Wine-tasting and visiting winery cellar doors is a lot of fun. But what if you want to dig a bit deeper and find out more about the industry in general and the wines and the winery specifically. Here are three Hunter Valley wine-tasting experiences that give you so much more than a sip.
We’ve all stood at the counter of a winery’s cellar door, coveting the little samples we’re poured, eyeing the spittoon like it’s about to snatch our wine away.
We’ve all listened to the winemaker talk us through the wines we’re tasting.
Sometimes it’s an eloquent tapestry of a tale, sometimes there’s a bit of banter. Other times—on busy days—it’s clear the cellar hand is tired of repeating themselves, and you feel bad about asking another question.
These are always valuable experiences, but they can never really go into that much detail. You’re on a time schedule as much as the staffie is who’s pouring your wines.
More and more wineries are realising we punters want more than just the regulation tasting experience.
They’re creating all kinds of ways to show customers their story in more detail.
These three wineries are great examples of how you can dig a bit deeper and learn so much more about the fascinating process of wine-making.
1 hour – $25pp up to 6 pax
Hunter Through The Ages is a vertical tasting, which means you’re tasting the same varietal from the same vineyard but from different vintages.
At a beautifully laid table amongst the barrels of the intimate Members’ Lounge, you’ll find rows of glasses set up waiting for you.
For us, the excellent Steve, who’s been with McGuigan for many years and knows the wine inside and out, takes us through the experience.
Steve leads us through the two varieties of wine the Hunter and McGuigan are known for: Semillon and Shiraz.
We’re shown how McGuigan’s award-winning Bin 9000 Semillon changes in the bottle over the years to become such a different creature to its younger self.
Moving on to the Personal Reserve Shiraz, we explore the changes in this great example of medium-bodied Hunter Shiraz over time as well.
While we relax with the wines and a cheese plate from nearby Hunter Valley Cheese Factory, Steve takes us through some of the history of the winery and the different terroir of its vineyards.
He’s also open to any questions, and it’s this transparency that we’re seeing with more and more wineries now, really letting customers in.
90mins – $80pp
The ultimate behind-the-scenes experience, Grape, Garden and Graze takes you to some of the less-visited parts of this impressively environmental winery.
First a tour of the kitchen garden, where so much of the ingredients used in Margan’s hatted restaurant come from.
Then you’re taken through to the vineyards and olive groves to see how the grapes are grown, harvested and turned into wine. You have a sneak preview tasting of yet-to-be-released vintages from the tanks and barrels of the winery’s inner workings.
Finally, you get to relax in the beautiful grounds of the Margan cellar door to enjoy a cheese and charcuterie board with a glass of your favourite wine from their menu.
And although we haven’t done this experience specifically, we were at Margan during the Hunter Valley Wine and Food Festival, where we did something similar.
90mins – $90pp up to 8pax
The Scarborough family has always done things slightly different to everyone else. Their regular tastings are so much more personal and thought-out than any others we’ve had.
But the Keepers of the Flame is really an extraordinary experience.
Not only are you guided through the family’s new ultra-premium Chardonnay range—Keepers of the Flame—in a vertical tasting, you get to explore beyond the cellar door into the vineyards.
And not only that, you’re accompanied the whole time by either Jerome—the head winemaker and second-generation Scarborough, Liz Riley—award-winning viticulturist—or the cellar door’s manager and wine expert.
Jerome and his sister the remarkable Sally Scarborough take us round both the Cottage Vineyard and Gillard’s Road Vineyard, sharing everything from soil types to how they manage pests, the rootstocks of vines and even how the winery recycles so much of its waste to fertilise the land.
It’s such a fascinating experience, and we learn more about wine in this short space of time than we thought possible.
The Hunter Valley has some extraordinary wine experiences up its sleeves, with wineries really tapping into our desire to take our wine knowledge further but also to lift the curtain and see how things work.
There’s nothing like seeing behind the scenes right?
And for industries like wine-making, it not only lets us as consumers understand more, it makes us feel even more connected to the wine we’re drinking.