Vintage is in full swing here in the Yarra Valley so the winery was a hive of activity atTarraWarra Estate when I arrived; winemaker Clare Holloran was topping up barrels, the marketing team was preparing for the arrival of Chateau Yering’s Front of House staff and Zac the handsome vineyard dog was busiest of all, soaking up the last rays of the autumn sun.
I’d been invited to tag along on a ‘vintage visit and tasting’ for Chateau Yering’s staff and listen in as TarraWarra Estate’s General Manager, Simon Napthine introduced the winemaking process, philosophy and sustainable farming practices of the Estate.
As we climbed our way up the dirt track to J-Block to the Shiraz vines, Simon explained the Estate’s approach of ‘minimal intervention’ in both the vineyard and winery. The vineyard team use organic fertilisers and re-use the grape marc (skins and stems waste) for composting and cattle feed. Their aim is to achieve a balanced eco-system, keeping the vines and soil healthy whilst ensuring the right number of grubs, bugs and microbes are present to maintain the health of the whole Estate.
At the top of the hill, we surveyed the
three kilometres of north-facing undulating slopes, planted out in 17 blocks, between Yarra Glen and Healesville; 28 hectares in total under vine. Their oldest vines are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which were planted nearly 30 years ago. Nowadays, the estate also has Shiraz and Merlot, with a couple of rows of Rhone Valley white varieties Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne (which just happens to be my favourite TarraWarra Estate wine, 2010 VMR). Nebbiolo has recently been grafted to older Pinot Noir vines and Barbera will soon be included too.
Back at the winery, Simon took us through
to the barrel hall to the open fermenter Shiraz vat, where we could literally feel the heat from the whole berry ferment. Plunging his arm under the warm fruit, his stained arm revealed the rich dark grape juice below – this intense colour of the wine is a real feature of the 2012 vintage.
The visit reinforced for me how exact and precarious the wine making process is: with every stage critically influencing the wine for better or worse. To perfect each element of the process and produce consistently award-winning wine is about as easy as getting a hole in one every time you play golf. I take my hat off to TarraWarra Estate, for perfecting that art and painstakingly producing stunning wines we love to drink.
Helen Collier is a local writer in the Yarra Valley with her own business JustWords