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How to Hunter Valley for beginners

Wine is fine. Can’t argue with that. But if you’re, like us, not very experienced in wine tastings, how can you possible find your way in an area with over 170 different wine houses? Here’s how we found ours in Australia’s oldest wine region, the Hunter Valley.

Maybe the following might sound familiar. You want to look smart during a tasting so you swirl the glass, almost spill a bit of your wine on your fancy clothes, sniff the glass and look at your neighbors if they might have a clue what we should smell. And we get it, because it is hard. Later in this blog we’ll guide you through it.

Did you know, that as you age, your tasting pallet on your tongue changes too? So what you liked before, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will enjoy it the same way throughout the years. We enjoyed white wine before and since a year or so we started to appreciate our reds more and more.
The Hunter Valley is known, and rewarded, for its Semillon and Shiraz wines. What you need to know about this, is that the area is quite hot. In summer (around January – February) it gets up to 45 degrees. This makes that the grapes are being picked much earlier than in other regions in Australia. This makes that the percentage of acid and sugar in the grapes is on point much earlier. The same grape planted in a different region, would therefor taste a bit different.

Hunter Valley wines are often medium bodied and quite young wines. In other words, they are tasteful and not that heavy yet, though you can get strong flavors. Each taste is very personal so there is no right or wrong in this. As your nose is connected to your mouth, very often you should smell the same as what you taste. During the process of wine making, no flavors are added, but grapes are related to so called fruit families. That in combination with your taste pallet on your tongue, makes what the smell of wine might remind you to.

Wine tasting: the 5 S’s
So, the first thing you want to do is have a look from the side of the glass. Can you see through it? Is it clear? Is the color dark or more light? Also, make you sure to tilt the glass a bit and look from above. Often you see through it better from that angle.

Next step is to swirl the glass. If you’re afraid of spilling it, hold the glass on the palm of your hand or on the table and swirl the glass. Heavier wines are dripping more than light wines. Also this makes the smell of the wine is spread through the glass, which leads us to the next step. Stick your nose in and sniff it. Are there any things that remind you of a taste? Does it smell heavy? Do you get anything through like black pepper (often the case with Shiraz) or more fruity?

Now you want to see if the smell really matches the taste, so now you got to take a sip from it. Let oxygen come through a bit when you inhale. Just like in the glass, it makes that the taste is being spread throughout your mouth. Where do you feel the wine the most? On the side of your tongue, or maybe at the front?

Last but not least, swallow it. We’re not judges, we’re not wine makers or the real connaisseurs, so why not enjoy it. Unless you’re driving, then always be very aware and if it isn’t a better to Uber.

Now you know what to do, we highly recommend to go on a tasting and do what is the most important. Find out what you like. What wines make you enjoy the full glass.

Planning on going to the Hunter Valley soon? Here are some tips:

  1. Half day ‘Snapshot’ tour by Two Fat Blokes. They’ll pick you up from your accomodation and drive you back. You’ll visit three local wineries and have a wine and cheese matching at the Two Fat Blokes tasting room.
  2. Behind the scenes tour at Briar Ridge. Get to know and understand the wine making process while you enjoy a glass of wine of your selection.
  3. Brokenwood recently opened the cellar doors again after undergoing a metamorphose. Enjoy quality wines in a state of the art surrounding.
  4. Starting to get hungry but want to enjoy really good food? Make a reservation at Bistro Molines, the award winning restaurant of the French chef Robert Molines. Gorgeous place overlooking a beautiful part of the valley and vines.


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