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The History of Yarra Valley

Yarra valley

History of Yarra Valley

Australia is packed with fun destinations — from its breathtaking lavender fields to art galleries and parks and historic wineries with cellar doors. The local food, scenes, spectacular getaway locations, and wines make Yarra valley a fantastic place in Australia.

In addition to the memorable sightseeing and adventure that Yarra Valley offers its visitors, any bottle of wine you pick out is likely to be one of the best in the world, which explains why the Yarra Valley is synonymous with ecotourism.

The beautiful wine region in Melbourne, Victoria, received over three million visitors worldwide in 2011. They all had one goal — to taste Yarrah Valley’s sparkling wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and the famous Chardonnay.[1] The climate and closeness to the bubbling city center and over 80 renowned wineries make it a choice location for tourists.

Looking deep into Yarra Valley history

If you are looking for the heart of Victoria winemaking (where the earliest vines were planted), there is no need to look farther because you just found your answer — The Yarra Valley. 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 from that point onward 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.

In 1863, 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 emerged 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 Crouchon. In 1969, Dr. Bailey Corrodus, a renowned botanist, planted vines on 12 hectares of land at the foot of Warramate hills. This restored the district’s lost glory as a wine hub in the region.

Soon after, the area saw unprecedented development as popular brands started to troop in to make investments and be a part of the wine revolution in 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 largely affected by the fires include Steel Creek and Yarra Glen. Others are Dixons Creek, Yering station, St Huberts, Sticks, and Serrat Vineyard in Mornington Peninsula.[3]

Reports from the Yarra valley winegrowers association estimate the damage to be around 456 acres of land. While the fire did less severe damage to the vines, large quantities of fruits were severely affected and lost due to smoke taint.

Thanks to the almost perfect microclimates, geographic formations, and terroir (soil conditions and land composition), among other favorable conditions that aid viticulture, 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 cellar doors.

On this day

February 7, 2009 — Bush fire caused havoc the 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 — One of the first wineries was established by St Hubert in the Victoria wine region, Yarra Valley. The winery is known for its amazing Cabernet Sauvignon as other wines like Rousanne and Pinot Noir. The vineyard was founded around the same time as Guillaume de Pury’s  Yeringberg. Combined, both vineyards covered a staggering 17O+ 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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  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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