Terroir In The Yarra

It's a wanky term these days, due to overuse and marketing.

Which is a shame, because it's most of the wine.

Terroir (pronounced tehwa) is a French word for pretty much everything in the vineyard from soil to sun to water and air. It's the climate and everything that might influence anything.

When the point of winemaking is to show the vineyard and vintage, terroir becomes everything. It's what creates the starting product, and everything you do is aimed at preserving that, and not dulling or perverting it's intricacies.

I'm not here to say that the Yarra Valley has the best vineyards in the world; some of them are capable of creating the damn near divine, but so do many other places. For me the Yarra is just where the heart is, and that's enough.

However, there's something that I strongly believe is on the cards, and that's the recognition of small sub regions or appellations within the region. There's so much diversity.

Almost without exception, the world's great wine regions are all in marginal climates. Cold vineyards and in area that's otherwise too warm, or warm vineyards in an area that is too cold.

When you're toeing the line so closely, the fine details become crucial. Sun exposure, soil density, wind flow; they change rapidly in the same vineyard, let alone when you cross to the other side of a hill.

That's the magic of it I suppose. Pick a hill, and a place on that hill, and plant some grapes. It'll taste different from anything anywhere else in the world.

That's also why we all sound like wankers when we talk about minimal intervention in the winery: if you can create something in the winery, it can be done in any winery anywhere, it has lost what makes it unique. It's the sanctity of place, of soil and sun and history, the more we can let that show through, the better the wine.

That's the beauty of it; the Yarra is an incredibly diverse area full of hills, some steep and some gently rolling, dozens of different soil types. It's warm, it's cold, it's wet and it's dry.

The younger generation are gifted old vines, planted by those who've come before us, and a great culture of winemaking from which to learn.

That's something else that I think goes under the radar when we taste something and say that it looks like Burgundy or Barolo; it's not just the soil, it's the culture. The lack of a fingerprint tells you just as much about the winemaker, as one who was too heavy handed.

The Yarra has it all in abundance; but then maybe I'm just sentimental, because it's also home.

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