A Culinary Adventure in the Hunter Valley, Australia

This is a guest post by Suzanne Sheldon, bought to you by Taste of the Hunter Wine Tours.

If culinary travel is your thing (I know I certainly get excited when someone says “What’s for lunch?” on our travels) then the Hunter Valley is a destination that will have you finding room for an extra helping or two! From the stylish and upmarket to the warm, wholesome and friendly there are dining delights that will give you plenty of options to pair the Hunter Valley wines you’ve purchased with.

Everyone immediately thinks of wine when the Hunter Valley is mentioned and with over 150 vineyards within an hour’s travel of each other it is easy to see why the Hunter’s Semillons, Verdelho’s and Shiraz’s are famous on the world stage. However a wine can be rated 5 stars by James Halliday but the food you pair it with will “make or break” your enjoyment of it. Choosing a dinning destination that will enhance your newly discovered Hunter Valley favourite is critical to ensuring you haven’t spent your well earned holiday money on a bottle of disappointment.

Purchased a red? Head to Goldfish Bar and Kitchen at Roche Estate

If you’ve been tempted by the medium bodied Shiraz style that the Hunter’s dry summer climates produce, then where better to enjoy it than the Goldfish Bar and Kitchen on the grounds of Roche Estate. The concentrated berry flavours and subtle oak hints of the Capercaillie Shiraz make it my “go to” wine for rich meat dishes such as Wagyu beef. And with Capercaillie wines offering tastings only just around the corner from the Goldfish Bar and Kitchen you can’t go wrong!

Let the Pink Roasted Lamb Rump with whitebean, pancetta, olive oil and preserved lemon tempt you or for a truly rich treat to pair with your Shiraz try the Wagyu Beef Cheek with artichoke, miso mustard, sour lentils and curry leaf.

Red wine and red meat pairings are of course a classic and for good reason! The tannins (the slightly dry/bitter compounds found in the skins of the fruit and a little from the inside of the wine barrels) found in red wine love to stick to proteins. They will stick to the protein rather than the inside of your mouth when you pair a red wine with a rich red meat like this, making your whole experience a match made in culinary heaven.

You of course also can’t go wrong pairing a red wine with hard cheese varieties such as cheddar or for the more adventurous among us – a mellow blue cheese. If you are brave enough for blue cheese (or you’ve let me talk you into it), one of my favourite blue cheeses is the Viking Danish Blue from the Smelly Cheese Shop at Pokolbin. Some may argue that a Cabernet Sauvignon would be the best pairing for this one but I beg to differ. And after a warming winter lunch at the Goldfish Bar and Kitchen, what better way to finish off your meal than wandering just 2 doors down to the Smelly Cheese Shop at Roche Estate, Pokolbin and putting my theory to the test for yourself!

But what about whites?

If the bold and rich flavours of a red don’t excite you when it comes to wine, the Hunter Valley certainly has Semillons and Verdelhos that are styled to impress. A young Semillon (bottled for less than 12 months) can be quite crisp, acidic and intense on the palate but if you can resist the temptation to break open your Hunter Valley prize, you will be rewarded with concentrated lemon peel and citrus fruit aromas which will develop into a beautiful honey colour and flavour the longer you can leave it. If you can exercise self control and cellar your Semillon for 5-7 years, your bottle of Hunter Valley goodness will be too delicious to share with anyone but the best of your friends!

Wines made from fruit grown 100% in the Hunter Valley (such as Sobel’s Verdelho and Semillon) will retain a substantial amount of residual sugar making them the perfect accompaniment to the spicy Thai cuisine found at Oishii Restaurant dine-in (again on the grounds of Roche Estate in Pokolbin). Pair them with the Panage Duck Curry or the Stir Fried Mixed Seafood with chilli jam.

Why so sweet?

The hot Australian summers (think endless days of 100 degrees Fahrenheit!) rob the fruit of its moisture creating an intense flavoured grape.

However I don’t mean to give the impression that all Hunter Valley Verdelho’s and Semillon’s are sweet. Many wine makers opt to mix fruit from the Hunter Valley with grapes from areas such as Mudgee or even further afield such as the famous Barossa Valley in South Australia. This produces a much fruitier and citrus flavoured drop that is beautifully balanced with acidity. That is certainly enough to keep your palate amused and your mind away from straying to thoughts of journeying to a bottleshop for a cheap product full of preservatives!

This article just scratches the surface of what the Hunter Valley has to offer the culinary adventurer and with so many options it can be quite confusing – even daunting when it comes to deciding how to spend what little time you have in the region on a holiday. Due to the staggering number of options available for a food and wine adventure in the Hunter, it is a good idea to contact a local tour guide to ask for advice. Other than the fact you won’t have to worry about being put off the road by the zealous Australian Police who regularly breath test drivers in the region (they are just trying to keep everyone safe), you can leverage your guide’s local knowledge.

A perfect example are the group Hunter Valley wine tours offered by Suzanne from Tastes Of The Hunter Wine Tours. A tour can introduce you to boutique wineries and specialist wine styles you wouldn’t even know to ask about if you simply journeyed from cellar door to cellar door on your own. Couple that with the opportunity for private tastings with a cellar door specialist (sometimes even the owner or wine maker) and you have a recipe for an unforgettable way to make the most of your Hunter Valley culinary adventure.

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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