The other white treat
The oft-overlooked little sister of Semillon and Chardonnay has an equally interesting Hunter heritage. Verdelho (pron. verdello, or ver-day-jo if you’re fancy) is widely grown in Portugal, in particular on the Atlantic island of Madeira where it is made into their iconic sweet fortified wine. It came to Australia in 1825, first grown in Camden by William Macarthur, horticulturist son of John and Elizabeth. Arriving in the Hunter in the early 1900s courtesy of the Tulloch family, it featured in their fortified wine “Crème de Vin” made in the Madeira style. As plantings expanded, it was blended with Semillon in the 1960s to make Hunter River Riesling. It is also a key component of WA icon Houghton’s White Burgundy (now known as White Classic). Most modern versions are un-oaked and picked early to add some zip to the distinctive tropical fruit flavours of this great value varietal, best drunk when young and sassy. All wines selected here are from family-owned wineries, such great supporters of Hunter history and regionality.
Elbourne De Beyers Verdelho 2019
Only 200 cases of this engaging wine are produced by the Elbourne family, made from a single parcel of fruit sourced from a neighbouring vineyard on De Beyers Rd, Pokolbin. Wafts of floral and citrus aromas precede a dash of zesty pine lime on the palate. It’s a drink-right-now kind of wine to enjoy with some tasty salt & pepper squid. Pick up a bottle from this small, classy and delightful family farm, home to a menagerie of Wessex saddleback pigs, black Suffolk sheep, dogs, ducks and chooks.
RRP $30 | www.elbournewines.com.au
Iron Gate Verdelho 2019
The hot and dry 2019 vintage meant an early Verdelho harvest at Iron Gate, ensuring fresh acidity was retained to balance the appealing fruit salad flavours so typical of this variety. Melon and passionfruit succulence tangoes with pineapple zing resulting in a refreshingly dry finish. The warm Mediterranean vibe of this plush estate on Oakey Creek Road sets the tone for alfresco dining in dappled sunlight with bottles of their perfectly chilled Hunter Verdelho.
RRP $25 | www.irongateestate.com.au
Two Rivers Hidden Hive Verdelho 2019
The Keeping family’s beautiful vineyard estate near Denman in the Upper Hunter is a must-visit detour from the bright lights of Pokolbin. This award-winning winery consistently astounds with the great value of its offerings. Honey, musk and tropical fruit aromas lead to a rich, full flavoured taste sensation which finishes crisp, dry and delicious. It is also a silver medal winner from last year’s Hunter Show. The name links back to the planting of their Verdelho vineyard, when a resident bee colony hidden in a nearby red gum caused all sorts of trouble – perhaps contributing to the hints of honey in the wine?
RRP $18 | www.tworivers.com.au
Tulloch Late Picked Verdelho 2019
Champions of Verdelho in the Hunter for over 100 years, Tulloch’s produce a number of different styles, from the historic fortified Crème de Vin to the highly popular Verscato, and various styles in between. Harvested late in the season to ensure maximum ripeness and sugar, this fruity, semi-sweet white has been a customer favourite since the early 1980s. Signature guava/lychee flavours abound, with some rockmelon and musk stick deliciousness tucked in. A lovely acid backbone and lower alcohol profile make this a fabulous match for spicier food and Asian flavours.
RRP $25 | www.tullochwines.com
Hungerford Hill Verdelho 2019
Hungerford Hill has had a colourful past: started by John Parker in the 1960s on Pokolbin’s Broke/McDonald Road corner on an estate bought from the cattle-farming Hungerford family, it is now divided between McGuigan Wines and Hunter Valley Gardens. The brand eventually landed (via Southcorp, then the Kirby family) in the safe hands of the Arnaout family and their talented winemaker Bryan Currie. With such a history it is only right that Hunter stalwart Verdelho is included in the portfolio. Juicy and lip-smacking, this unwooded style sizzles with fresh citrus and passionfruit flavours, while a background of floral lavender, spice and musk amps up the interest. A worthy silver medallist from the 2020 Hunter Show.
RRP $27 | www.hungerfordhill.com.au
Story by Sally Evans