Wines of Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley is Cool Climate Wine Country
Due to the diversity of climate, soil and aspects, the Yarra Valley is one of the few regions able to produce a wide array of world class wines. There is certainly something for every wine drinker to experience from the wines of yarra valley.
The Yarra Valley is renowned for producing world class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with these two varieties representing over 60% of the total production. Cabernet Sauvignon is the backbone of the region and Shiraz creates excitement and interest.
Chardonnay is widely regarded as the Yarra Valley’s premium grape variety. Chardonnay has seen a resurgence in interest as a new, lighter in weight and less oaky style has emerged. The wines are made from grapes that are typically picked at lower levels of sugar ripeness and with higher levels of acid. The aromas and flavours are much more citrus, early harvest stone fruit, mineral and floral. Some have a faint gun smoke edge. With age, they fill out and take on fresh fig flavours and a savoury dimension that is as delicious as it is difficult to describe. Read more
Food – New style Yarra Chardonnay suits a wide range of white fish and seafood. Matching with locally farmed trout is a regional staple. Think also, whiting, cray and scallops.
Most of the Yarra’s Sauvignon Blancs tend to have roundness and fruit generosity that sets them apart from wines associated with the South Island of New Zealand. Yarra flavours include fresh tropical fruit, guava and cape gooseberry. Some producers use older neutral oak barrels to achieve a more savoury outcome, particularly suited to drinking with food.
Food – Rounded fruit driven styles of Sauvignon are a good with or without food wine. They are soft and generous enough to be easy drinking with cocktail and party foods. The more savoury style of Sauvignon is great with oily fish such as tuna, mackerel, marlin, swordfish, sardines and garfish.
Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio
Two names suggest two styles and loosely speaking the variation of name is generalised to distinguish between a lighter, dryer and crisper style of white wine (Pinot Grigio) and a rounder, richer and more fruit rich style (Pinot Gris). These wines are typically made in the simplest possible way, so often represents the most affordable of a Yarra producer’s white wines. Look for the hallmark Yarra Valley sense of elegance and freshness.
Food – Richer styles of Gris work very well with washed rind and even blue cheeses. Consider these wines also with roast pork and chicken. The leaner Grigio styles are good sipping without food wines, but also suit antipasto and herb based dishes.
Other white varieties
Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier are grown in small amounts in the Yarra Valley. Marsanne particularly has a strong historic context in Victoria. In style, Viognier and Roussanne are aromatic and medium bodied. Marsanne can produce wines that are fuller in body with a honeyed richness.
Semillon and, to a lesser extent, Muscadelle is also grown but are primarily used in blended whites with Sauvignon Blanc.
Other white varieties that are grown in the Yarra Valley include Arneis, Chenin Blanc, Gewürtztraminer and Riesling. An Austrian white variety, Grüner Veltliner has also had some recent plantings.
Other significant wine styles
Premium styles of sparkling wine tend to be associated with regions with cooler climatic conditions that are suitable for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This makes the Yarra Valley one of mainland Australia’s most likely places. Sparkling wines can vary according to the relative proportions of the varieties used and the length of time the wine is aged. Wines with a higher proportion of Chardonnay and a relatively shorter aging period will be fresher, lighter and crisper. Those with a higher proportion of Pinot Noir, or extended aging may be richer, fuller bodied and more yeasty.
The not quite white, not quite red wine is typically made by Yarra Valley producers in more dry versions of Rosé that are both soft and refreshing. Rosé by name, the colour of these wines vary from a salmon colour with orange tones (indicating a more muted savoury style) to vibrant deeper pink with almost garnet hints that tend to be much more overtly fruity and generous in flavour. A range of red varieties are used to make Rosé.
Pinot Noir is the grape variety that produces the most sought after red wines from the Yarra Valley. Pinot Noir seems to reflect the particular vineyard and growing conditions more than any other significant grape variety. Wines can be perfumed and aromatic, others more fruity, some are savoury and earthy, and others can be quite densely flavoured and structured. Read More
Food – Pinot Noir is a great match for game birds. Duck and quail immediately spring to mind, but braised chicken dishes and lighter beef dishes are equally good matches. Cheese and wine matches include mature white moulds and aged goats cheeses.
With few exceptions, Cabernet Sauvignon is most suited to the warmer sites of the Yarra Valley. These sites occupy the more northern end of the Yarra, extending along the Maroondah and Melba Highways. Many examples have at least small quantities of a complementary variety added. The best examples of Yarra Cabernet have an aromatic character and an elegance that is rarely found in fuller bodied reds from warmer region of Australia. These wines are capable of aging for 10-20 years plus in correct cellaring conditions. Read more
Food – Cabernet Sauvignon has a great capacity to match with meats that have a good fatty content such as leg of lamb, chops and shoulder. Beef cuts such as rib and scotch are perfect.
Shiraz / Syrah
Like Cabernet, warmer, lower altitude vineyards also seem more suited to this variety. Two names suggest two styles. Yarra “Syrah” is more medium bodied and can have an intensely savoury characteristic that is a little smoky and a little like fermented meats and olives. Other producers make a richer, more Shiraz like style that resembles a more elegant version of the sort of reds we expect from warmer regions. Read more
Food – Savoury styles of syrah are great with high quality preserved meats, lamb and red game meats. The richer styles of shiraz are fantastic with hard cheeses and dishes with rich sauces.
Other red varieties
Other red varieties grown in smaller quantities or recently planted for the first time include:-
For lighter bodied reds, Pinot Meunier, Gamay, Brachetto, and Grenache.
For more medium to fuller bodied reds, varieties include, Tempranillo, Merlot, Sangiovese and Nebbiolo.