DIVERSE: Hunter Wine Services winemakers Thomas Hordern, John Hordern and Kiri Irving do some taste testing in the Muswellbrook winery. Photo: Rod ThompsonTHE Oak sign still stands on the town outskirts at what was the Muswellbrook dairy factory and few passers-by would be aware that hereis a major winery that produces four million bottles of wine a year, exports to 30 countries, is ’s biggest seller of wine to Russia and may soon become a distillery producing vodka, gin and whisky.
A key figure in the transformation of the factory that shut in 1994 after 50 years of Upper Hunter milk processing is veteran Hunter winemaker John Hordern.
John, a descendant of the family behind the Anthony Hordern department store empire, heads the Muswellbrook wine production and bottling operations of Hunter Wine Services (HWS) and is developing a distillery that will make vodka, gin and whisky.
As a schoolboy, John had casual jobs in Hunter vineyards and wineries and in 1977 went off to South ‘s Roseworthy College to do a wine production and marketing course – in which a classmate and great pal wasRex D’Aquino, the grandson of the founder of what has become the remarkably diverse Orange-basedD’Aquino Group.
D’Aquino’s assets include Highland HeritageEstatewines, liquor stores in Orange, Bathurst,Parkes and Wellington, a wholesale wine and spirits division, an expansive cellar door, restaurant and 130-seat function centre and even its own helicopter charter service.
And it shares ownership ofHunter Wine Services with John Hordern and John and his Muswellbrook winemaking team of son Thomas and Charles Sturt University wine sciene course graduate Kiri Irving have made the Highland Heritage wines since 1993. A recent demonstration of their expertise with Orange grapes came when the current-release $20-a-bottle Highland Heritage2016 Orange Fume Blanc won the 2017 NSW Wine Awards trophy for the best young sauvignon blanc.
The conversion of the Oak factory to wine production began in 1995 when thelandmark art deco-style building was leased by contract winemaker Simon Gilbert, who later moved his operation to Mudgee.
During the Gilbert leasehold, John Hordern worked on the site doing contract winemaking for such vineyards as Catherine Vale and producing his own-brand wines and in 2000 the Wine Services Pty Ltd company formed by John Hordern and Rex D’Aquino, took over the lease and gave the wine production facilities a $2 million upgrade.
It now crushes up to 2000 tonnes of grapes from Orange, the Hunter, Mudgee, Nygan, the Hilltops area centred on Young and from other sources outside NSW.
John and his family also own the 7.5-hectare Pyramid Hill vineyard located on the banks of the Goulburn River, near Denman, which was bought last year from acclaimed viticulturist Richard Hilder.
Richard, the winner of the2011 NSW Wine Awards’ Graham Gregory prize foroutstanding contributions to the State’s wine industry,supervised the planting of many of the Upper Hunter’s best vineyards.
John Hordern’s wine expertise has been inherited by his two sons. Stuart, 35, is senior winemaker at Brokenwood and was dux of the 2016 Len Evans Tutorial, which gave him judging positions at the Sydney Wine Show and the National Wine Show in Canberra and the business-class air travel and visits to the greatest European wine houses he is currently undertaking.
Thomas, 31, is doing a Charles Sturt University wine science degree and works alongside his dad at the HWS winery. Earlier this year he won the Alasdair Sutherland Memorial Scholarship, whichhonours the memory of one of the Hunter Valley’s most admired and respected winemakers and provides entry to the intensive, four-day n Wine Research Institute Advanced Wine Assessment Course and also the opportunity to be an associate judge at the 2012 Royal Sydney Wine Show.
WINE REVIEWSJUICY ST EMILLION RED
IN today’s trio of two-variety blends, this French St EmillionCamille de Labrie 2012 Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignonis garnet-hued and has 14 per cent alcohol, potpourri scents and juicy mulberry front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows dried cranberry, licorice, cloves and toasty oak and the finish ferric tannins. It’s on discovervin老域名出售.au. PRICE: $39. DRINK WITH:paella. AGEING: four years.
RATING: 4 stars
RHONE-STYLE DUAL BLEND
THEMeerea Park 2016 Indie Marsanne-Roussanneis from theKindred Lochleven vineyardand is atmeereapark老域名出售.auand thePokolbincellar door. It is green-tinted straw and has lychee scents and zingy quince on the front palate. Kiwifruit, cumquat, mineral and cedary oak show on middle palate and the finish has slatey acid.PRICE: $30. DRINK WITH:salt and pepper squid. AGEING: three years.
RATING: 4 stars
BERRY CHARACTERS SHOW
THIS 15 per cent-alcoholHarewood Estate 2015 Flux1 Shiraz-Tempranillois fromWA’s Great Southern area and is deep purple and displays berry pastille scents and spicy blackberry front-palate flavour.The middle palate shows Maraschino cherry, spice and mocha oak and the finish has minty tannins. It’s atharewood老域名出售.auand independent wine stores.PRICE: $35. DRINK WITH: pasta. AGEING: five years.
RATING: 4 stars