Yarra Valley - regional overview
By Mark Smith
Balwyn, Flemington, Hawthorn, Kew ... it’s hard to imagine vineyards lining Melbourne’s inner suburbs. Back in the 1850s and 1860s, this is where most Victorians made and drank their wine. Indeed, the industry that was to become known as ‘John Bull’s Vineyard’ had its roots deep in Yarra Valley soils 10 years before Johann Gramp arrived at Jacob’s Creek in South Australia.
Granted, the region’s best vineyard sites are no longer a part of Melbourne’s great urban sprawl. They’re a whole hour away by car or by bus. Maybe more if you’re really lucky. Victorians believe that journeying there is every bit as good as arriving.
This cool temperate part of southern Australia is an ideal destination for relaxed, wind-in-the-hair touring. The Yarra’s breathtaking natural beauty and clearly defined seasons provide an artist’s palette to which the region’s cool climate wine industry adds splashes of colour through the year - from pink-tipped swellings near bud break to great swathes of vivid green that turn russet gold in autumn.
The Yarra Valley surely has a way with vines. In the 1880s, wines here won the Emperor of Germany’s Grand Prize and a celebrated Grand Prix at the Paris Exhibition. Today, many of its 85 small scale wineries are recognised among Australia’s best producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Others lead the way with stylish sparkling wines, spicy Shiraz, and European-inspired Bordeaux blends. On sites of distinction, a handful of wineries are enjoying success with exotic whites made from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. There’s no Barbera in Seville.
Of course there’s more to the Yarra than just vines and wines. Its 240 kilometres of free flowing waters thread their way through a patchwork quilt of gastronomic delights, romantic getaways and picturesque land forms. The region plays host to more than two million visitors a year. So, whether you want to feast, fast, or simply free yourself from the shackles of 9-to-5 living, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful valley.
Merlo Homestead or Merlot wine? There are plenty of ways to indulge your senses:
- Take to the skies for a bird’s eye view in a noisy chopper or a hot air balloon. Drift by towering eucalypts and forests of mountain ash. Return to earth stirred but not shaken. Breakfast near vintage can be simply de-vine.
- The Yarra Valley Regional Food Trail offers a wealth of wine and seasonal local produce. Many wineries complement intimate cellar door experiences with vineyard dining and open air concerts.
- Tee off on the only signature designed Jack Nicklaus course in Australia. Pin your hopes on a par round and a round of pinots at the 19th hole.
- The Burra Burra Yan Indigenous Walking Tour offers enthralling tales of traditional Dreaming. Nearby Healesville is home to Australia’s best known animal sanctuary and the TarraWarra Museum of Art.
- Splash out on a stay at Lake Mountain outside Marysville. It’s Melbourne’s nearest winter playground. The resort’s 40 kilometres of ski trails are open to walkers in the summer months. A hike along the Taggerty River takes you by dense tree fern gullies and a cascading waterfall.
The Yarra Valley is renowned for its warm and welcoming tourist accommodation. Five stars or under the stars? The choice is yours.
- Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
- Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
- Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)
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