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  • Your Hunter Valley Magazine

Hungerford Hill | Pushing Boundaries. Honouring Tradition.


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The history of Hungerford Hill is a tapestry of tradition and innovation. Today, this iconic estate is home to Muse, the Hunter Valley's only two-hatted restaurant, and a range of wines that embody the tradition of winemaking innovation.

 

Led by Chief Winemaker Bryan Currie, Hungerford Hill wines offer a quality experience that seamlessly blends a rich heritage with a cutting-edge approach to winemaking, sparking curiosity and delight in every sip.


Originally a Hungerford family cattle farm that spread to the current site of Hunter Valley Gardens and Cypress Lakes Resort, the property was established as a vineyard by accountant and entrepreneur John Parker in 1967. The Australian wine industry was experiencing a renaissance at the time, with growing interest in table wines as an accompaniment to food, replacing the previous popularity of sherry and port. Parker opened a cellar door in 1970 and developed one of the first wine tourism complexes a couple of years later. However, by 1985, Parker lost control in a hostile takeover, and the winery was purchased by Southcorp, who also acquired vineyards in Tumbarumba and Hilltops.


Despite this change in ownership, the Hungerford Hill brand languished until John Kirby purchased the property in 2002. Under Kirby, the label flourished, and the iconic cellar door at One Broke Road was built, designed by architect Walter Barda to resemble a wine barrel. This period saw the brand develop a reputation for premium quality wines. Then, in 2016, Kirby sold to Sam Arnaout of Iris Capital, the current owner, who also acquired Sweetwater vineyard, Wyndham Estate, and the Dalwood brand – one of Australia's oldest surviving vineyards, established by George Wyndham in 1828.


When Arnaout took over, he employed Bryan Currie as Winemaker. Currie, a seasoned winemaker with a wealth of experience from his time at Westend Estate and McWilliams, was attracted to the role because of the fruit from Tumbarumba and the opportunity to work with multiple climates across NSW. His expertise and passion for winemaking have been instrumental in the continued success of Hungerford Hill, and he continues to push the boundaries of winemaking with his innovative approach.


"I'd been working with fruit from this region all my career, and I wanted to continue to do that," said Bryan.


"At the same time, I loved the idea that Hungerford Hill had fruit available from several different climates, enabling us to create a full range of wines."


Each vineyard provides a unique climate and soil that affects the wines produced. Dalwood Estate's sandy soil produces lighter, fragrant Shiraz. Sweetwater Estate's red clay over limestone produces richer, fuller-bodied wines. Hungerford Hill's dark clay soil creates denser wines. Hilltops is a cool climate for Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Malbec. Tumbarumba's cold climate suits Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.


"We're having fun creating Spanish-style wine using early-ripening Tempranillo and late-ripening Graciano from Hilltops," said Bryan.


"We're proud to offer a wine for every palate and every occasion with wines from multiple regions – the full NSW experience."


In 2020, Currie began experimenting with vegan-friendly and preservative-free wines to increase accessibility. The vegan wines use plant proteins like pea or potato starch instead of traditional animal based fining agents without affecting taste. The preservative-free wines take on a more savoury, textural taste profile.


With a rich history deeply rooted in winemaking in NSW, Hungerford Hill continues to push boundaries while honouring its legacy.


"I'm keen to push the envelope and experiment with blends," said Bryan.


"The Hunter Valley's variability in seasonal climate makes our wines stand out, and the trick is to be relaxed and not too stressed about it. Some of the greatest wines are often blends, so I'm excited to explore that.


“Plus, we've got impressive changes coming to upgrade the Hungerford Hill site to be closer to architect Walter Barda's original grand vision.”


Muse Restaurant, located within the Hungerford Hill complex, is the only two-hatted restaurant in the Hunter Valley. It serves contemporary Australian cuisine with a focus on local produce. The cuisine complements the wine, and the restaurant works closely with the winery to produce sought-after events.


One of the most popular offerings is the Epic Tasting Experience, which costs $60pp and includes a mini-degustation of Hungerford Hill wines matched with bite-sized dishes from Muse. With a rich history, innovative winemaking, and a focus on exceptional food and wine experiences, Hungerford Hill continues to push boundaries while honouring traditions.


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