One of the best things about moving cities is having new regions to explore on weekends. Autumn is a great time of year in Victoria. Forty-degree heat waves and raging bushfires are a thing of the past but it is still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. We took advantage of the beautiful weather and made a day trip to the Yarra Valley, one of Australia’s top wine regions.
De Bortoli Vineyards, Yarra Valley
Australia produces more than 1 billion litres of wine every year and is one of the top five wine-producing countries in the world. There are spectacular wine regions all over the country, but the Yarra Valley has earned a reputation as one of the best – and one of the most beautiful. As one of Australia’s coolest wine regions, it’s a hotbed for sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and shiraz.
Since my boyfriend was driving, we limited ourselves to two wineries. Domain Chandon is Moet & Chandon’s Australian outpost and, in contrast, De Bortoli Wines is a Victorian family business that has been winemaking for generations.
Once we were off the highway, we were treated to a scenic drive past green and gold vineyards against the soft blues and greens of the surrounding forests and sloping hills.
One of only a handful of Moet & Chandon-owned vineyards outside of France, Domain Chandon produces Australian sparkling wines in the traditional French style. When we arrived at the winery, we found the MG Car Club of Victoria was holding an annual get together at the vineyard. The vintage cars were parked proudly in gleaming rows in front of the vineyard, while the club members held a barbeque on the lawn beside the cellar door.
During my exchange in Paris, I took a day trip to the Champagne region. En route to the Moet & Chandon HQ, we stopped in the regional centre, Reims, to find a classic car meet-up outside the staggering Notre Dame de Reims. It was such a strange coincidence then, that we arrived at Moet & Chandon’s Australian outpost to find another classic car meet up!
I don’t know the first thing about cars but I could still appreciate how beautiful these vintage styles were. I wouldn’t mind cruising around the Yarra Valley in one of these!
After we took a self-guided tour of the facilities, we squeezed into a spot along the bar for a champagne tasting. The curved bar sits in the middle of a large atrium, with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the vineyards.
For just $5 per person, we tried six different wines. My favourites were the Vintage Blanc de Blancs 2012, a fresh, zesty wine which I bet would match perfectly with oysters and the Vintage Brut 2012, their flagship sparkling wine which is made from the three classic champagne grape varieties.
The serving sizes were generous but because the bar was so busy, the staff did rush us a little bit. On more than one occasion, I had to quickly drain the last of my glass before the bartender topped it up with the next wine. I was surprised to find myself tipsy by the end of what should only have been one or two glasses of wine!
We actually picked this winery because the night we planned the trip, we happened to be drinking a De Bortoli red! It was twenty minutes away from Chandon, which gave us a bit more of a drive through the beautiful scenery – including one cross-country drive on a dirt road through some farms! I’m blaming Google Maps for that one. De Bortoli is managed by third-generation Leanne De Bortoli and her husband, Chief De Bortoli winemaker Steve Webber.
I’m blaming Google Maps for that one. De Bortoli is managed by third-generation Leanne De Bortoli and her husband, Chief De Bortoli winemaker Steve Webber.
De Bortoli is managed by third-generation Leanne De Bortoli and her husband, Chief De Bortoli winemaker Steve Webber.
When we arrived we found that the restaurant was booked for the rest of the day, but who needs proper food when you can stuff your face with cheese? We shared the cheese tasting plate for $16, which included a Victorian goats cheese, a gooey French double cream, delicious Tasmanian raclette and a blue cheese, also from Victoria.
I took our cheese plate to the tasting bar, where the bartender helped us match our cheese to wine. We paid $5 per person for a tasting but this time, there was no limit to how many we could try – technically. David could only try a couple since he was driving and I just tried one extra. I have enough trouble navigating when I’m stone cold sober, and I wanted to get us home without another accidental detour.
We liked the riesling so much that we bought a bottle to take to dinner with friends that night but I still want to track down the rosé. One of the most surprising and memorable tastings was a dessert wine, Noble One. I don’t normally like dessert wine but the Botrytis Semillion was sweet without being saccharine. It’s considered the best dessert wine in Australia and has been named the best dessert wine in the world five times. If you’re going to drink dessert wine, it may as well be the best!
The cellar door at De Bortoli might not have had the glamour of Chandon, but the wine & cheese pairing was perfect and the staff member who guided us was much more attentive and knowledgeable than at Chandon. Another perk was being able to walk through the vineyards at De Bortoli – at least, there was no fence or sign like at Chandon, and we saw a few other couples dotted around the vineyards too.
Each winery had their strengths, but I couldn’t recommend one over the other – my advice is to visit both! There are around 80 wineries in the region, so we will definitely be making another day trip to the Yarra Valley. It is only about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, so a return trip is as easy as hopping in the car when the weather is good and following the road till we find a new winery.
Have you been to the Yarra Valley? What is your favourite wine region?
Planning a day trip from Melbourne? You might be interested in:
- Wine & Sunshine on the Mornington Peninsula
- Dromana: The Mornington Peninsula’s Prettiest Beach
- Brighton’s Bathing Boxes: Dendy Beach’s Rainbow Row