The Yarra Valley is a region in flux. With the increasing impact of both climate change which is bringing warmer temperatures across the region and the scourge of Phylloxera killing the vines in their path the region has plenty of reasons to reflect and reassess what will suit the region moving forward.
Many producers are choosing to get ahead of the curve and replant portions of their vineyards with ’emerging’ or ‘alternative’ varieties – notably Mount Mary has planted Rhone varieties which are now making their way on to the market under the ‘Marli Russell’ label. Yarra Yering has long had an affection for Portuguese varieties which are no doubt coming in to their own as the climate shifts in their favour. Whilst others are staying true to the Yarra Valley classics and choosing simply to replant at different expositions or further up the slopes. Each to their own, and most likely some in both camps will see great results.
Pinot Noir has been one variety under pressure from in and outside the region, thought to be in the firing line as temperatures move beyond the norm for producing high quality Pinot Noir. Yet over the past few years it has been a star performer, notably in the cooler 2017 vintage, and it remains in high demand making up two-thirds of red fruit sold in 2019, and the majority in the premium price bracket of over $2000 per tonne.
The 2019 season was relatively warm and dry overall, but it seesawed somewhat with heat spikes followed by quick changes to cool conditions. Rainfall was ample, and some arrived towards the end of December giving respite in the lead up to the important ripening period. As Harvest approached another heat spike persisted which brought the ripening on quickly and relatively uniformly across grape varieties resulting in a short sharp harvest that required some logistical innovation to manage fermentation space.
You’ll find commentary on the wines released so far that praises the wines in large part for their seductive nature and ample ripe, sweet fruit. This has been consistent with our tastings to date, where they may lake that focus and shape from a little more acid they make up for in harnessing what was offered by the season delivering wines that are definitely seductive and glorious to drink now.
Tasting Note – 2019 Rochford Estate Pinot Noir – $27
Rochford, like many small producers, have been hit hard this year with the important restaurant and Bar trade in Melbourne being out of action for so long. The flow on effect has been just as bad for these small growers, not to mention the important events business that Rochford is equally well-known for. It means that in adapting, they have offered some of their wines well worth the original asking prices at a discount to pull forward a little cash flow and see them through. You won’t see this wine at this price for long, but while you do it is worth delving in to see the quality on offer. It’s not a ‘fruity’ wine, but it is fruit-driven with perfectly ripened red berries, overlaying the subtle influence of forest floor and a hint of Rose coming through to. It’s a wine of silky texture that carries through quite seamlessly to a fine, persistent finish. Sheer drinking pleasure you don’t really see under $30.