Whenever I used to hear people describing wine as oaky, cherry, good with fish, bad with spicy food, dry, or citrusy, I thought wine tasted like one thing: grapes. Occasionally I would joke that wines had the taste of mahogany, starfruit, or insect repellent.
I’ll be the first to admit that my wine taste buds are not in full bloom. And they shouldn’t be. After all, I’ve only been on one wine tasting trip (my first to Napa was when I was five and I was served apple juice, so that does not count). I recently traveled to Hunter Valley, Australia where I dipped my toes into the world of wine. Though I didn’t get to smash grapes with my feet à la “I Love Lucy”, I learned a tremendous amount.
Compared to Napa Valley or Sonoma, Hunter Valley is small and developing, but still intimate and beautiful. Grapes suitable for growth in Hunter Valley were imported to the region years ago when it was realized that the warm days and cool nights were perfect for vineyards. Since then, the wine industry has expanded in Australia. The region is known for Semillon, a citrusy white wine, but many different varieties of wine are also produced, such as Chardonnay and Shiraz. Surprisingly, some of the best wine I tried was dessert wine, which I expected to be too sweet, thick, or unappealing to drink.
A lot of doors were opened for me on this wine tour. While Hunter Valley may not compare to wine regions in France, Italy, or California quite yet, this was the perfect starting point for someone that originally thought it was ridiculous to call a wine anything but grape-y.