Your guide to the best flavours from the winegrowing regions.
"Victoria's wine industry was originally built on fortified wines made in the style of ports and sherries."
Victoria's wine industry, like that of South Australia, was originally built on fortified wines made in the style of ports and sherries and was concentrated in the north-east of the state around Rutherglen and Milawa-Glenrowan, where pioneering names such as Campbells, Morris and Brown Brothers still thrive but now also make outstanding table wines. Warm-climate irrigated vineyards also still thrive along the Murray River while there are also outposts of vinous excellence at Great Western, the Pyrenees, near Macedon and around Bendigo and Ballarat. The vast majority of the premium focus today, however, is on cool-climate regions including the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula (both within an hour of Melbourne) and Bellarine Peninsula outside Geelong. Chardonnay and pinot noir flourish in the these regions with names like Chandon, Coldstream Hills and Yarra Yering starring in the Yarra and Kooyong, Yabby Lake and Stonier among the leaders on the Peninsula. Both regions also produce outstanding dairy products.
A TASTE of Victoria
Some of the most innovative winemakers in Australia can be found in this pretty and diverse region just an hour from Melbourne. Known for its sparkling wines, stellar chardonnays and outstanding pinot noirs, the Yarra was first planted with grapes in 1838 – only three years after Melbourne was founded. Over the past 40 years it has become a drawcard for small producers attracted to its diverse influences, which include both Mediterranean and continental climates and a number of soil types.
"The Yarra offers a country experience with a dash of city sophistication."
Today, the Yarra offers a country experience with a dash of city sophistication with major producers including Coldstream Hills, Oakridge, Domaine Chandon, Giant Steps, Innocent Bystander, Toolangi Vineyards and Yering Station. There has been a recent explosion of new cellar doors with two of the most spectacular at Coombe Farm (Dame Nelly Melba's former home) and Levantine Hill (home to the Ezard @ Levantine Hill restaurant). The gourmet hamlet of Healesville is well worth a visit.
Must-VISIT cellar doors
In just two decades the dramatically beautiful Mornington Peninsula has undergone a remarkable transformation from sleepy summer weekend destination for Melbourne doctors and lawyers to one of Australia’s coolest wine and food destinations. Just over an hour's drive south-east of the Victorian capital, the peninsula has spectacular scenery, surf beaches, fine food, great wines and plenty of luxurious accommodation for gourmet travellers.
"The Peninsula has spectacular scenery, surf beaches, fine food, great wines and plenty of accommodation for gourmet travellers."
There are now more than 50 cellar doors and dozens of appealing restaurants, many of them overlooking vineyards, along with a dozen top-notch golf courses. The winery names are impressive: Stonier,Ten Minutes by Tractor, Port Phillip Estate/Kooyong, Yabby Lake, Paringa Estate, Circe, Eldridge Estate, T’Gallant, Scorpo and Montalto among them. Chardonnay and pinot noir are the grape varieties that do best here, but pinot gris/grigio first emerged in Australia here, and there is a wide range of regional produce including cheeses, chocolates, chutney, jam and olive oils.
Must-visit cellar doors
The working-class coastal town of Geelong, just over an hour east of Melbourne, is surrounded by vineyards on the Bellarine Peninsula, Moorabool Valley and the Surf Coast. The region was first planted with vines by Swiss immigrants in 1842 but the modern industry was only re-established in the 1970s. The Moorabool Valley to the north is home to Austins, Bannockburn, Clyde Park and Lethbridge. You'll find Scotchmans Hill, Bellarine Estate, Leura Park Estate, Jack Rabbit and Oakdene on the Bellarine Peninsula, while the Surf Coast has cellar doors at Bellbrae, Brown Magpie and St Regis, among others.
"The coolish temperatures have proved perfect for the great Burgundy varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir."
The coolish temperatures have proved perfect for the great Burgundy varieties of chardonnay and pinot noir, but shiraz, sauvignon blanc and pinot gris/grigio also do well. The Bellarine has a maritime climate, the Moorabool Valley has a warm, continental climate and the Surf Coast is known for long summer days and cool ocean breezes.
Must-VISIT cellar doors
Bellarine Peninsula winery Terindah Estate was named by James Halliday as one of his “Dark Horse” wineries of the year for 2016. The striking modern venue's wine tastings include a sweet wine made from the rare Italian grape picolit, and The Shed restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, serves lunch daily.
Another Bellarine winery, relative newcomer Jack Rabbit Vineyard, has superb views across the bay to Geelong, the You Yangs and Melbourne, and is home to two eateries; fine-dining Jack Rabbit Restaurant and the more casual House of Jack Rabbit.
An old favourite at Bannockburn is Clyde Park Vineyard and bistro, which is well-known for its wood-fired pizzas.