Our Wine Region
About the Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley’s unique landscape is a big part of what makes it one of the best wine regions on earth. With mountains on either side like a pair of welcoming, open arms, it follows the iconic and culturally significant Yarra River across the valley floor, which then winds its way into Melbourne.
The Land of Plenty
Since the dawn of humanity, the Yarra Valley has been a place of nourishment for its traditional custodians, the Wurundjeri people. This cultural significance – spanning over 50,000 years – imbues the land with a historical richness that has helped shape the values of those who work it.
The region has gone through vast agricultural expansions over the years. Between 1863 and 1875, the Kulin people transformed 4,850 acres of Coranderrk Station bushland into one of the most productive spots in the Yarra Valley. In 1838, this became the site of Victoria’s first vineyard – a vineyard that would go on produce the southern hemisphere’s first Grand Prix winner in 1889, beginning the region’s long list of wine accolades.
Varieties are the Spice of Life
With over eighty vineyards dispersed throughout Healesville, Coldstream, Yarra Glen, Seville and Lilydale, the Yarra Valley is Australia’s premier cool-climate region, and is renowned for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, and méthode traditionnelle sparkling.
In recent years, other highly acclaimed varieties have stolen the show, including Nebbiolo, Gamay, Arneis, Sangiovese and Savagnin.
One of the main factors that draw top wine-producing talent to the Yarra Valley is its climate. The region, one of the southernmost appellations of the Australian mainland, is exposed to Southern Ocean-originating weather patterns. It’s also influenced by variations in altitude and, of course, soil conditions.
This means that the Yarra Valley’s total area under vine, which is around 2,500 hectares, benefits from various unique microclimates, giving life to an elegant array of distinct profiles.
The Power of Terroir
French for ‘sense of place’, the terroir is the Yarra Valley’s life source, and is foundation of all its world-class wines. The term encompasses the land’s composition, from soil types, climate, topography – and even fluctuations in altitude.
With a seven-month growing season and annual rainfall averaging between 750-950mm, the Yarra Valley is famously cool climate – colder than Bordeaux but slightly warmer than Burgundy. Varying vineyard elevation, which ranges between 50 and 430m above sea level, also plays a significant part in the hallmark diversity of the region’s wines.
In the north, soil tends to be grey-brown with a consistency of sand to clay loam, with red-brown clay subsoils. It’s relatively acidic, low in fertility and well drained. South of the Yarra Valley is younger and more fertile, featuring intensely red volcanic soil.
Heart and Craft
The Yarra Valley’s diverse conditions are reflected in the individuality of its winemaking talent. It attracts producers from all over the world, each of whom brings their own passion, expertise and philosophy to the table.
Like anyone who’s in love with their craft, winemakers from the Yarra Valley like nothing better than talking about what they do. They welcome visitors into their cellar doors with open arms and will passionately describe what goes into every drop.
A History of Innovation
The Yarra Valley gave rise to Victorian viticulture back in 1838, when the first vines were planted. It surged through the 1860s and 1870s until the 1930s, when the economic depression saw production cease. This lull lasted until the late 1960s, where it was replanted and has been going strong ever since.
1838 The Ryrie brothers of Yering Station plant the first vines in The Yarra Valley, making it Victoria’s oldest winegrowing region.
1850 The Ryrie brothers sell Yering Station to Paul de Castella.
1863 Hubert de Castella founds St. Hubert’s Vineyard, while Guillame de Pury establishes Yeringberg. These vineyards cover 174 hectares and play a pivotal role in the Yarra Valley’s reputation for quality.
1889 Yering Station becomes the first and only vineyard in the southern hemisphere to win a Grand Prix at the Paris Exhibition.
1892 The Deschamps brothers establish Yeringa (now Yering Farm). David Mitchell, Dame Nellie Melba’s father, plants vineyards at Stringybark Creek.
By the turn of the century, planting reaches over 400 hectares.
1937 Vineyards are converted to grazing land due to the economic depression and unfavourable growing conditions.
1963 Wantirna Estate, the first of a second generation of wineries, is established.
1968-1975 Fergusson, Yarra Yering, Mount Mary, Seville Estate, Warramate, Yarra Burn and Chateau Yarrinya (now De Bortoli) are established, while Yeringberg and St Huberts are re-established.
1978 Chateau Yarrinya wins the Yarra Valley’s first Jimmy Watson trophy. This vineyard, under De Bortoli, wins again in 1997.
1982 The Besen family establish TarraWarra.
1985 World-renowned wine writer, James Halliday, founds Coldstream Hills.
1986 Domaine Chandon is established at the old Green Point dairy in Coldstream by French champagne house, Moet et Chandon.
1987 Australia’s largest family-owned wine companies, De Bortoli and McWilliams, establish Yarra Valley wine labels in 1987 and 1994, respectively.
1989 Yering Station, Victoria’s first vineyard, is replanted and its buildings are restored.
1990-2000 Around 40 new wineries are established.
2004 The Besen family open the TarraWarra Museum of Art (TWMA) right next to their winery.
2006 Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander is established in Healesville – the first winery in the Yarra Valley located in a town centre.
2007 Steve Webber, from De Bortoli, is named Gourmet Traveller’s Winemaker of the Year.
2012 One of Australia’s most experienced winemakers, Rob Dolan, launches his own label – Rob Dolan Wines. He goes on to open his cellar door in the Yarra Valley’s foothills in 2016.
2013 Four Pillars Gin Distillery is established. Over the next six years, it becomes a world-leading, internationally awarded gin producer.
2016 Giant Steps’s Steve Flamsteed is crowned Gourmet Traveller’s Winemaker of the Year.
Serrat Shiraz Viognier 2014 is awarded Halliday’s Wine of the Year.
2017 David Bicknell, from Oakridge Wines, is named Winemaker of the Year by Gourmet Traveller.
Yarra Yering’s Sarah Crowe is named Halliday Winemaker of the Year.
2018 Kate Goodman, founder of Goodman Wines, is named Winemaker of the Year at the 2018 Australian Women in Wine Awards.
A. Rodda Wines’s 2017 Willowlake Vineyard Chardonnay is declared the winner of the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.
Mount Mary is named 2018 Halliday Winery of the Year.
2019 Australia’s first communal urban winery, No.7 Healesville, opens. Established by the people behind Stones of Yarra Valley and Meletos it gives young winemakers the opportunity to experiment and produce small-batch wines.
Seville Estate is named 2019 Halliday Winery of the Year.
Oakridge Wines wins the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge with their 2017 864 Funder & Diamond Chardonnay.
TODAY Over eighty wineries present the Yarra Valley’s breadth and talent, producing wines that continue to push the limits on winemaking and bolster the region’s reputation for world-class quality.
Yarra Valley Hall of Fame
The Yarra Valley Hall of Fame recognises and pays tribute to those who have made a significant contribution to the development and reputation of the Yarra Valley wine industry.
This contribution may be in the area of:
• Industry development
• Pioneering locations, varieties or styles
• Yarra Valley reputation
• Yarra Valley advocacy
Their contribution and legacy is ongoing, and we gratefully acknowledge them.
Dr Peter McMahon – Seville Estate
Dr Bailey Carrodus – Yarra Yering
Dr John Middleton – Mount Mary
Reg Egan – Wantirna Estate
Guill de Pury – Yeringberg
David and Christine Fyffe
Ian and June Marks
Dr. Tony Jordan
Marc and Eva Besen