My second day in Victoria was busy! The task in hand was to visit both the Mornington Peninsula and Yarra Valley.
These are the two iconic wine regions of Victoria that have been getting a lot of coverage for the past few years particularly because of their cooler climate styles and high quality. About an hour south of Melbourne, I was expecting the Mornington Peninsula to be similar to Geelong and the Bellarine areas of yesterday – relatively flat with the sea influence obvious. I could not have been more wrong!
I discovered an area of quite dense woodland, many hills and slopes with the roads winding prettily through this exceptional landscape. From time to time I would arrive at an oasis of vineyards within a tight valley and marvel at the topography and size and prestige of the houses. This is seriously expensive real estate – I learnt that you need $10 million to start up from scratch – it felt a little bit like Napa with the glorious homesteads surveying their land. As a result, the area has become a prime destination for casual day trippers, hen and stag parties, and the development of an efficient and quick cellar door experience which has little to do with what I am trying to achieve.
However, I chanced upon the Red Hill Wine Collective and met a guy called Tom Portet. Once again, a connection – he used to work for Treasury Wines in Twickenham selling wine throughout Europe! He now runs a café and wine shop which represents a number of small growers in the Peninsula. Seizing on this opportunity, we are planning a tasting with some winemakers that will expand the scope of our day in this area. He also directed me towards some interesting off radar contacts in the Yarra Valley.
Now heading north, my first visit was to Dominique Portet, Tom’s dad and long term winemaker in the Yarra Valley. Dominique was fascinating and very frank in his opinions – more importantly, he definitely understood what I am trying to achieve. I look forward to our tour exploring more about Dominique’s history at Chateau Lafite and his brother’s involvement at Clos du Val in Napa. The terroir of the Yarra is flatter with undulating hills and clearly a bigger production scale. The Soumah estate will offer some diverse Italian grapes and negotiations are beginning with Yarra Yering – one of Australia’s most iconic wine estates.
I could not have asked for a greater contrast for my final day in Victoria. I headed north west to the Macedon ranges. This is a lesser known area and is very spread out and clearly does not attract the hoards from the city. Famous for sparkling wine, cooler climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay as well as some elegant Shiraz, the terroir is different again with a mix of undulating slopes and more serious hills. My first stop was at a winery called Curley Flat. The owner Jeni was a fascinating character with a great story. A highly enjoyable visit is expected here. She also pointed me in the direction of several other growers such as Passing Clouds and Bindi who may well make up our day in the Macedon Ranges.