A few weeks ago when my elder brother called me from Australia, he sounded unusually thrilled. He was on his debut trip to the continent country and had planned a day’s visit to the Hunter Valley with a set of friends.
A seasoned traveller, my brother is the kinds who prefer quality travel over visiting thousand odd places in a few days – an attitude that exhibited in his choice of wineries as well. Avoiding the big names, their trail started with Scarborough.
As the first stop, the winery greeted the bunch of wine-curious tourists with a friendly smile and a sit down tasting of 6 wines from their repertoire, accompanied by a platter of mouth-watering cheeses. The scene was a typical textbook illustration of gleaming stemware with people exchanging nuances of their glass’s contents, and a twinkle in their eyes suggestive of the frolic associated with wines.
For their next halt, the group drove towards Peterson House, the winery renowned for its array of sparkling wines across different styles. A first time for many in the group, the sparkling red wine left many in awe.
Camaraderie is a virtue hard to come by in competitive businesses. As wineries fight for shelf space in retail and attract you with their points and awards in big font sizes, there are some who also suggest you to try others’ wines too. The young lady at Peterson House was one such person. When asked for recommendations on other wineries to visit, she happily obliged by suggesting Pepper Tree wines. Speaking of camaraderie, there’s lot that the Indian wine companies can learn from their Australian peers. From practically a non-existent identity in the wine world to becoming a leader in the so called “New World”, Australian vignerons couldn’t have won those accolades if it wasn’t for the joint efforts and mutual respect for each other’s products.
The yuppies now on their third visit, could anticipate what awaited them- a warm welcome, mouthful portions of fresh, local produce and a long flight of wines for tasting. After holding themselves back all this while, they finally gave in to the temptation and bought a few bottles that could be taken back home. So much did my brother like the Pepper Tree Limited Release Shiraz, he bought a few bottles of the same. What made him chose this over others is something that only he can tell but it’ll make for an interesting case study for wine tourism and what triggers impulsive cellar door buying amongst visiting tourists. One look at this label and the money I believe is well spent. As for the wine’s critique, the bottle still lies unopened in my cellar.
The last destination on this short trip was Audrey Wilkinson, perhaps the bigger of the boutique wineries so far. As the group soaked in the serene surroundings and strolled around the neatly manicured alleys of vines whilst inspecting the hanging berries and inhaling some of the cleanest air on planet, they were taken to a casual, bar-like setup with high stools where they were offered a multitude of wines to taste. Sniff, swirl, spit and photography were the orders of the day and I think my brother completed the job with satisfying results. Not only does this make me proud but also a bit jealous! I wish to write the same experience in first person very soon. Sigh.
After a fine day of visiting those wineries and checking off another destination on the trip, the group returned home to reflect over their travels so far and raised a toast to the good times ahead!
A two hour drive from Sydney, it is estimated that Hunter Valley is visited by 2.8 million tourists every year. For the year ending June 2012, UK, New Zealand & Germany led the pack of countries with most international tourists. These visitors are not just wine journalists and geeks scribbling down the tiniest of viticultural details in their notebooks but regular tourists who wish to experience the tranquil country and a refreshing style of tourism.