Victoria - The seductive Yarra Valley

By Michael Harden
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Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps cellar door, Healesville, Victoria

Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps cellar door, Healesville, Victoria [©Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps]

TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Enjoy a glass of wine and the beautiful views of the Yarra Valley at Domaine Chandon
View over vineyards in the Yarra Valley, Victoria

Of all the food and wine producing regions around Melbourne, the Yarra Valley has come the furthest in understanding its true potential. Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, incredibly beautiful and abundantly fertile, the Valley is a seductive place that will have you plotting ways to reorganise your life in order to settle down there.

Blessed with a cool climate capable of producing wines of great subtlety and foods of rare variety and flavour, the region is currently in the midst of a renaissance as growers, producers and business owners band together to promote and protect what they have come to realise will be their greatest asset – the Yarra Valley name.

The beauty of the Yarra Valley has bewitched Europeans since they first stumbled upon it in the early 1800’s. The soft gold afternoon light and surrounding walls of misty blue ranges, the gentle hills rippling across the valley floor, gathering mists in the shaded valleys between them and lush dense areas of bush that suddenly open to breathtaking views of pastures and vineyards make it easy to wax lyrical.

“The whole district abounds in the picturesque, resembling closely the country between Turin and Mont Cenis in Italy,” raved an 1888 Visitors Guide and the comparisons to Italy and France continue to this day. The first comparisons came at a time when the Yarra Valley was enjoying its first spike of popularity, attracting record numbers of tourists from Melbourne, winning medals in international wine shows and supplying increasing volumes of milk, butter, eggs, vegetables and fruit.

Looking at the Valley today with its endless vineyards and startling variety of other produce – from peaches and chocolate to pigs and cheese - you could easily believe that it had been smooth sailing since the first vineyard was planted at Yering Station in 1838. But adverse economic and natural conditions meant that winemaking in the Valley was completely wiped out by 1937 when the last vineyards were ripped out and turned to pasture.

The area’s farms continued to produce fruit and vegetables, nuts, eggs and milk but the memories of the misfortunes that wiped out the first wine industry here kept people wary of planting any more vines for nearly thirty years. The 1960’s saw a new generation of wineries quietly began the business of wine again and the whispering about the Yarra Valley and its potential to produce brilliant cool climate wines grew louder until it turned to a shriek in the late 1980’s when French champagne house Moet and Chandon and some of Australia’s largest wine companies moved in.

The increased wine noise finally drew appropriate attention to the excellent produce in the Valley, both from decades-old farms and new artisan producers. As more operators add to the diversity and quality of the produce here, the Yarra Valley is becoming as renowned for food as it is for wine and has become a destination not to be missed by any true food and wine explorer.

Five Great Cellar Doors

  • Domaine Chandon and Green Point, Coldstream

  • TarraWarra, Yarra Glen

  • De Bortoli, Dixons Creek

  • Innocent Bystander, Healesville

  • Coldstream Hills, Coldstream

Regions

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

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January 25th, 2010
 
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