The Best Wineries & Vineyards in Hunter Valley & New South Wales
New South Wales is one of Australia’s premier wine destinations – not just because of its proximity to Sydney and other well-trafficked tourism areas, but because of the quality of the wine and the gorgeous setting.
Surprisingly, NSW has 14 wine regions, which include the oldest wine region in the country, Hunter Valley, to more recently established regions, such as Orange.
If you like wine and the outdoors, and you are in the New South Wales area, then there is nothing better than visiting Australia’s famed Hunter Valley. This is one of the best places to visit on east coast of Australia.
It truly is one of the most beautiful spots in the country, as the rows of grape vines line the hills gracefully, interspersed with beautiful lakes and gorges that have gentle waterfalls tucked away inside them. Unlike central or western Australia, where the scenery is relatively consistent, the Hunter Valley has a little bit of everything.
Set your sights for Pokolbin and Cessnock if you are ready for a glass of wine; this section of the lower Hunter Valley is where many of the region’s best wineries (and most beautiful tasting rooms) are located. Because of the valleys peaks and dips, the grapes experience a variety of weather conditions, which weathers them, giving the wine a rich and complex flavour. Do not just visit the big brand names – wander a bit and try something new.
In Hunter Valley, you will not be asked to pay a tasting fee – this applies to all the neighbouring fudge shops and cheese factories too. Of course, they do appreciate if you buy something that you like.
Add these places to your itinerary:
- Ivanhoe Wines
- Harkham Wines
- Waverley Estate
- Briar Ridge Vineyard
- Scarborough Wine Co
- Pokolbin, Australia
- Scarborough Wine Co
- Keith Tulloch Wine
- Leogate Estate Wines
- Tulloch Wines
- Cockfighter's Ghost
- Wine House Hunter Valley
- Piggs Peake Winery
- Gundog Estate
- Brokenwood Wines
- Petersons Wines Broke Road
- Hungerford Hill Wines
- Tyrrell's Wines
- Mistletoe Wines
- Moorebank Vineyard
- Pepper Tree Wines
- Iron Gate Estate
Other Popular Outdoor Activities & Attractions
The great outdoors is what draws many visitors to the region; in between wine tastings, you can partake in well-marked and mapped hikes that range from an hour to a full day.
For shorter hikes and strolls, Gloucester and Dungog are small villages to start you out. If you want to spend the day outdoors, pack a picnic basket and head to the two national parks located in the valley: Barrington Tops National Park and Wollemi National Park.
Barrington has some of the best hikes, while in Wollemi you will find many Aboriginal sites, from cave paintings and rock carvings.
If you want to mingle with the locals, head for the wonderful markets in the towns of Greta and Branxton. Maybe you will stumble on a festival – they are usually celebrating something most weekends.
For a step back in time, the rustic and timeless cities of Wollombi or Kurri Kurri, the later with a fabulous museum, will keep you occupied for hours, making you wonder why you do not live in the valley.
Top Wines to Sample
These are the best wines you can try in the Hunter Valley:
Although not as well known internationally, Semillon (and the common combination of Semillon and Chardonnay) is one of Australia’s strengths. Two wine regions in particular excel at the art of making crisp and refreshing semillon wines: Hunter Valley is the most popular and largest, and Hunter Valley’s Semillon has been called “Australia’s gift to the world.”
It’s probably one of Australia’s most complex wines, given how the fruit flavours change so much with age. Not to be outdone is the Riverina wine region, which features their long standing Botrytis Semillon, which is made in the style of Sauterne. Riverina is also known for other blends of delectable dessert wines.
Most non-Australians commonly associate Australian wine with shiraz, given it is one of the country’s most popular exports. Shiraz is the same grape as a syrah, just named differently and produced in a slightly different style here in Australia. The Canberra District is over 160 years old, but in recent years has been winning many awards for its local variety of shiraz, which seems well suited to the cooler capital climate.
One of NSW’s newest and smallest wine regions, Gundagai, also is a producer of shiraz. Even smaller but more specialized is the Perricoota, which is almost exclusively producing shiraz because of its small size, a tiny region near the Victoria border. However, you’ll most likely find a Hunter Valley shiraz on your supermarket shelf, as large producers of shiraz are found there.
If you’re looking for a Cabernet Sauvignon, you don’t have to look far. I would suggest heading to one of newest wine regions in NSW, Hilltops. The first vines here were planted in the 1860s, but the region as a whole has only recently started to develop, with Cabernet being a specialty.
The cooler climate from this elevation gives the fruit a bit more of a chance to really become more bold yet elegant. Another Australian favourite is Mudgee, known perhaps more for its picturesque rolling hills and small town vibe than wine brands, but the growing conditions here are almost perfect – rich soil, warm days and cool nights.
Mudgee’s reputation is for bold wines, hence why the cabernet is so popular, but recently the varietal specialties have expanded to include grapes such as Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Barbera.
Where to Stay
There are lots of hotels and guest houses for all different budgets.
The region is also quite friendly to campervan travellers, so you will find plenty of places to stop overnight; having said that, not all campgrounds have campervan slots, so it is best to check in advance just in case. The Barrington Tops National Park sits quite central in the valley, making it one of the best spots to base your trip. A couple of recommendations in the park:
Gloucester River Campground: A wide open, natural spot perfect for camping. The facilities include picnic tables and barbeques, long drop (non-flushing) toilets, and excellent hiking trail access. Fees per person, per night, apply.
The Hunter Valley really needs to be visited if you are passionate about wine. Include it in your Sydney to Cairns itinerary and you won't regret it. Also if you are keen on a organised experience, view Australia tours, a lot of which visit this region.
These are just some of the more popular wine regions in NSW; we’ve not covered some of the other regional specialities, such as Verdelho in Hastings River, the New England Rieslings, Southern Highlands pinot noir, or the Sauvignon Blanc from Orange. You cannot go wrong when it comes to a NSW wine destination.