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  • Writer's pictureLushmuddled

Visiting Mudgee

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

For all my years in the industry, I always put Mudgee in the second rate category. Even the Hunter Valley, which is far more famous and produces some of the country's best wines, is seen as unfashionable in certain circles. What would Mudgee, a smaller, younger and less reputable region, possibly have to offer? Long story short: a lot. I had fallen into an obvious trap which I try so hard to avoid – try before you judge. It took a trip to Mudgee for me to see exactly what it was about.


For those of you unfamiliar with it, the wine region is about four hours drive north west of Sydney You'll be heading inland, obviously, and crossing over the Great Dividing Range. It's

The stunning view from Logan

a lovely drive from whichever direction you come from, especially if there has been a bit of rainfall to turn the grass a bright green. While I had seen some Mudgee wines in the past, I hadn't seen enough to really put my finger on the pulse. Sure, like any region, there is good and bad wine made. But what is Mudgee famous for – Shiraz? Chardonnay? Merlot? In my professional opinion at the time, Mudgee was a place holder, still figuring itself out. This, as I realised, is what makes Mudgee so exciting. There is an absolute plethora of variety and all being made at a surprisingly good quality. While they are yet to the super-premium wine quality or price, it is worth visiting precisely because of this The town and the wines are, simply put, friendly.

I hate cliché as much as the next person. But Mudgee has such a lovely country charm about it and it is reflected perfectly in the wines they make. By and large, the wines are just damned approachable. From wineries which push a few boundaries, like Gilbert, to others which aim to be as crowd pleasing as possible, like Logan, they all went about their business without forgetting the key essential – wine is meant to be drunk and enjoyed. Why make a wine which simply needs to be aged when you could make a wine which can just be drunk and enjoyed immediately? There is something comforting about walking into a winery and knowing that you're not going to be quietly intimidated by a $150 bottle of wine. A lot of the wines I found myself enjoying most were soft and easy, and reasonably priced in the $24-$40 range. The unassuming nature of the region was just really well matched with the pricing.


The alphabet of wine at Lowe

The other good thing is, like I said, the sheer variety. If you have been to the Barossa, you know that you will get Shiraz after Shiraz after Shiraz. Similarly, if you visit the Hunter Valley, you can expect a lot of Semillon and Chardonnay. Mudgee, it seems, has a wide range of varieties being planted and which are performing well simply because they are still figuring things what works. The answer seems to be a lot. I found myself enjoying some Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rose, Shiraz, Cabernet, Tempranillo and even Zinfandel just to name a few. I couldn't tell you which varieties out performed others, or which one will likely be the future of the region. I hope that this is never figured out - the variety of grapes and styles in the region is not often matched in others, and this makes it such an exciting place to visit. From Burundulla's tempranillo rose to Logan's sparkling merlot, you simply do not know what each cellar door has on offer. There is literally something for everyone in this region.

And I do mean everyone. If you don't like wine you can head on over to Baker Williams Distillery, just behind the Vinifera cellar door, and sample their range of gin, vodka and liqueurs. Time it right and you can smell the botanicals being used in the still. There is something quite lovely about sipping on an orangecello while the perfume of fresh orange zest is in the air. For those of you into the craft beer scene, take a seat at Mudgee Brewing Company and have a schooner (or three). IPA, lager and pale ale are all represented and the selection rotates based on brewing schedules. The Mudgee Mud is a local legend and, while isn't always on tap, you always can pick up a 750mL bottle to take away. Be warned – this stout packs a punch. But given that the streets are wide and the town easy to navigate, you can easily walk back to your hotel as well.

Overall, the bar seems to be quite high in Mudgee, even if the ceiling is low. You will get some great quality wines but there are not many wineries which have cracked the triple-digit icon wine. This makes, I think, the region and whole experience seem so much more accessible and relaxing, to amateurs, professionals and newcomers alike. No one is taking themselves too seriously. It's all just about making some good booze.


The Holy Grail on wine trips - parking in the shade

FIVE WINERIES TO TRY

Burundulla Not quite 'blink and you'll miss it' but getting quite close. Engaged staff, classic rock music and some of the finest rose you'll find in Mudgee.

Gilbert Clarity of flavour seems to be the aim here, and they are likely the most thoughtfully made wines in the region. A good mix of traditional and experimental styles.

Burnbrae Located on the other side of town, but well worth the drive. The winery and vines are surprisingly old (the third oldest in Mudgee), and the wines are all approachable and fresh.

Lowe Considered by many to be the crown jewel of Mudgee. While I may not agree, it is hard to argue with the exceptional tasting experience and the opportunity to picnic on the grounds.

Pieter van Gent Got fortified? You will after this. The atmosphere of a barrel room is brilliant, and Pieter is great at working a room, reminding you constantly that wine is meant to be fun.

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