Yarra Valley: Quality Wines From Victoria's Oldest Wine Region

Australia's Yarra Valley is the oldest wine region in the state of Victoria.  It's also one of Victoria's best-known tourist destinations.  Just 28 miles from Melbourne, Victoria's capital, Yarra Valley attracts over two million visitors per year, according to the Tourism Victoria Research Unit.  This historic wine region, only one hour's drive from Melbourne, is a world away from the skyscrapers and tram-filled streets of downtown.

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Yarra Valley History

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Victoria's wine industry got its start in Yarra Valley.  In 1838, the first vines were planted on what is now the Yering Station property.  Many of the valley's first winemakers came to Australia from Switzerland; they settled in Melbourne, but quickly moved from the city to the nearby Geelong and Yarra Valley areas to plant wine grapes.  Yarra Valley led the way in production of quality Australian wines during the 19th century.  Unfortunately, tastes changed and fortified wines became popular.  This left Yarra Valley growers in a very bad spot, because the valley's climate is very cool.  When phylloxera arrived in central Victoria, Yarra Valley's fate was sealed.  The already unwanted grapevines were torn up to prevent the spread of phylloxera, and some of Australia's best cool-climate vineyards became pastureland.  By 1937, the Yarra Valley wine industry had completely vanished.

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Fortunately, changing tastes brought wine industry pioneers back to Yarra Valley.  In the early 1960s, several new vineyards were established, and some old vineyard properties were revived.  Yarra Valley's wine industry really took off in the 1980s when innovative winemakers increasingly turned their attention to cool-climate wines, particularly pinot noir.  The valley's winemakers have never looked back.  Today, Yarra Valley boasts over 80 wineries, producing everything from sparkling wines to dense reds, as well as a thriving wine tourism industry.

Geography, Soil and Climate

Yarra Valley is surrounded by mountains and forests.  The Yarra River and several creeks wander through the valley.  You can find vineyards in the flat river basin as well as on slopes.  Elevations range from about 160 to 1500 feet.  The valley's soils vary by location; in the center, soils are sandy loam or clay loam, but soils in other parts of the valley are volcanic and therefore quite fertile.

Yarra Valley's climate is, as previously noted, cooler than many other parts of Australia.  The average rainfall is about 40 inches per year.  Much of this rain falls during the winter and spring months; summers are cool and dry.  Drought is an occasional problem, as are wind and, more rarely, spring frosts.