Most notable for being the first major wine region in Australia, the Hunter Valley had vines planted as early as 1789. The authorities at the time encouraged wine production, thinking that folks overindulging wine was preferable to filling up on strong spirits. Responsible Drinking back in the 1700's!
History of Hunter Valley
It was James Busby, after snapping up a chunk of the valley between Branxton and Singleton, who ushered in the region's (and in large part Australia's) presence on the world stage as a notable producer of acclaimed wines. Busby travelled throughout Europe and South Africa in 1831 collecting cuttings from over 500 vineyards, including Syrah from Hermitage in the Rhône. Many of these were planted in the Hunter, and notables like George Wyndham (Wyndham Estate) used cuttings from Busby's Kirkton vineyards. By 1876 there were approximately 1800 vines in the Hunter, and vineyards were growing north and south along the valley.
And all the hard work was paying off with acclaim on the world stage. Reds, Muscat and Sparkling were well received at the Paris Exhibition in 1855, and a Hunter Valley sparkling is on record as winning the honour of being served to Napoleon III at the close of the show. On ya!
As an old region, all the Aussie regulars are grown there, but the heat and humidity in the area have a tremendous influence of flavour. shiraz tends to be earthy and fruity, and ages very well in the cellar. The real standouts are Chardonnay and Semillon. Hunter Chardys are rich and peachy; Semillons bafflingly oaky when aged despite never touching wood. Today as many as 132 wineries operate in the region.