AS CLEAR AS MUDGEE
AS WE head deeper into autumn with a noticeable chill in the air, it’s nice to pour a glass of red with dinner that’s a little deeper in colour, flavour and intensity.
Such wines are plentiful of course from big regions like the Barossa or McLaren Vale, but every now and then it’s interesting to try wines from lesser known regions and Mudgee in New South Wales certainly fits the bill in this case.
With a vinous history dating back to 1858, Mudgee as a wine-producing region is certainly well ingrained in the wine vernacular, producing distinctive wines – most notably red, however, in recent times the quality of Semillon and Riesling coming out of this region has been lauded.
But at the heart of its winemaking pedigree, Mudgee is rich, ripe, red wine country to its core – and Cabernet Sauvignon is its apex variety due to the reliability of the summers that produce hot days and cool nights that slow the ripening process to allow the grapes to produce reds with a great intensity of colour and flavour, displaying plenty of depth and varietal character alongside a distinct earthiness from the rich volcanic soils.
The name Mudgee is derived from the Wiradjuri term moothi meaning “nest in the hills” or “mou-gee” meaning “contented”, which is an incredibly apt description for the soft gentle nature of the countryside around Mudgee, which is surrounded by an outer rim of hills that create the “nest” vibe.
In 1851, the population of Mudgee was 200. However, the population exploded as the discovery of gold in nearby Hargraves led to a gold rush. No gold was found in Mudgee itself, however, the township prospered as a centre for the local goldfields and grew rapidly as a result.
Of note to historians reading, one gold miner attracted to the district was Niels Peter Larsen who married Louisa Albury in Mudgee in 1866. They changed their name to Lawson, and created a family with one of their children being leading Australian poet Henry Lawson. But getting back to wine, I recently came across a winery from this region with a very traditional view and approach – Huntington Estate. It was established in 1969 by a young Sydney lawyer in Bob Roberts, who was part of the “Bulletin Place” crowd that was influential in transforming the Australian wine industry. Its members included James Halliday and the late Len Evans. Bob’s vision was Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Mudgee. Unlike other members of his wine group, though, Bob decided that Mudgee presented a better climate for his favoured wine styles – classic reds from French regions such as Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.
He established Huntington Estate on the site of a rundown orchard and so began turning his dreams into reality and Huntington Estate into being synonymous with Cabernet Sauvignon. These days, winemaker Tim Stevens carries the torch for Bob’s vision, also believing in the variety and the traditional approach to the winemaking and in keeping with their winemaking philosophy, the Cabernet Sauvignon is released with a number of years of bottle maturation. “The Huntington Estate red wines are made for longevity,” Stevens said.
“I am a firm believer that the true test of wine is age. This is one of the principles of our winemaking at Huntington Estate; it is an enduring challenge to keep this tradition and improve on it.”