The Yarra Valley is on Melbourne’s doorstep and can offer its famous restaurants and wine bars a dazzling array of food-friendly wines. The valley s topography is complex, with sleep, shallow slopes at all attitudes of 160 1540ft (50-470m) facing all points of the compass. The upper slopes are cool and most of the valley enjoys cool nights, however, warm the days. Rainfall is also relatively high, although a recent run of drought years have been drier than these figures suggest. Soils range from grey sandy or day loam lo vivid red volcanic earth so fertile that enormous “mountain ashes” (Eucalyptus regnans) tower above the blue-leaved wattle along the creeks.
The rebirth of the valley dates from the 1960s when the customary clutch of doctors fanatical about wine arrived. Drs Carrodus at Yarra Yering, Middleton at Mount Mary, and McMahon al Seville Estate set impeccable standards, albeit on a tiny scale, and until the 1980s the valley’s reputation rested on its deceptively silky, age-worthy Bordeaux blends. Those who followed included Dr. Lance at Diamond Valley (whose vineyard is now run by his son James) and the wine writer James Halliday at Coldstream Hills (now owned by Treasury Wine Estates), both fired with tin: desire to grow Australia’s first great Pinot Noir.
Pinot Noir is clearly one of the Yarra Valley’s strongest suits, although today the valley is even better known for its Cliardoiniays, having pioneered Australia’s more refined. Occasionally austere, styles thanks to the naturally cool conditions in the elevated, southern end of the valley south of “the Warbie” (the Warburton Highway). Top wines today may be varied but are much more likely to express exactly where they were grown in place of the barrel selections of the 1990s. Yarra Shiraz has benefited from the Australians’ newfound enthusiasm for cooler- climate Shiraz (though, like Cabernet, it tends to be grown on the warmer valley floor), and the use of Burgundian winemaking techniques has opened a new chapter for it.
When Моёt & Chandon decided to make a fair copy of champagne in Australia, it chose to establish Domaine Chandon here. Today. Chandon also produces Green Point still wine, but nearly 70% of the frail for its sparkling wines is still grown in the valley’s cool upper reaches. Fizz fanatics can now choose from a range of artisanally made Yarra sparkling wines. Virtually all of the big companies have bought a slice of Yarra’s relatively cool vineyard, with family-owned De Bortoli widely acknowledged as a seedbed of new talent.