Yarra Valley - Victoria
The picture-book region of Victoria's Yarra Valley is one of Australia's most well-known and loved wine regions. The Burgundian varieties of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir perform particularly well.
Yarra Glen is located in the heart of the fertile Yarra Valley. It is situated 52 kilometres north – east of Melbourne on the Melba Highway. European settlement began in the late 1830’s. The fertile land supported pastoral and agricultural enterprises and, a little later, dairy farms. The produce was then supplied to Melbourne.
The Yarra Valley had it, lost it and has it again; a wine producing area of international renown it began its jilted journey in 1837 when three brothers, William, James and Donald Ryrie established a cattle property Yering Station. They planted vines; an act recorded as the first vineyard planting in Victoria.
A few years later immigrants from Switzerland and Germany settled in the area. They planted commercial quantities of wine grape and established wineries. Among them St Huberts, Yering and Yerinberg produced wines to international acclaim and anchored the Yarra Valley's reputation in the 1800s. Paul de Castella, from Switzerland, purchased Yering in 1849 and expanded the vineyard to 40 hectares, importing 10,000 vines from Bordeaux in France.
Then came the depression of the 1890s. It was a major factor in the region's decline along with other factors such as the consumer shift to fortifieds. By the 1920s the last winery ceased operations. The industry was resuscitated by medical doctors in the 1960s who caught the markets' return to table wines. Mount Mary vineyard established by Dr John Middleton was a pioneer of the second wave. The third wave came in the 1980s with the arrival of James Halliday, de Bortoli and the prestigious Moet & Chandon.
Unlike the end of the 19th century, the end of the 20th century was marked by phenomenal growth. Hundreds of hectares came under the vine and millions were invested in wineries and tourist facilities.Today the region which is known for its rolling hills is continuing to grow each year with new vineyards opening and established ones expanding.
The cool and rainy climate provides conditions that are suitable for grapes like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the outstanding red of the region, Cabernet Sauvignon. Due to the small size of the region, production of wine is limited but wines from Yarra Valley can be relied on to deliver quality, style and taste. The climate is cool. Frost is a problem as are strong cold winds. The region gets a lot of rain, but not sufficient just prior to harvest in March necessitating some irrigation. The soils are grey-brown loams to the south and red volcanic soils to the north and west.
Red varieties planted include Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Noir and Shiraz. White varieties include Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Semillon, Marsanne, Riesling and a rare planting of Verduzzo, an Italian variety.
The one hour drive time from Melbourne, the many cellar doors, historical interest, beauty and culinary reputation attract thousands of Melburnians and others each year. Major events include the Grape Grazing Festival and Jazz in the Vines both held in March.
Harvest time is late March to late May