The Yarra Valley is a wonderfully diverse wine region, close to Melbourne and the home of some of Australia’s great Cabernet wines. It also produces some note-worthy pinots although they can be hard to discover.
The Yarra Valley is easily accessible starting where Melbourne’s eastern suburbs finish and is on route to the Victorian snow fields. One hours drive from the centre of Melbourne and you are on the edge of the green and gold vineyards which adorn the rolling hills of the Yarra Valley and your wine adventure begins.
This is a diverse region which can be as confusing in its diversity as it is rewarding. A wide range of varieties are grown and styles produced – some supreme examples of new world winemaking with regional definition and distinction. There are two sub-regions – the “Valley” floor which is warm and the surrounding “Hills” which are cooler with more challenging viticulture. It is tempting to characterise the wines from these sub-regions as the warmer valley being the home of the great Cabernets and the cooler Hills as the origin of the best pinot and chardonnay. Generally this characterisation works but you will find that there are some glaring exceptions.
Nearly all the popular red wine varieties are grown somewhere in the Yarra Valley. Interestingly Pinot Noir is the most planted variety in the Yarra Valley with most producers having at least one offering. As a variety, Pinot Noir is very sensitive to the site where it is grown and with such a large number of producers spread across the Yarra Valley, as might be expected the results are quite variable. If you are chasing good pinot seek out some of the smaller producers who have a passion for the variety such as Gembroook, Wedgetail and Diamond Valley. One truely great example of Yarra Valley pinot noir that I have experienced is the Mount Mary. The 1990 vintage made by Dr John Middleton was particularly memorable.