The Yarra Valley vineyards started off in 1838, making this the oldest wine growing district in Victoria. In the following decades, viticulture spread rapidly, as did world recognition later in the century with the awarding of the Southern Hemisphere Grand Prix at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1889 to the Yering Station winery. St. Huberts Vineyard, Yerinberg are a few more well-known names to have flourished in this period. By the turn of the century, more than 400 hectares of vines had been planted.
A prosperous period of wine production and tourism in the Yarra Valley followed. However, by the end of the 1920’s, this was to change. The combination of a number of factors saw a rapid decline in viticulture in the region, with the last vineyards being converted to pastures for dairy cattle.
The vine louse phylloxera made its appearance in Victoria in the late 1890’s and quickly destroyed most vineyards in Victoria and New South Wales as there was no known cure for this disease. In addition, a swing in fashion away from wines to more fortified beverages saw a huge drop in demand making it unfeasible to continue wine production. The difficult economic conditions due to the First World War and the Depression were also to take their toll on the region’s viticulture.
The region’s wine renaissance began in the late 1960’s, with Wantirna Estate being the first of the new generation of wineries founded in 1963. And by the early 1990’s, there was more land under vines than at the peak in the 1890’s. After that, there was a stream of wineries being established, including the re-establishment of some of the older names, such as St. Hubert’s and Yeringberg.
Today, with over one hundred and fifty wineries on more than 2,000 hectares operating in the Yarra Valley, we have a very successful wine producing region enjoying a very prosperous period. Wine tourism is on the increase, with visitors able to enjoy gourmet foods as well as fine wines at many of the wineries.
A wide range of cool climate wines is available in the region, with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir being the exceptional varieties, followed by Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Many of the boutique wineries are not limiting themselves to these stalwarts, though, with Tempranillo, Pinot Gris and Sparkling wines for example, being produced and proving very popular.