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Yarra Valley, part 2
The wines
of Yeringberg

Guill de Pury, Yeringberg

After visiting Domaine Chandon, my next appointment in the Yarra was something completely different. Yeringberg is as about as far from a hi-tech glitzy modern winery as you could get, but it is a place full of history and charm, and the wines have a loyal following.

Guill de Pury (pictured above) is a third-generation winegrower, and is responsible for resurrecting Yeringberg as a wine estate in the 1970s; indeed, this was the beginning of the Yarra renaissance—after a 50 year period when winegrowing had disappeared from the valley.

Yeringberg was one of the pioneering winegrowing properties when wine first came to the Yarra in the mid-19th century. His grandfather, Frederic Guillame de Pury, who was a Swiss baron, came here in 1863, after he’d been in Australia for a decade, and bought part of the original 43 000 acre Yering Station, which itself had been established in 1837. In the 1860s, this original Yering Station was split into three poperties (Yeringberg, St Huberts and Yering). But winegrowing in the Yarra suffered a downturn in fortunes, and the last big vineyards were pulled out in 1921. This was because Australia largely lost interest in table wines, opting for fortifieds and beer instead, coupled with the depression. Most of the vineyards were abandoned and the properties maintained for grazing. Yeringberg itself is to this day predominantly a 1200 acre sheep and cattle farm, with 2000 sheep and 250 cows. 

The vineyards

‘When Guill and I first married there had been no wine here for years and years’, recalls Guill’s wife Katharine. ‘We used to meet elderly people who remembered Guill’s father’s white.’ Guill started replanting the first vines in 1969, making the first of the new generation of Yeringberg wines in 1974. Until recently there were just 5–6 acres of vines here; now there are 50 (the original vineyard area was 80 acres), which produces about 20 tons (but presumably will produce more as the new vineyards come on line). Five wines are made.

Guill has a PhD in biochemistry, which he obtained in the 1960s. His son also has a PhD, this time in plant physiology. He remarks that there are now about 3500 hectares of vines in the Yarra Valley, up from 2000 hectares 20 years ago, with many of the newer plantings in unsatisfactory places, with quite a few in frost hollows. Regarding the longevity of Yeringberg wines, Guill recalls the story of the 1915, tasted by no less an authority than Hugh Johnson, which Guill had purchased back off a collector in Tasmania. Apparently it was showing well. He holds vertical tastings, and maintains that the 1976, enjoyed recently, was very impressive.  

Inside the winery

Yeringberg Marsanne Roussanne 2004
The two varieties are picked separately because they ripen at different times. This has a fresh bright nose that’s citrussy and quite perfumed. The palate shows some richness of texture: it’s fruity, with a hint of melon and some lemony freshness. Some interest here. Very good+ 88/100

Yeringberg Chardonnay 2005
Starts off in tank but does most of its fermentation in wood, after the gross lees have dropped out. There’s some bentonite fining during the fermentation process to assist this. It has a rounded, ripe, nutty nose with some vanilla sweetness. The palate has some woody notes and nice nutty fruit. Quite fresh and rounded. It’s understated: not a big wine, but one with a nice personality. Very good+ 89/100

Yeringberg 2003
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Malbec. Sweet, pure dark fruits nose with a spicy, earthy edge. There’s some chocolatey richness too. The palate shows supple red berry and blackcurrant fruit with nice acid and an understated spicy, chocolatey structure. According to Guill, this wine will probably go a bit flat and lose fruit, but then after 8 years will start to look like a mature wine: classic and nicely structured. It’s delicious with lots of potential. Very good/excellent 92/100

Yeringbery 1994
Lovely rounded blackcurrant nose with some subtle green herbal elements. The palate is structured with a lovely savouriness and earthy, herb-tinged blackcurrant fruit. Still very fruity, with some earthy structure. Still quite youthful and has potential for further development. Very good/excellent 92/100

Yeringberg Shiraz 2003 
From young vines (3 years old at this stage). Fresh, bright, almost minty berry fruits nose. The palate shows bright peppery fruit. Juicy and bright, with nice fruit. 

see more pictures from Yeringberg here

Yarra series:

Wines tasted 03/06
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

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