The Yarra Valley is a quiet cool climate region in Australia which is home to some superb wineries which produce some of Australia's finest Pinot Noir and white wines. This article highlights the history, geography and wine of the region.
The Yarra Valley's western boundary begins just 45 kilometres east of Melbourne's CBD which is a legally defined Geographical Indication (GI). A GI is an official description of an Australian wine region, designed to protect the use of the regional name under international law. Yarra Valley is recognised as one of Australia's leading wine producing regions, especially white wine. The terroir within the region enables the producers to produce a range of classic wine styles, particularly cool climate wines similar to that of New Zealand and Germany. The Yarra Valley is also home to many young, ambitious winemakers creating exciting, modern wines, which offer quality and purity.
The Yarra Valley was Victoria's first wine growing district. Vines were first planted in 1838, and viticulture spread rapidly through the 1860s and 1870s. However, increased demand for fortified wine saw the Yarra Valley wine production cease in 1921. However, from the 1960's their has been an increase in vine planting. Today the Yarra Valley is now recognised as Australia's wine region for cool climate wine producers, capable of making old world style wines from a range of varieties.
The topography of the Yarra Valley varies considerably and so the region is home to a wide range of soil types. The soils in the middle area of the Yarra Valley are ancient, mountain-derived sandy clay loams. The other soil type is younger in origin and is a brilliantly coloured red volcanic soil found in both the Upper and Lower Yarra Valley. The Yarra Valley is cool in relation to the rest of Australia's viticultural regions. The region is cooler than Bordeaux but warmer than Burgundy. The elevation of the region varies from 50m – 400m. Rainfall is mainly during winter/spring, with summer relatively cool and dry. Harvest commences in early March with Pinot Noir and finishes with Cabernet Sauvignon in early May. These dates correspond to September and November respectively in the northern hemisphere. Frost is rarely a problem in the valley.
Pinot Noir is the Yarra Valley's most widely planted red grape variety as it thrives in the Yarra's cool climate, and is the grape of choice for most producers. Cabernet Sauvignon is a late ripening variety in the Yarra Valley. The variety is matured in French or American oak and is sometimes blended with Merlot to make it more complex. The Cabernet boasts silky soft tannins, making them perfect to drink as younger wines – without diminishing their ageing potential. Shiraz from the cool growing season of the Yarra Valley, produces a style of great finesse, and is also blended with the white variety Viognier, usually no more than 5%, to create a Rhone style blend.
Chardonnay is the Yarra Valley's most widely planted white grape variety producing a range of styles. This variety can be blended with Pinot Noir to form the base wine for the sparkling wine. Other varieties produced in the Yarra Valley are Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, Marsanne, Rousanne and Verduzzo.
Below are my tasting notes taken from a recent visit to the region.
Yering Farm Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Ligh yellow colour. Fresh, young, zesty and full of flavour with vibrant acid and a good finish. Surprisingly good Aussie Sauvignon Blanc. 89/100
Rochford YV Chardonnay 2008
13.3% alcohol. Straw colour, slight green hue. The nose offers stone fruits and vanilla oak nuances. Rich and buttery palate with a long finish. Elegant wine 89/100
Rochford LAT MRV 2009
Well balanced wine. Interesting floral nose. Viognier evident here. Fruit forward palate with a yeasty acid structure. Wine has 33% Marsanne, 33% Rousanne, 33% Viognier. 89/100
Yering Station MVR 2008
Notes of peach, apricot and pear with a luscious mouth feel, spice and a long mineral finish. Typical Yarra Valley wine 88/100
Yering Station Chardonnay 2008
Light yellow hue. Stone fruit on the nose. Focused mineral backbone. Palate offers citrus and grapefruit, that has a long and precise finish. 88/100
Yering Station Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
This wine is rich, powerful and concentrated. Delicious raspberry, blackberry fruits with a slight reduction on the nose. Will age well with good structure. 89/100
Domaine Chandon Brut
Straw yellow in colour with flashes of green. A bright and fresh fruit bouquet of pear and nectarine. The palate is soft with generous primary fruit characters followed by a creamy mid-palate finishing with a crisp dry finish. 91/100