May 12 2011
The Hunter Valley is the center of the New South Wales wine country. In the heart of the Hunter, the village of Pokolbin is the epicenter of activity in the Hunter. When you visit Pokolbin today, you could be forgiven for believing that viticulture has always been the lifeblood of the region, but that’s not quite the case.
Different sources give two different families credit for establishing the valley’s first vineyard. Many say the Drayton family planted the first vines in Pokolbin in 1830. Others give credit to the Wilkinson family two years earlier, in 1828. Whether it was the Drayton’s or the Wilkinson’s, one thing’s for sure: vines have been growing in the region well over a century and a half.
Today, there are dozens of wineries in the region. Large establishments like Tyrrell and Lindeman have a very visible presence in the area, while some of the smaller boutique wineries have to be discovered. Finding these is one of the joys of touring the Pokolbin region.
The Hunter Valley is best known for its traditional Semillon and Shiraz wines, but today many other varieties can be found as well, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and even some Pinot Noir. Mountain ranges on three sides of the Hunter Valley help protect it from the harshest weather conditions, while the Tasman sea breezes help keep the summer heat down. However, extreme summer heat and winter frosts offer challenges to vintners.
Pokolbin and the Hunter Valley were not always as sophisticated as they are today. Although the first vines were planted as early as 1828, the region did not become known for its wine until the 1960s. Before then, life was hard for the locals. Before then, mining was the principal industry in the Hunter, but when they were closed in the sixties, the region started looking for other means of income.
The sixties, too, was when Australians first started to appreciate the quality of their own home produced wines. The Hunter Valley, being so close to Sydney, became a magnet for Sydney wine lovers and the tourist industry in and around Pokolbin began to boom. Over the years, amenities and attractions for visitors were developed, including golf clubs, resorts, art galleries, restaurants and other attractions. Wine is still what attracts the majority of visitors, but the Hunter is becoming increasingly popular for other reasons as well.
Nestled in the foothills of the Brokenback Ranges near Pokolbin is a popular tourist destination known as the Hunter Valley Garden. This large, beautifully landscaped “garden” of over 25 hectares is actually divided into twelve separate feature gardens. Designed to be a family attraction, the Hunter Valley Garden hosts regular holiday events such as their annual Easter Egg Hunt. On the third Sunday of each month, they host a local market that attracts artists and artisans from all over the region.
There are so many Pokolbin accommodations to choose from, you may to do some looking around before you decide on the one that’s best for you. Whatever your budget or preferences are, you will find something that’s perfect for you. You can do a day trip from Sydney to Pokolbin, but do yourself a favor and stay for at least two days and a night.
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