John Lewis | Trail-blazing Italian-style

Potential:  David Hook with the 2500 vine rootlings for his new one-hectare, Italian varieties “field blend” plantings.
Potential: David Hook with the 2500 vine rootlings for his new one-hectare, Italian varieties “field blend” plantings.

DAVID Hook has long produced top-rank Hunter semillon whites and shiraz reds, but he’s also an ardent exponent of Italian grape varieties.

He is now bolstering that by adding a one-hectare new planting of 2500 barbera, dolcetto and rondinella vines at his eight-hectare Pothana vineyard at Belford.

The plantings mainly consist of two high-quality clones of barbera, but David hopes these and the dolcetto and rare rondinella variety vines will all mature at the same time and allow him to produce a unique field blend red.

Rondinella is most grown in northern Italy’s Valpolicella area and has been pioneered in Australia by former Charles Sturt University Professor of Wine Science-turned Hilltops winemaker Brian Freeman.

 Thanks to time as a flying winemaker in Italy, David is a fan of Valpolicella wines and has been a Hunter trail-blazer with barbera and other Italian varieties.

Andrew Margan established the first Hunter plantings of barbera in 1998, using vine cuttings from the low-yielding Mudgee Montrose vineyard, established by Montrose’s fine Italian winemaker Carlo Corino.

 David wasn’t far behind, in 2003 releasing his inaugural 2002 The Gorge Hunter Barbera, made from Pothana grapes. Since then he has expanded his Italian portfolio using fruit from the Hunter and from cool-climate vineyards in Hilltops area around Young and Orange and the wider NSW Central Ranges zone. They include the multi-regional, multi-varietal De Novo Rosso barbera, nebbiolo and sangiovese red blend and De Novo Blanco pinot grigio, riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc blend.

Among his current releases are the $38 David Hook 2015 Hilltops Nebbiolo, 2015 Orange Vermentino ($35) and Hunter-sourced 2014 Molly Morgan Range Barbera ($38), which are reviewed below and available at the cellar door on the corner of Broke and Ekerts roads, Pokolbin (visit


ON November 5 and 6, husband and wife winemakers Damien Stevens and Jodie Belleville will stage the inaugural Hart and Hunter Magnum Launch at their 463 Deaseys Rd, Pokolbin, cellar door. Ever since they began their brand in 2009, Damien and Jodie have bottled a portion of their single-vineyard wines in 1.5-litre magnums and they are now inviting wine lovers to taste the difference. At $25 a person, visitors will be able to sample five magnum-bottled wines along with a tasting plate by Rustic Tuckerbox. Bookings are essential on 0421 632 233 or at