For people like myself who get cabin fever easily and need to regularly escape the mundane city life, the Mudgee wine region is the perfect option for a weekend road trip from Sydney. Located 3.5 hours’ drive north-west, the region typically produces a style of Shiraz that is medium to full-bodied with plum, berry and spice flavours with a soft texture and a long finish. Apart from the most planted varieties – Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, Chardonnay is the most popular white. A number of alternate varieties have appeared over the past ten years including Sangiovese and Barbera.
This year the Pyrmont Festival joined force with Mudgee Region Partners to bring the best wine from the region to Sydneysiders at Pirrama Park in late May (13th-27th). The hassle of packing and unpacking or finding a designated driver is removed when you can enjoy wine tasting in the comfort of the waterfront park.
Despite the ominous weather forecast, the day turned out to have perfect blue skies and warm sunshine. It was an optimal temperature to start the tasting with Bunnamagoo Estate 2015 Chardonnay. It exhibits tropical and white stone fruit flavours while retaining the typical texture and complexity. Aged in Hungarian oak, this chardonnay displays less buttery and creamy notes and is ideal for spicy Thai food. Winemaker Robert Black prides himself on his ability to combine traditional wine-making skills with the most up-to-date equipment and methods. His wines combine softness and fullness without drying tannin or excessive thickness.
The history of Robert Stein wines and vineyard can be traced back to 1838 when Johann Stein carried with him the first cuttings of Rhine Riesling from Germany. Over a century later Robert “Bob” Stein embarked on a rigorous planting programme – Shiraz being the first rootlings planted with acreages of Chardonnay, Rhine Riesling, Traminer, Semillon, Cabernet Sauvignon and Black Muscat following; these bring diversity and flavour to the original plantings. The 2016 Half Dry Riesling is a single vineyard wine with 10 grams of residual sugar which making the wine fruity when first swallowed until acid kicks in at the back of the throat. The 2012 Reserve Cabernet is a rich and medium bodied wine made from the vineyard planted in 1976. Only 20 barrels were produced and the wine is recommended to age in the cellar for 10 to 15 years.
Huntington Wine’s founder Bob Roberts believed great wines, particularly reds, can really only be tested with time in the cellar and his philosophy remains in place today. The estate doesn’t strip or sugar up their wine to get it soft enough to drink young; they release reds at 5 years of age, when the acids and tannins have thrown a crust in the bottle. 2012 was very cold and wet but patience and courage from the winemaker allowed him to get the grapes fully ripe and the tannins perfect. The 2012 Shiraz is a full bodied wine with blackberry and black plum notes. It is soft on the palate with good fruit and oak balance. This red is good to cellar for 15 years or more.
Botobolar (meaning Black Tree in the indigenous dialect) is the first fully certified organic vineyard in Australia and was established in 1971. Sulphur dioxide is a natural substance used safely for centuries to prevent spoilage and oxidation; the maximum allowed level in finished wine is 250ppm (parts per million) and 400ppm for dessert wines. In contrast, organic wine is generally allowed 50% of the sulphur levels of conventionally made wine, which normally results in levels under 120 ppm. Producing preservative free and low preservative wines may result in less yield but there is certainly no compromise in quality. 2012 The King is a 50/50 Cabernet & Shiraz Blend which has characteristic berry flavours with silky rounded tannins.
In recent years Mudgee has become our go-to destination for Italian grape varieties without travelling abroad. di Lusso, First Ridge Wine and Skimstone are a few labels specialising in Barbera, Sangiovese and more. First Ridge planted the Italian Sangiovese and Barbera varieties in the late 1990s. These grow along hard, rocky ridges on the highest hills of the estate to produce lower-yielding vines with intense varietal flavour. 2014 Sangiovese exhibits raspberry notes with hints of vanilla and spice a perfect pairing for roast meat or hard cheese.
The Pyrmont Festival may have ended, the memory of the rich and vibrant Mudgee wine lingers on. We didn’t go home empty handed and those purchases will be either everyday drinking wine for now or something we can enjoy many years later. For those who can’t wait until the festival returns, a road trip to Mudgee must be top of your to-do list.
Pyrmont Festival + Mudgee Wine
Pirrama Park, Pyrmont Sydney