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Published: February 2nd 2011
The Hunter Valley, in New South Wales (NSW), is an internationally recognised wine producing region. The hot days and cool nights enable the perfect growing conditions, whilst the inviting cellar doors provide a platform for its consumption. With over fifty wineries offering free tastings, the car practically drove itself there.
The police have done little to endear themselves to me since being in Australia but I have to commend those of the NSW branch. Sat waiting on the edge of this wine tasting utopia they decided to breathalise those on the way in to the region and not out. Genius! Not that we were over the limit when leaving the next day, but it was nicer to be be breathalised before the tastings than the morning after.
A breakfast plate filled with everything from sausages to lamb to bacon lined our stomachs as we sat in the opulent shade of the surrounding eucalypts. We pondered a scoring system for each winery before quickly scrapping that idea and going for a pre check-in tasting. The day was young but the cellar doors were already beckoning.
With a hue that only a morning wine tasting could give you, we checked
in to The Hunter Valley Resort. The idyllic setting in the heart of the Hunter meant that not only could we sleep amongst the vines we were also within walking distance of five other wineries.
Map in hand we hit the wine trail, strolling gleefully between cellar doors, admiring the deeply undulating waves of verdant green grapes that line this lush area. Our feet doing the driving, we had not a care in the world and were thus sniffing, swirling, sipping and definitely not spitting.
The calibre of wines was matched by the ease with which we were hosted. Each winery took pride in explaining what was special about their wines, letting us try and answering any questions. It became quite a social event except when you were served your drink you didn't have to pay for it, or the next one, or the next one. Aside, however, from the freewheeling spirit, this was an education for the taste buds. The famed Hunter Valley Shiraz was beginning to dance in my mouth and soon we became compelled to buy a few bottles.
It was a dreamy day with the sun shining and temperatures in the mid thirties,
as we ambled towards our last tasting of the afternoon. At the counter we were greeted by the long white bearded owner, and self proclaimed Santa, of Iron Bark winery. His elfs were frantically packing boxes behind him, as he foretold the virtues of his, regions best Shiraz, and sumptuous Semillon. I preferred the Shiraz, Rob the Carbernet Merlot and Han liked all three, so we went for a Shiraz Carbernet Merlot blend that suited all of our tastes.
Our wine tasting audience with Santa lasted nearly an hour as we tried his full array of whites, reds and sweet wines. He taught us a lot about grapes, wine making and the Hunter Valley region. But, it being the last winery of the day, there is not a lot I can remember. What I do know is that despite not feeling like Christmas, we all felt quite merry.
We refreshed back at the hotel with a swim, before ending the day with dinner and a bottle of what the Hunter Valley does best. As if we hadn't had enough, the next morning we shook off our haze with a guided tour of the resorts vineyards and wine making
facilities. Where better to be than amongst a valley of sunshine and vines in December.
Christmas certainly seems to be different in Australia. The sun shines, people go to the beach and Santa works in a winery.
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