The History of Yarra Valley

Australia is packed with fun destinations like Yarra Valley, from its breathtaking lavender fields to art galleries, parks, and historic wineries. The local food, landscape, and wine make Yarra Valley a fantastic destination in Australia.

This beautiful wine region located near Melbourne, Victoria, received over three million visitors in 2011. They all had one goal — to taste Yarra Valley’s sparkling wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and the famous Chardonnay, among others.[1]

The climate and closeness to the bubbling city center, along with over 80 renowned wineries make it an ideal location for tourists.

Looking Deep into Yarra Valley’s History

Winemaking in the region dates back to the early 1800s. Around the same time, the Ryrie brothers and their cattle journeyed south from Sydney and established a vineyard on 43,000 acres.

The  Sweetwater and Black cluster of Hamburg were the only varietals they planted. The vineyard remained in business until the property was taken over in 1850 by Paul Frederic de Castella.

He invested in developing and making the area an iconic wine center. His efforts paid off as he won the Argus Gold Cup in 1861 — his vineyard claimed the award for the best vineyard in the Victorian region.

If you are looking for the heart of Victoria winemaking (where the earliest vines were planted), look no further than the Yarra Valley.

In 1862 the famous St. Hubert’s vineyard was established, followed by Yerinberg. These events led to the expansion of vineyards in the region. The area was recognized at the Exposition Universelle in Paris, where the Yering Station winery emerged as the winner of the Grand Prix, making it the first winery to achieve such a feat in the southern hemisphere.[2]

As its operations continued to expand, it had its fair share of phylloxera attacks, which led to an unfortunate decline in earnings. This event steered palatal preferences in the opposite direction, and it didn’t take long before dairy farming became the new center of attraction in the valley.

Wantirni and Warramate — The Start of a New Era

Following the threat of phylloxera on vineyards and the subsequent shift to dairy farming, viticulture saw a new dawn in 1963 when the Wantirna Estate opened — making it the most recent winery in Yarra Valley. Unlike Yering, where only two varieties were planted, diverse varieties were planted here, including Dolcetto and Crouchen.

In 1969, Dr. Bailey Carrodus, a renowned botanist, planted vines on 12 hectares of land at the foot of the Warramate Hills. This restored the district’s lost glory as a regional wine hub.

Soon after, the area saw unprecedented development as popular brands started making investments and becoming part of the wine revolution in the Yarra Valley. One famous brand that came into the area is Moet and Chandon.

Black Saturday in Yarra Valley

February 2009 was a sad month for winemakers in the Victorian region as bushfires ravaged most of the wineries and claimed over 170 lives. Vineyard owners reportedly lost portions of their produce to spot fires. Areas affected by the fires included Steel Creek, Yarra Glen, Dixons Creek, Yering Station, St Huberts, Sticks, and Serrat Vineyard.[3]

Reports from the Yarra Valley Winegrowers Association estimated the damage to be around 456 acres of land. While the fire inflicted less damage to the vines, a large quantity of fruit was severely affected and lost due to smoke taint.

Thanks to the almost perfect microclimate, geographic formations, and terroir, the Yarra Valley has bounced back to life, and wine producers are coming in from all over the world to experience the uniqueness of the Yarra Valley wines.

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On this day

February 7, 2009 — Bush fire caused havoc in virtually every vineyard in Victoria, including the famous Tom Carson’s Vineyard in the Mornington Peninsula. Substantial quantities of fruit were lost to the fire, and vines were also destroyed. According to reports from local authorities, at least 5% of the entire vine-covered areas were affected.

1862 — St Hubert established one of the first wineries in the Victoria wine region, Yarra Valley. The winery is known for its amazing Cabernet Sauvignon as well as other wines like Rousanne and Pinot Noir. The vineyard was founded around the same time as Guillaume de Pury’s  Yeringberg.

Combined these vineyards covered a staggering 170+ hectares of land and played a central role in defining and setting standards for the quality of wine that has made this region famous around the world.

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, The History of Yarra Valley, The History of Yarra Valley

References:

  1. “Tourism Industry Resources.” 2022. Business Victoria. https://business.vic.gov.au/business-information/tourism-industry-resources.
  2. 2022. http://www.wineyarravalley.com/history/w2/i1001400/.
  3. 2022.http://www.visitvineyards.com/victoria/yarra-valley-dandenong-ranges/wine/vineyards-wineries/wine-food-travel-news/yarra-valley-victoria-bush-fires-destroy-wineries-and-vineyards.

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