Hunter Valley’s Geography, Soils & Climate

Geography, Soils & Climate

Although often classed as having a Mediterranean climate, the Hunter is really more sub-tropical, with cooling ocean breezes providing welcome moderation. The Hunter is a warm region, hot even, and it’s a humid one. Both of these factors can make viticulture a challenge, with heat endangering the development of ripe tannins and fresh flavours, while sugars (and therefore alcohol) skyrocket.

And then there’s the humidity, with sometimes ample rains in the growing season. Humidity is a bit promoter of fungal diseases in grapevines, so can present many challenges, especially when coupled with a little incubating warmth. But Hunter wines are not typically characterised by either of these things, with both purity and a degree of restraint being hallmarks.

The Hunter is unusual in that the warm days and relatively warm nights mean that the tannins in red grapes can ripen at night while the sugars haven’t reached high levels during the daytime, resulting in physiologically ripe grapes early in the season. This quirk, coupled with an adaptive approach from the early days and a lot of modern research in how to manage viticulture to suit the conditions, means that what could be seen as obstacles are in fact integral components of the Hunter signature.

The early adaption saw the birth of the styles that the Hunter is famous for, with semillon picked ultra-early, and shiraz also harvested before many other regions. The challenge with shiraz, however, is to build flavour and get those tannins ripe early enough. This has typically been managed with low yields, allowing grapes to ripen flavours and tannins early in the season and at low potential alcohol. In fact, many of the yields per hectare from quality growers would make many a pinot noir grower blush.

The range of altitude varies significantly in the Hunter region, but viticulture is contained in a relatively narrow and low-ish band, so it is not a major factor influencing style, but the soil variation in those different areas is. The alluvial flats with sandy soils are traditionally said to favour semillon, while the loam and red duplex soils up from the flats are generally thought of as shiraz territory. In the Upper Hunter, black loam soils predominate, and strips of volcanic basalt feature in the Brokenback hills. It is a region that is hard to generalise about, though, with both the variety of soil types and climate impacts dictated by sea breezes and proximity to the Hunter River having a meaningful impact on grape growing.

Bookmark this job

Please sign in or create account as candidate to bookmark this job

Save this search

Please sign in or create account to save this search

create resume

Create Resume

Please sign in or create account as candidate to create a resume