Aussie Meat Pie and a Bottle of Hope Estate Shiraz (#WorldWineTravel)

A bottle of Shiraz from Hope Estate and a meat pie bring back happy memories from time spent in Australia.

Once upon a time, in 2009, Greg and I spent four months in the land down under. Greg took advantage of a study abroad program while in business school and spent a semester at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. I quit my job and went with him. They were four of the best months of my life.

He arranged his schedule to give us plenty of time for exploring while we were in Sydney, and I’d spend the days he was in class wandering Sydney on my own. When the schedule allowed for more time, we’d rent a car and go road trips to branch out further. On top of that, the other students at the business school, the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), were a very welcoming, interesting, and fun lot. They planned many events and excursions that we were able to join in on. Among these was a wine tasting tour of the Hunter Valley, which is only a couple of hours north of Sydney. 

On that particular excursion, one winery stood out from the rest – Hope Estate. It was definitely our favorite of the day. We were also distinctly aware that we’d been a bit tipsy by the time we got there, as it was the last stop in a long day, so it was possible that our preference had been set thanks to the extra good vibes we were feeling by that point in the day. However, we’d brought back several from the trip, and our favorite was borne out as we tried the wines again back at our flat over the next few weeks – this time with clearer heads. 

Hope Estate back in 2009

This was all before I’d dived into the wine life, but the name stuck with me – it is a fairly easy one to remember. I’ve recently seen an occasional bottle from the estate pop up at local wine stores and on, which has been a fun blast from the past. 

A Brief History of the Hunter Valley 

Map borrowed from

We’ll be talking about the Hunter Valley again soon, so I’m going to break up the discussion on the region into two parts. Today we’ll take a look at its history. 

The Hunter Valley is Australia’s oldest winemaking region. This makes sense, given the region’s proximity to Sydney, where the first Europen arrived and established the first penal colony. Prior to their arrival, the Wonnarua  ("people of the hills and plains") inhabited the upper Hunter region for at least 30,000 years. The Worimi held the northeastern shores, and the Awabakal were located around the southeastern shores. 


The Hunter River was first spotted by European settlers in 1797 by accident. Lieutenant John Shortland was on a search for escaped convicts when he spotted the river. The Hunter Valley went on to become a valuable source of timber and coal for steamships. A land route to the area wasn’t discovered until 1820. By 1823, there were already about 20 acres of vineyards planted along the Hunter River in what is now the Dalwood /Gresford area between the towns of Maitland and Singleton.  

James Busby, the 'godfather' of viticulture in both Australia and New Zealand, changed the game in the 1830s. He returned to New South Wales after an extensive tour studying European wine regions with around 500 (pre-phylloxera) vine cuttings. Busby’s brother-in-law William Kelman took up one of the first official land grants at Kirkton on the Hunter River using a replica set of these cuttings. By 1840 the Hunter Valley’s vineyard area had boomed to 500 acres (200 hectares) and its reputation as a wine-growing region had been established. 

The Pokolbin area, the region Hope Estate is in, had established itself as a quality zone by 1930. Sadly, war and economic turmoil slowed down further expansion. Things wouldn’t pick up again until the second half of the 20th century, but there are now over 150 wineries in the Hunter Valley.

Hope Estate Basalt Rock Shiraz

Hope Estate. Image borrowed from the Hope Estate website.

It would appear that Hope Estate has expanded quite a bit since we visited. In addition to wine, they have spirits, beer, and a 20,000-seat amphitheater that hosts major concerts. Maybe I didn’t see it or just didn’t notice because of my tipsy state, but there wasn’t anything so grand in my memories. 

Hope Estate was established in 1994 by Michae Hope, a former pharmacist who gave up his career to make wine. He and his wife Karen purchased their first vineyard at Broke in the Hunter consisting of 30 acres of vines on a 250-acre property. They then purchased a winery in 1996 and the first vintage of Hope Estate was released in 1997. Additional vineyards have been added since, including in Victoria and Western Australia, and a new winery followed in 2006. All of the wines are made from estate-grown grapes  in their Hunter Valley headquarters

I ordered a bottle of the Hope Estate Basalt  Rock Shiraz 2018 from ($16.99) and I opened it the same it arrived. I was honestly a little worried about the wine because it arrived on a very hot day and it tasted a little off when we first opened it. (Wines can get “cooked” if they spend time in extreme heat.) Luckily, it improved quite a bit once we cooled the bottle down a little bit and allowed the wine to breathe. It’s a good reminder that serving temperature can make a big difference – the ideal range for big red wines is generally considered to be around 63°-68°. 

Once the wine had a chance to open up, it showed notes of blackberry, plum, bay leaf,  and charcoal on the nose. On the palate, the fruit was juicy with just a touch of jamminess. Savory touches of bay leaf, cedar, olives, and black pepper joined in on the mid-palate, softened by a touch of vanilla, and there was a hint of stony charcoal hint on the finish. It was reminiscent of Rhône Syrah in style, but with riper fruit notes. It was medium + in body with balanced acidity.

Geeky Details

Taken from the tech sheet. 

Alcohol: 14%     

Blacked: 100% Shiraz 

Winemaking:  Estate Grown – 100% Family Owned - The Basalt Block is located in the Hunter Valley among the hills of the Broken Back Mountain Range. The range was formed by volcanic activity leaving the red soil rich with basalt. This mineral-rich soil produces the finest quality, low-yielding grapes which Hope Estate winemakers use to make this single vineyard wine. Matured in new and old French hogsheads for 13 months. 

The Pairing: Aussie Meat Pies

While in Oz, we developed a taste for the meat pies that are so ubiquitous there. They’re inexpensive, portable, and delicious – what’s not to love?! Food trucks, street carts, and food stalls everywhere sell these hand-held pies filled with beef in gravy. You might find different flavor variations and additions to the filling; for example, in addition to the classic, I often liked mushroom and curry flavors as well. The pies are often served topped with mushy peas, or you might drizzle on ketchup or hot sauce. 

Greg and our friends Marc and Dan eating meat pies in the CBD.

I thought I’d recreate the memory to pair with this wine. I’d originally intended to go all in and make individual hand-held pies, but it was crazy hot out on this particular day and it got to me, so I decided to cut myself a break and make a single large pie in the end. Hand-held pies will have to wait for another occasion.  

I looked at quite a few recipes for meat pies before creating my own. I noticed many recipes used a combination of short-crust for the bottom shell, and flaky puff pastry for the top and I decided to go this route, but other versions choose to just use one or the other. I made the short-crust but used store-bought puff pastry. (Making puff pastry is a headache I do not need, thank you very much!) Feel free to go with what appeals to you. 

I also made mushy peas to go with the pies. I often forget how easy it is to make this and how satisfying the results are. Heat a bag of thawed frozen peas in a pot, add a bit of flavoring, then mash them up using an immersion blender or food processor – that’s it! A little sriracha was the final topper to the ensemble.  

The wine paired nicely with the meat pies. To be honest, it worked best with the pie alone, without the hot sauce or the peas, but the combo is just too good to pass up. 


The World Wine Travel (#WorldWineTravel) blogging group is exploring the wines of New South Wales this month. Be sure to check out their posts:

Additional sources used for this post and extra reading:



  1. I poured this bottle as well. I know my boys will love your Australian Meat Pie. Thanks for joining me.

    1. Thanks for hosting -- lots of good memories for me this round!

  2. I found a recipe for meat pie and made it for an earlier event this year. It was amazingly good and a perfect pairing.

  3. Wow, what a trip! Pretty fun to find the wine available in the US.


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