Heathcote

Greenstone Vineyard Shiraz 2012, Heathcote, Australia

Drunk September 2015 @ home

The winery

The 40 hectare Greenstone Vineyard is situated north of the town of Heathcote at Colbinabbin, about a 90 minutes drive north of Melbourne with around twenty hectares under vine.

The Heathcote wine region lies just north of the Great Dividing range in central Victoria at an altitude of around 200 metres. It is long, encompassing a large proportion of the Cambrian ridge, and this distance means there is a marked climatic difference between north and south.

In general, Heathcote, while warmer and more continental than districts south of the Great Dividing Range, still enjoys some lower temperatures because of the prevailing cool, south to southeast winds. These sweep over the Tooborac hills up on to the Mount Camel Range, and blow from October to March, coinciding with the vines’ growing period.

The Greenstone vineyard is located about two-thirds of the way up the region, where temperatures are warmer, rainfall lower (500mm) and access to supplementary irrigation is close by.

It is positioned on the ridge of old Cambrian soil that runs through the eastern side of the Mount Camel range. This narrow strip, running, north from Lancefield towards Rochester, is unique, not only to vine growing in Victoria but in Australia.

The soils are the oldest known in the country, originating over 550 million years ago. Most soils of volcanic origin in Australia, such as those around Melbourne and Western Victoria, are young and highly acidic whereas these ancient Cambrian soils are near neutral in pH. The Mount Camel range itself is a result of a rift in the sea floor, from which molten rock arose, encapsulating limestone into the lava. The resulting soil is deep, red-coloured, mottled with lime and impart low vigour to the vines growing in it.

These soil characteristics were some of the features which attracted winemaker Alberto Antonini, who firmly believes that calcium in the soil is essential for the production of elegant red wines.

The Heathcote ‘greenstone’, a form of copper-infused basalt, is an integral part of the soil and gives the vineyard its name.

Further down the slope to the east, the soils become darker, heavier and contain little lime. They are the result of gradual erosion and movement either under the original sea which covered most of central Victoria and southern New South Wales during that period, or erosion by wind and rain since sea levels receded.

The Greenstone vineyard, situated high on the Cambrian Ridge, is where the red soils are most uniform. On a more micro scale, our soils are also of a moderate and uniform depth which is critical in growing vines of similar vigour producing similar crop loads.

Viticulturist Mark Walpole was first attracted to the red soil of Heathcote when, as a ten year old, he travelled with his family over the Mount Camel ranges and was struck by the red wool on the sheep that grazed on the Cambrian soils. Years later, as Chief Viticulturist for Brown Brothers, he was one of the first people to recognise the great potential that existed in Heathcote for quality red wine when he developed their Patricia vineyard, which is ten kilometres north of the Greenstone site.

The wine

The vines are planted east west in orientation in order to protect them from the hot summer sun and prevent sun burn and at a density of 4,545 vines per hectare, further reducing vigour. Grass has been planted between the rows in order to add organic matter and improve the soil environment for vine root activity. Rootstocks are 101-14, a low vigour variety. Shiraz clones are 2626 (South Australian clone) PR 10 and PT 23 (NSW clones).

In 2012 Heathcote received a lot more rainfall than South Australia with plenty of potential for rot and fungal disease. There was around 150mm of rain during a one week period towards the end of February.

The grapes were hand picked in early March and transported to the Kooyong Winery in the Mornington Peninsula, where they under went  a natural cold soak followed by fermentation with natural yeasts. Maceration lasted 2 weeks in open top fermenters.  The cap was punched down by hand to extract good colour and ripe tannins. After fermentation the wine was aged for 20 months in French barriques from the forests of Never and Jupilles, of which 20% was new oak.

Fermented Grape tasting notes

Really fruity on the nose with peppery notes and this continues on the palate with a wonderful balance of interesting fruit notes, pepper, chocolate and spice. Excellent complexity and length show casing the quality of the shiraz from this Heathcote wine. Great wine and great terroir!

Yering Station 2007 Yarra Valley Heathcote Shiraz Viognier, Victoria, Australia

Drunk October 2013

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The Winery

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Victoria’s first vineyard was planted at Yering Station in 1838. The Scottish-born Ryrie brothers ventured into the Yarra Valley as they moved their cattle south from Sydney. Taking up a grazing license of 43 000 acres, they named the property ‘Yering’, its Aboriginal name. The Ryrie’s planted two varieties, the Black Cluster of Hamburg and a white grape variety called Sweetwater. During the early 1850’s they returned to Sydney and Paul de Castella took ownership of Yering Station, developing the property from what remained primarily a cattle station into a landmark of winemaking in Victoria. 

Paul de Castella arrived in the Yarra Valley after traveling from his home town, the Neuchatel district in Switzerland. Many Swiss settled in the Yarra Valley around this time due to the sympathetic presence of the Victorian Governor’s wife, Sophie La Trobe, who also came from the region. Without them, the story of wine in the Yarra Valley would have been very different.

During the 1850’s Yering Station began to take shape. Paul de Castella extended the vineyards and cultivated the varieties with new cuttings imported from France. The winery was built to accommodate brand new equipment imported from the 1859 Bordeaux Exhibition in Paris. A new house and garden were constructed and an avenue of 330 elms was planted along the driveway to welcome De Castella’s bride.

In 1861 Yering Station won the Argus Gold Cup for the best Victorian vineyard. De Castella advocated for strong communication between vineyard and winery.

For years the Yering Station vineyard was one of the largest in the area and as visitors and holiday makers to the Yarra Valley began to increase, wines from this new region began to make their mark on the world. In 1889 Yering Station won a Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris. Only fourteen such awards were ever granted internationally. The winery received the sole award for a wine produced in the southern hemisphere.

By the early 20th century, the Yarra Valley wine industry was in decline. The phylloxera epidemic had destroyed many Victorian vineyards and although it never reached the Yarra Valley, economic and social factors (such as palate preference) impacted upon cool climate viticulture in Victoria. The Yarra Valley area returned to dairy farming. It was not until the early 1970’s that, in response to the changing cultural demands of the new generation, coupled with the growing success of other Australian regions, the Yarra Valley vineyards began to thrive once more.

After changing hands several times throughout the early-to-mid 1900’s, Yering Station was purchased by the Rathbone family in 1996. A further 100 acres of vines were planted and that same year a joint venture was signed with Champagne Devaux, a leading Champagne house in France, to make the now famed Yarrabank sparkling. The Rathbone family made plans for the development of a state-of-the-art winery to accommodate and complement the anticipated increase in winemaking standards. John Evans moved across from nearby Yarra Ridge to manage the expanding vineyards.

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Wine making at Yering

In 2008, the winery team welcomed into the fold new Chief Winemaker - Willy Lunn. 

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Willy Lunn has more than 25 years’ extensive and intimate cool climate winemaking experience both in Australia and overseas. 

Willy grew up in a small farming community in rural South Australia. His introduction to wine making was straight out of high school, working at Petaluma under the watchful eye of Brian Croser.  Beginning as a cellar hand in 1984, he rapidly progressed to a senior wine making position. His attention to detail and focus on quality during his 15 years at Petaluma forged the “no compromise for quality” philosophy that continues to guide him today.

Following his period at Petaluma, Willy spent two years as winemaker at Shaw and Smith winery in the Adelaide Hills.

A love of travel then led him around Australia and beyond, and in 1988 he worked at the Argyle winery in the Willamette Valley (Oregon USA) where he joined friend and mentor, Rollin Soles.  Together, they started making cool climate sparkling wines that were later destined for the White House.  It was at Argyle in those early days that his love of cool climate viticulture and ultra premium winemaking came to fruition.

The Yarra Valley 

The landscape of the Yarra Valley has been formed by the erosion of vast mountain ranges over millions of years mainly through the action of water and gravity.  The Yarra River, with its gullies and streams, has moulded the distinct undulating landforms and deposited sediments over the past 500 thousand years, resulting in segregating and grading the variable and unique soils throughout the region.

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At Yering Station, the loose earthy soils derived from the low rounded hills are used by Chief Viticulturist, John Evans to match each grape variety to each distinct soil type. 

The principal characteristic of the Yarra Valley is its cool temperature in comparison to the rest of Australia.  It is probably Australia’s best-known cool climate region which is ideal for producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

The Yarra Valley has variable and long growing seasons, encouraging the expressive, distinctive varietal flavour and complex structure for which Yering Station is renowned.  The mild, dry and at times humid summers are followed by a long cool autumn.  Most of the annual rain falls during the winter and spring months.  Frost rarely is a problem but can affect the lower vineyards from time to time.

The wine

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I first discovered Yering Station wine several years ago, and was immediately impressed by its balanced expression of a classic Australian Shiraz. At the time I had tried several "big reds" and they had all seemed very over powered by fruit and alcohol. I quickly realised that excellent and sophisticated wine was to be found in Australia but it was a case of being selective particulalry with so many large scale producers churning out supermarket style wines. For me, Yering delivers that big red, but with that "cool climate" refinement. 

The 2007 Shiraz-Viognier from Yering is an example of having to adapt to mother nature. A frost and a bush fire in the Yarra meant that the blend had to be reinforced with grapes from the excellent Heathcote area of Victoria and the combination really works.

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The wine is deep purple/crimson out of the bottle and very aromatic with the added  5% viognier giving floral notes

On the palate it is rich, fruity (plums, black cherry) and spicy with the oak quietly in the background. Not overpowered by alcohol, fruit or tannins. A hint of smokiness.....from the bush fire or perhaps just the oak? Plus this is a bottle which is pretty good value at £11.99. James Halliday says other vintages even better as more elegant, one for the wish list then. Being Victoria's first vineyard, I'll make sure the winery is on the list if I'm ever back in Australia - let's hope it's soon!

Bought winedirect.co.uk