New South Wales golf hotspot set for breakout year following successful wine releases.

FIRST, a disclaimer: I’m a Hunter Valley resident, so what you’re about to read may or may not be tainted with parochialism. But with that out of the way, let’s cut to the chase. If you are a lover of good wine, and in the market for age worthy, classically-structured reds then the 2014 vintage from the Hunter should be very much on your buy list.

It’s fair to say the Hunter Valley is not the easiest place in the country to grow grapes. Mother Nature has a disturbing habit of throwing a tantrum in January and February, regularly dumping a majority of the region’s yearly rainfall right in the heart of vintage when grapes are being picked.

This leads to all manner of problems with grape quality, including flavour dilution and disease. In the worst years, such as 2008 and 2012, virtually no red wines were produced. With one in three growing seasons being significantly affected by weather, making wine in the Hunter is a challenge unlike any other region in Australia.

This seasonal variability does unfairly cloud its reputation. Throughout its existence, the Hunter has, for its size, produced a disproportionate number of Australia’s greatest wines. The legendary Maurice O’Shea reds of the 1940s and ‘50s, the Lindeman’s Hunter River Burgundy of the 1960s and any number of Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillons (arguably this country’s finest white wine), all fall in this category.

The longevity of benchmarks such as these shows that in the best years, the Hunter Valley excels in making cellar worthy, medium-bodied wines that offer a point of difference in an Australian context. One of those ‘best years’ is currently being released across the Hunter, and the results are spectacular.

At a recent tasting of Shiraz from leading producers, the quality of the 2014 vintage shone like a beacon. Hardly a dud was sighted, with winemakers effusive about the consistency of the season. “Warm without heat, and dry without drought,” was the summation of one.

There are too many great wines to mention here, but a few stood out. The unheralded Gundog Estate had three Shiraz at the tasting, and all were sensational. Medium bodied, with an almost European sensibility, these are thought provoking, ambitious wines that will quickly move this tiny producer a couple of notches up the regional pecking order.

Brokenwood’s Verona and Mistress Block Shiraz looked sleek and super sexy, as did Tinklers U&I, in a slightly more masculine guise.

Bimbadgen Estate has produced two Shiraz that are clearly amongst its best wines in many years. More wines will be released in coming months, with names like Mt Pleasant and Thomas eagerly anticipated.

Did I mention that there are four easily accessible, quality golf courses within a 20-kilometre radius of the central vineyard area? Or that you can tee off in the morning and still get in three or four cellar door visits before the close of business?

A round of golf, a leisurely tasting and a boot full of 2014 reds as a reward for your efforts …

A tough task, but someone has to do it.

Wine Glass