Recently we had the privilege of spending an amazing day at one of our favourite wineries in the Yarra Valley, Yarra Yering. Producing very high quality wine in small batches, enables them to keep a good degree of control over each ferment..
Yarra Yering process just over 100 tonnes of fruit per year. The fruit comes entirely from their own vines. They are amongst some of the oldest in the Yarra Valley and are meticulously maintained by Andrew the vineyard manager. They were originally planted in 1963 by Dr Bailey Carrodus, a botanist who selected the site especially for its soil, gentle northern slope and elevation from the valley floor to avoid frosts. It also has one of the most amazing views of the valley from their cellar door.
Stories I’ve heard of commercial wine making so far often involve pumping wine from tank to tank, adding large quantities of chemicals, and wine presses that can handle 10 or more tonnes of fruit in one go. Not much romance there!
Yarra Yering do things differently… All of their fruit is hand harvested and hand sorted to remove any MOG (Material Other than Grapes). The reds are mostly gently crushed by foot, the old fashioned way.
Last year, the winemaker here, Sarah Crowe, was the first woman to be awarded the James Halliday Winemaker of the year and it’s easy to see why. The wines all reflect the care and attention that goes in to making them. You instantly know that you’re drinking something several steps above your average wine.
Medallion Members Picking Day
Each year, the word is put out to their Medallion Members list (which we are lucky enough to be on) asking if people are able to get involved in picking some fruit for their premium range of wine. The picking is always followed by some time in the winery with Sarah and a lunch with some of the team. Of course we leapt at the chance!
Driving over the Christmas hills as the sun is rising, hot air balloons in flight over the valley, is just magic; a view that I will never tire of. On arrival we were greeted by Sarah (Winemaker) and Janine (Cellar Door Manager) with some delicious hot cross buns and very welcome cups of tea and coffee to fuel us for the morning.
Behold the Carrodus cabernet vines, which we’d be picking today! Probably some of the best treated vines in the country as demonstrated by the fruit they bore. Petite bunches of perfectly ripe fruit. It is no wonder that the wine is so good with raw materials like this.
The coffee and tea were just about kicking in and people started to wake up and chat as we picked our way along the vines. We met people from all over, from one guy who pointed out his house on the hill next door (about 5k’s away) to a chap who works for Vinomofo. The team finished picking so fast that they made the most of us, putting us to work picking some Marsanne grapes to go into this year’s Dry white No 2. No. 2 is a new blend that Sarah is working on – a Viognier, Rousanne, Marsanne blend sometimes known as a VRM.
Picking done. We had harvested around 750kg of fruit from the vines, enough to make about 500 litres or 650 bottles their best wine.
Next up was a tour of the winery and the chance to stomp some grapes! Larger producers may aim to process around 10 tonnes per hour. YY processes a max of 8 tonnes per day, and most of the work is done by hand (and foot). The grapes are chilled down to 3 degrees, sorted by hand to remove the MOG, then they are gently de-stemmed and the berries dropped into small fermenters. Yarra Yering use small batch fermenters – Tea chests, which were designed by Dr C. – that can hold around 600kg of fruit each. The sturdy hardwood frames insulate the wines from ambient temperature changes on hot and cold days so the ferments are well controlled. The fermenters are very heavy as a result though.
Time for lunch
On to the tasting! Sarah and Janine lined up of all of the new release wines for this year (including a couple of bottles of Carrodus) for an informal tasting. The line up also included the Warramate wines. Yarra Yering bought the Warramate vineyard next door recently and literally knocked down the fence to join them together. The Warramate vines are treated in exactly the same way as the Yarra Yering vines but the wines are made using different methods so that they are ready for drinking immediately. Sitting in the $30-40 price bracket, they are a bit more accessible than the premium wines.
After a delicious lunch, we spent a leisurely afternoon tasting some exquisite wines with a great bunch of wine lovers and locals from around the area. My favourites from the day were:
Dry White No. 1
A Semillon / Chardonnay blend which was simply delicious! One of the least expensive wines that Yarra Yering do and it’s a cracker. Crisp and crunchy with a little tannin from some skin contact, but also shows some peach and tropical flavours. We thought this would be great with most Asian foods and took a couple of bottles home with us.
2016 Pinot Noir
Beautiful bright plum red in colour this is a classic cool climate Pinot Noir but has an intense flavour profile with cherries and maybe a hint of liquorice. Fine grained tannins finish the job and leave you wanting more.
2015 Agincort Cabernet Malbec
Loads of dark berries, plum and cherries well balanced with just a hint of eucalyptus or green leafiness from the Cabernet. Beautiful tannin structure hold this well rounded wine together. This is drinking great now but could happily cellar for 5 years or more.
You can buy Yarra Yering’s wines directly from their shop
We have decided that this is how we want to make wine. As winemakers, we want to be physically in contact with the fruit and the ferments every day. Touching and smelling the wine to experience it on a sensory level as well as testing it to understand the science behind what is happening. Ideally using hand picked and sorted fruit that we stomp with friends or people who have a keen interest in the wine we’re making. Whether that will be financially viable or not will be something to be seen!
On another note, our Class to Glass vintage-in-the-garage for 2018 is almost at an end. It’s been pretty hectic which is why there haven’t been any updates for a while. Briefly, it has been very successful with around 150 L of wine currently in demijohns and another 50 L of Chardonnay which is still fermenting away nicely. We’re really pleased and excited with the wines we’ve produced this year. We are starting to make plans for another significant jump in production next vintage! Some of the wines will hopefully be available for sale toward the end of this year or early next year (As long as I can get a liquor licence!) so you should be able to start experiencing some of them for yourselves!
Until next time, thanks for reading and please share with your wine-interested chums!
We would also like to thank Yarra Yering for this amazing day and opportunity.