purchase by the dozen and the cost of 12 bottles was out of my price range.)
From there we visited the Hunter Distillery and were invited to taste varieties of vodkas, liqueurs and schnapps. I was a little worried that this was all I needed to tip me right over the edge, so I declined a few samples. Straight vodka, no matter what it’s flavoured with, is still a hard liquor – even if the samples are only small.
Finishing the day, there was a visit to a few businesses that sell the perfect wine accompaniments – the Smelly Cheese Shop, which was very packed and very smelly, and a chocolate shop that did not sell Cadbury chocolate much to Dean’s disappointment. There was also a stop at a local brewery where Dean was not the only one to consumed beer in order to cleanse the palette of wine.
We drove past familiar names – Lindeman, De Bortoli, Tyrrell and McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant, just to mention a few. I was surprised not only because I knew the names, but because I never realised they were Hunter Valley wine producers.
We arrived home at 4:15 pm, with only one bottle of white port and a small bottle of mango liqueur, and feeling only the slightest bit tipsy which isn’t all that hard for me anyway.
Dean was surprised how much he enjoyed the day but still maintains he’s a rum man who likes to drink a beer every now and then.
I’m no wine connoisseur, but must admit I found most of the wines bitter and too acidic for my taste. We were told this fact about the Hunter Valley wines. The acidity has to do with the climate and the quick ripening process which goes to support the one wine I really liked which was produced from late harvest. This is where the grapes are left on the vine longer allowing them to ripen further producing a sweeter flavour.
Personally I prefer a mellow full-bodied wine and love a good Cabernet Merlot blend or even just a straight Merlot. I can’t wait to visit the wineries of Margaret River in Western Australia, but even Margaret River isn’t as eagerly anticipated as visiting Clare Valley in South Australis, and it’s not just the name, although it is spelt correctly.
I can certainly recommend the Wine Rover tour if you find yourself in the Hunter Valley. Our day was most enjoyable and an absolute bargain at only $55 each. Our bus driver and tour guide, Brian, was a local who was very knowledgeable and shared with us many facts about the history of the vineyards and surrounding areas.
Footnote: Surprise! Surprise! This was my first Australian winery tour.
The only other tour I’ve been on was to Concha y Toro in Chile when visiting Santiago on a business trip. It was so good, and the wine so wonderful, I did the tour again when I found myself back there a few years later.
I remember well the Don Melchor, the Carmenere and the Trio Merlot – three outstanding wines and the best introduction to the appreciation of a good red.