This small group Hunter Valley wine tasting tour from Sydney offers a relaxed day out visiting wineries and gourmet food producers dotted around the valley. Enjoy an included gourmet lunch with a glass of wine or beer, and try cheeses, chocolate, fudge and vodka! Duration: 12 hours
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I’ve done quite a few wine tours in my day and it’s taken me a while to get comfortable with the ‘wine talk’.
You know, ‘the nose’; ‘the palate’; ‘the peachy notes’; ‘the blackberry and hickory nut undertones’. Recently I had a winemaker tell me to chew the wine. Literally. Like, really chew it to release the deepest ‘tonal essences’.
To most of us, wine tastes, well, like wine, and a wine tour that’s heavy on the theory and light on the fun can be an issue. Zepher Tours to the rescue with their Hunter Valley wine, chocolate and cheese tasting tour from Sydney. These guys are all about finding a balance between the wine talk and just having a really great day out in this stunning region — located roughly two and a half hours’ drive north of Sydney.
Zepher Tours operates small group wine tours to the Hunter Valley five times a week. The Hunter has long been celebrated as one of Australia’s premier winemaking regions, which is a bit of an anomaly in that it’s a fairly warm spot. Technically sub-tropical, but saved by the cooling sea breezes that come in off the Pacific. There are around 150 wineries in the region, which is best known for the semillon grape. Shiraz, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon grapes are also widely grown.
I board the bus in Sydney’s King Cross to some very laid-back tunes on the iPod and our equally laid-back guide named Flinders behind the wheel. Once pick-ups are completed, we head across the Sydney Harbour Bridge and on our merry way.
Not far into the trip Flinders announces that it’s time to make sure the vibes are right for the day, and to do that he’ll perform a rap. It goes something like:
‘Going to the Hunter Valley…
We‘re all gonna be mighty happy’.
There was more but that’s all I had time to write down. Anyway, the bus erupts with cheers and the vibes do indeed appear to be on course. Further on, Flinders performs a guided meditation for the bus. All in all it’s not your typical wine tour commentary and the journey flies by.
As we reach the magnificent Hunter, with its rolling greens hills and picturesque vineyards, Finders provides some historical context. Colonial Sydney had a drinking problem, and a wine industry was seen as a possible antidote. OK. The belief of the day was that if you replaced rum with wine you’d have less of a drinking problem.
Perhaps it was more farsighted than you’d think, given the spectacular failure of prohibition in the USA half a century later. So the foundation was laid for a thriving industry in Hunter Valley wine tasting tours from Sydney, and today some 2.5 million visitors make the trip each year.
Our first stop is Allandale Winery, established in 1978. Allandale exports to several world markets and semillon is the name of the main game. The result is a crisp, dry white that ages well to around ten years. We get to try several wines at the cellar door and our affable host does indeed go easy on the jargon and excessive descriptors — although I’d say he would be extremely knowledgeable should the need arise.
Next we pay a visit to the aptly named Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop for an included tasting of five delicious cheeses, before heading on to our lunch stop at nearby Hope Estate. The first order of business however is a wine tasting on the deck overlooking rolling hills and emerald-coloured meadows. The 2013 Hunter Valley Chardonnay aged on French oak is superb.
There’s still plenty more to come on this tour, including the Hunter Distillery where we get to try a range of dangerously good organic vodkas distilled onsite, followed by the Hunter Valley Chocolate Company and its selection of mouth-watering fudges. Is there no end to the delicious delights on offer in the valley?
We wind things up at another winery — the picturesque Mount View Estate. This is one of only four vineyards in the Hunter Valley successfully growing sauvignon blanc fruit, thanks to the estate’s location on a slightly cooler mountain slope. My top pick here is the 2014 Reserve Shiraz — bursting with plums and blueberries that play on the back of the tongue. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
If you’re looking for a Hunter Valley wine tasting tour that walks the walk more than it talks the talk, you’ll love this superb day out.
Adam travelled as a guest of Zepher Tours.
Additional images: Bigstock
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.