Author: Francesca Baker
Date of Trip: December 2013
I am a fan of wine. A day job in advertising and a night hobby in music sort of dictates that I be. But do I know my wine? Well, red is different to white, I prefer Rioja to Riesling, and I know that like a woman it can have body and legs. But more than that? Well, it’s lucky that I am down under for summer and can explore. Sunshine and soil makes a fertile ground for some of Australia’s best exports. Not Tim Tams and Crocodile Dundee but wine, cheese, and fruit. A day in the Yarra Valley, a fee mikes outside metropolitan Melbourne being the ideal place to influence.
A nine o’clock start and responsibility dictates that we start with sugars of the non fermented variety. Fruit cleanses the palate, making my tongue even more amenable to the wine. Thus the first stop is Wild About Fruit, the home run business that began in the 1930s and grows organic fruit. In a world full of supermarkets it is rare to only consume food grown in season, but taste suggests it is more than worth it. Producing everything from cherries (did out know there are 27 varieties?) to cucumbers, potatoes to pears, and pressing juice that is as healthy as the whole fruit, the shop provides a good opportunity to stick up.
Breakfast done it is on to the first winery of the day. Grapes are also a fruit, right?Fresh air and grassy smells hit us as we arrive at De Bortelli winery, but the scent of wine is soon to be the main offlactory experience. From the striking Pinot Noir to the assumption challenging Riesling and Chardonnay to the famous Noble Man a dessert wine more akin to honey, it’s a good morning. Spitting or swallowing, the swirl of the glass and the deep inhale are rewarding. Wine tasting is a truly multi sensory experience, scent more important than immediate taste. A swift and deep swirl to release the smell and the tannins, a short sniff and a savoured sip are what is needed to get the full flavour.
It’s still early and we must not get too tipsy. So it’s on to a dairy. Coconut, courgette, roasted pepper goats cheeses and garlic and chili cows cheese are on the menu at Yarra Valley Dairy. Tempted by the tea rooms but aware that a lunch soon awaits, we exercise a brief level of moderation. Inspired by farmhouse cheeses of France they have their own identity influenced by terroir and skill of the cheese maker, and the shop is awash with delicious delicacies.
The clock flits past the yardarm, the usual sign that it is legitimate to drink. Lunch at the Rochford Winery, a vast expanse of green fields and vines is supplemented by of course, more wine, each course delicious and delightful. A hearty portion of chicken, some rich chocolate, and we are ready to set on. Here the vines are vast, the view stunning and the sampling just as impressive.
Healesville is the culinary epicentre of the Yarra. Home of Australia’s first gastropub it is the foodie hub of the area, and nothing is launched in the cities without being tested here first. A wander, a mooch, a deliciously rich chocolate or seven from Kennedy & Wilson, and it is time for the final stop of the day.
Oakridge Winery has own numerous awards, includes Campbell Mattinsin and James Halliday as fans, and even for a novice as myself it seems this accolade is rightly earned. Even the landscape views alone make it striking, with neat rows of vines giving way to sneezes and snuffles of green trees on the rolling hills. Rich full boded Shiraz is the highlight here, and a complex textures unique myriad of varietals, the original Fumare, a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. Legs of wine run down the glass, arcs of colour building, and the detailed tasting notes means that I feel I am deepening my knowledge, although by this point who knows. More than any other this winery is filled with locals, always a good sign. Credit card out I think…
The benefit of being on my travels and with limited time to see a place means that even though it is a Tuesday, and I have spent the day quaffing and munching, it would be terrible not to continue in the fashion and sample some more of Melbourne’s culinary highlights. Informed and educated I feel a stumble around the city’s best wine bars and tapas venues is in order. In fact, it is imperative that I do. A quick walk along the river and I think I’ll be back on it…
I travelled around the Yarra Valley with Go West Tours. http://www.gowest.com.au/mobile/our-tours.html#e