East Coast Wine Trail

East Coast Wine Trail
East Coast Wine Trail

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Hunter terroirists celebrate 30 years of winemaking

On June 28, 1790, convict Thomas Heather arrived in Port Jackson on board the Second Fleet ship Neptune.

Of the 1006 convicts on board the three Second Fleet vessels, 273 died during the voyage and 486 landed in Australia suffering from various illnesses - including scurvy - from the arduous voyage.

Heather survived and thrived in Australia, however, marrying Elizabeth Lee, who arrived on the Third Fleet ship Mary Ann a year later.

Six years later he was granted 30 acres at Windsor, known as Eather Farm (the H having vanished from the family name in the mists of time).

In 1831, Alexander Munro arrived in Sydney on the HSS York and in 1860 he planted the Bebeah vineyard at Singleton in the Hunter Valley, establishing a reputation for outstanding wines.

The die was cast for the establishment of Meerea Park Wines, which this month is celebrating 30 years.

In 1910, Reginald Eather, the grandfather of Meerea Park wines founders Garth and Rhys Eather (below), married Harriet Cousins, Alexander Munro's granddaughter.

Today, the flagship Meerea Park wines are named after pioneer and family member Alexander Munro.

While the Eather family started growing table grapes during World War II, it was not until much later that they planted wine grapes. In 1989, chardonnay vines were grafted onto table grape vines and in 1991 the first vintage of Meerea Park Chardonnay was released.

Fast forward 30 years and brothers Rhys and Garth celebrated the 30th anniversary of their now booming wine business as Sydney's swish Aria restaurant, which - fittingly - directly overlooks Port Jackson and Sydney Cove (Circular Quay).

The 30th anniversary wine lunch matched Meerea Park wines in three brackets of six with some of the great names of global and Australian wine production; Brokenwood, Tyrrells, Peter Lehmann, Leuwin Estate, Henschke, Blain Gagnard and Delas among them. I was fortunate enough to be among the guests.

That bravery paid off with the 2011 Alexander Munro Aged Release Semillon, 2019 Alexander Munro Chardonnay and 2018 Alexander Munro more than holding their own in an illustrious line-up of many more expensive releases.

A 2018 Meerea Park "Black" Shiraz ($300) also delighted guests, who enjoyed three courses of Aria food.

"We've had 195 years in the Hunter Valley as a family," said Garth Eather. "At 23 and 25 years old we started a brand with just 351 cases of chardonnay."

Today, Meerea Park produces over 10,000 cases of wine annually and exports globally.

"We handcraft all our wines using fruit grown on some of the Hunter Valley's best vineyard sites that have a track record for producing the best possible grapes in both good and not so good vintages," says winemaker Rhys Eather.

"We are Hunter Valley 'terroirists', specialising in individual vineyard semillon, chardonnay and shiraz, sourced from unique vineyard sites."

Winemaker Rhys Eather is a Roseworthy graduate in wine science and has gained international winemaking experience in France and Italy, spending the 1998 vintage at M. Chapoutier in the Rhone

Meerea Park has established a reputation over the last decade as one of the leading wine producers in the Hunter Valley. Across the board, they make wines of style and substance.

The Meerea Park cellar door at Roche Estate in Pokolbin (above) is open seven days a week. See www.meereapark.com.au/

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