Vintage in the Hunter Valley traditionally starts mid to late January with most wineries underway by the Australia Day weekend. Depending on the season, harvest is generally finishes by mid March. It's the one time each year that the vignerons & winemakers get to reap the rewards of the year's hard work.
Excitement & anticipation levels are high as the weather & grapes are monitored by the day, & sometimes the hour. Regular grape testing & tasting takes place indicating readiness to harvest; this is when there is a perfect balance of sugar, acid & fruit flavour. The weather is monitored closely, ideally we'll have long warm days with cooler nights, no storms & low humidity, with adverse conditions indicating earlier harvests to avoid potential damage to the fruit.
Why visit during vintage? It's when all the action happens.
The vineyards are filled with bright colours as pickers go from row to row; tractors putt along the roads trailing grape filled bins, at night mechanical harvesters straddle the vines shaking grapes from the vine .
Extra workers join the winemaking teams, often from other wine regions of the world; bins of grapes are stacked ready to be tipped through the crushers, pressed & sent off to tank & barrel for fermentation; the aromas are amazing & its a hive of activity.
How can you experience Vintage?
- join tour a tour at various wineries,
- book a stay at a guesthouse nestled amongst the vines & watch harvest unfold from your verandah
- some wineries include samples of freshly crushed juices in their Cellar doors so you can taste & smell the amazing naturally occurring flavours of the grapes & aromas prior to fermentation
- some wineries offer experiences where you can join in the harvest or crush
This is where Bespoke Hunter can help; having lived and worked in the Hunter, in the wine industry, for most of my life I am in close contact with local winemakers & up to date with Vintage happenings & opportunities.
I will create a Vintage Itinerary as relaxed or as busy as you like; get you into the wineries to see the action, introduce you to some of the local winemakers & vignerons, and if you'd like get you involved with picking (this is not for the faint hearted, its hot hard work carried out early in the day & subject to availability).
Of course it doesn't all have to be hard work, there are plenty of spas, fabulous restaurants & wineries to reward yourself after participating in Vintage.
If you'd like me to tailor a Vintage Itinerary just for you, phone 0418 148 283 or email & let me know what type of activities you'd like included, give an indication of budget & I'll start planning.
Or take one of my Ready-Made Hunter Valley Vintage Experiences.
A couple of local secrets and helpful hints
- the best time to experience Vintage is throughout February; it is hot & can be stormy but is well worth it; some winery activity continues through until late March but the actual harvest & crushing is complete by mid march at latest
- picking usually occurs at the coolest time of the day to ensure the fruit retains premium quality. This is from the second the sun rises & is generally finished by midday at latest, so get up early if you want to see them hard at work
- the wineries are very busy, with small companies calling on all family, friends & staff to assist with harvesting the fruit while at its peak, so be understanding if their offerings vary a little at this time of year
- tractors & harvesters fill the roads so slow down a little as you take that bend or rise, there mate a tractor filled with grapes just around the bend.
- Wineries harvest when the fruit is ready so you won't see picking & crushing everyday at every winery
* Due to the seasonal nature & weather conditions of Vintage/harvest, experiences subject to availability & could be altered on short notice.
Thank you to Summar Burgess Moore for use of her images. You can meet Summar at Moorebank Private Vineyard.