The birthplace of Hunter wine

Almost 200 years after George Wyndham planted his first vines at Dalwood Estate,
its wines continue to excite with the classic characteristics of the Hunter.

Five years ago, ownership of Dalwood Estate, the Valley’s oldest, continually operating vineyard and its corresponding wine brand finally came back into the same hands. Now, as the Hunter’s winemaking bicentennial in 2028 is starting to loom larger, this historic property is celebrating its roots and getting ready to play a major part in the festivities.

Back in time

Englishman George Wyndham and his wife Margaret arrived in Australia in 1827. Shortly thereafter, in 1828, they purchased 2,080 acres fronting the Hunter River at Branxton and named their property Dalwood. As was quite common at the time, George’s first vines, cuttings from the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, didn’t survive.

He wasn’t one to be discouraged easily though. By 1832, his two acres under vines represented more than 10% of the Valley’s vineyards. In 1833, he recorded a delivery of a strikingly diverse list of grape varietals: “White Muscat, Black Damascus, White Gouais, White Muscatel, Shepherd’s White, Captain Anley’s Red Muscatel, Large Purple, Corinth, Wantage, Black Frontignac, Madina, Tinto.”

“Planting so many varietals was the early winemakers’ way of figuring out what would work and what wouldn’t,” explains Bryan Currie, General Manager and Senior Winemaker of Dalwood Estate.
“They had no way of knowing what would really be suited to the conditions in the Hunter. Due to the trading routes at the time, they often planted Portuguese, Spanish or South African varieties.

3 to try

“On their way to Australia, ships would stop at the Canary Islands, in Madeira and the Cape of Good Hope and pick up vine cuttings along the way.”

The ‘Shepherd’s White’ in George’s 1833 shipment is significant as the first, albeit veiled, reference to Semillon, the Hunter’s most iconic varietal. For years, it had been known as Shepherd’s Riesling or Hunter River Riesling, before Semillon became the agreed-upon naming convention.

Read more about Dalwood Estate in our Spring Edition of Hunter & Coastal Lifestyle Magazine or subscribe here.