A short two hours North of Sydney sits the Hunter Valley – a wine region with its fair share of detractors and admirers. The detractors will tell you it is far too warm to make great Australian wine, especially when the industry as a whole is pushing towards cooler climate styles, and it makes a better tourist playground than serious wine region. They’ll also question why anyone would want to grow Semillon and persevere with the local savoury and earthy style of Shiraz. They would all be wrong, because while the lure of the tourist dollar has certainly attracted its fair share of aging rockers and addled hen’s parties it was fine wine that bought them all there in the first place. 

And not just fine wines, but great wines that can stand the test of time and sit comfortably amongst the best the world has seen. In the 1930’s, a time when wines were truly hand made, Maurice O’Shea founded Mount Pleasant wines in the Lower Hunter Valley and for 20 years created some of the most astounding Australian wines to date, some Shiraz of which are still very much living and breathing today. They are remarkable, ethereal wines, the exact recipe for which will never quite be known, although that doesn’t stop some of the locals searching valiantly for their secrets. One of the leading winemakers in the region having their shot is Andrew Thomas.

Andrew was born into the business, his father chancing a meeting with Peter Lehmann before working at Saltrams and then starting his own label at McLaren Vale in 1975. Like most winemakers Andrew planned to gain some valuable experience around the country before returning to his roots but 13 vintages at Tyrrell’s was enough to convince him that the Hunter Valley would make a good home and place to start his own venture.

While at Tyrrells, Andrew saw first-hand the value of single vineyard wines which lead him down a similar road to allow the quality of a site to speak for itself in his premium wines. While many winemakers talk the single-vineyard talk there are few that quite catch the heart and soul of the vineyard as is seen is this range of wines. Add to that some brilliant site selection and it is abundantly clear why they are regularly Hunter Valley vintage standouts. For a refresher course on the merits of Hunter Valley wines you could do a lot worse than a handful of wines, and a beer or two, with Andrew Thomas. 

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