Yarra Valley - wines and vines facts

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Enjoy great wine and views in the Yarra Valley, Victoria

Enjoy great wine and views in the Yarra Valley, Victoria [©Visions of Victoria]

Location

Victoria’s Yarra Valley begins roughly 50 kilometres east of Melbourne and meanders another 200 kilometres to the headwaters of the river the first Australians are said to have described as ‘ever flowing.’ It is serviced by three major highways and a network of well maintained roads that make the journey by car or bus a relaxing and affordable experience.

The valley is one of five premium quality wine regions that collectively form the Port Phillip zone. The remaining Port Phillip regions are the Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Sunbury and the Macedon Ranges.

Modern-day commercial viticulture began here in the early 1960s after a 40-year hiatus in wine production. The region’s official status as an Australian Geographical Indication is little more than a decade old. ‘Yarra Valley’ was entered in the Register of Protected Names in October 1996. The term defines the region’s physical boundaries and proscribes its use under Commonwealth of Australia law (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980).

History

Vineyards were first established in the Yarra Valley in 1837. Within five years, William Ryrie’s vines at Yering near Yarra Glen were being joined by a handful of sites in Pascoe Vale and what is now metropolitan Melbourne. By the 1880s, the region had grown to become a significant contributor to Victoria’s rapidly expanding wine industry, then the biggest in the colony.

Swiss vignerons Hubert de Castella, Guillaume de Pury and the Deschamps family provided much of the expertise required for successful cool climate viticulture.

The arrival of the vine-bug phylloxera in Victoria in 1875 did not directly affect vineyards in the Yarra Valley. However, it did mark the beginning of the 19th century demise of a highly profitable industry. Consumer preferences for heavy fortified wines and changes in tariffs, duties and government policy then led briefly to an over-production of Yarra Valley wine.

World War One added another nail to the coffin. Yeringberg’s 1921 vintage would be the last in the valley until the Egan family planted Wantirna Estate on the edge of Melbourne in 1963. Today, the Yarra Valley is home to around 2640 hectares of cool climate wine varieties.

Many vineyards are small and family-operated. The largest and best known are owned and operated by national and international companies, including Constellation Wines Australia, Fosters, and Möet & Chandon.

Climate

Situated at latitude 37° South, the Yarra Valley’s climate is relatively cool in relation to the rest of mainland Australia’s key viticultural regions. On warm, well exposed sites along the valley’s floor, vineyard heat summation figures top 1500 units, enough to properly ripen Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and even the odd Portuguese fortified wine variety. Elevated vineyards closer to the Yarra’s source are considerably cooler, and are well suited to growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for sparkling wine production.

The region’s mean January temperature maximum is officially recorded at 19.4°C.

Frost is rarely a problem, but can affect vineyards on the valley floor during early spring.

Yarra Valley rainfall increases with both altitude and latitude. The region’s highest monthly totals are recorded during winter and spring. For the wine producer, average rainfall figures span a range of 750mm-950mm per year. A meagre 400mm of rainfall during the growing season makes supplementary drip irrigation highly desirable on most sites.

 

Regions

  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley (Wine) (VIC)
  • Yarra Valley, Dandenongs and the Ranges (VIC)

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