The Hunter Valley is the most important quality wine-producing region in New South Wales, even though it represents only a fraction of the state’s production. Established in the early 1800s, the first vignerons recognised that the coastal fringe north of Sydney was too wet and humid for viable viticulture and thus took the decision to move into the hinterland. Although the region can be particularly hot, the cloud and rainfall patterns significantly modify the microclimate. The Hunter Valley is maritime influenced, with afternoon sea breezes funnelling up through the Hunter River and Goulburn River gap. Rainfall is very erratic and can arrive at the most inopportune time. Soils are generally rich volcanic and alluvial. The best vineyard sites are located within sight of the imposing Brokenback Range that is exposed to the cool sea breezes. Further inland, the maritime influence gives way to a greater degree of continentality. The Hunter Valley is best known for exceptional age-worthy Semillon and fresh savoury medium-bodied Shiraz, although Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay also perform well.