Wine Industry Tourism is big business in Australia, and for good reason. We live in a country which is rich in viticultural offerings and blessed with diversity of micro-climates and terroir. While we may be regarded as “new world” by the elitist “old world” producers, the juvenile tag given to our winemakers doesn’t stop them from being competitive on the International stage in some of the world’s most prestigious wine shows.
Against this background, it is unsurprising that savvy operators are investing heavily in the sector and exploiting the unique position that Aussie vignerons enjoy. Perhaps their greatest opportunity lies not in the quality of the wines, but in the broad appeal of the product. You don’t need to be an oenophile, wine lover or grape nut to appreciate the wine tourism experience.
Despite the vastness of the continent we live on, Australian wine destinations are remarkably accessible. Take the Mornington Peninsula for example. Just jump on a short two-hour flight from South East Queensland to Melbourne, and it is then only an hour and a half’s drive to the picturesque villages that scatter themselves amongst undulating vineyards and emerald green pastoral paddocks on the Mornington promontory.
Towns like Redhill, Moorooduc, Balnarring and Dromana offer dozens of dining and wine tasting options, but the real culinary hotspots are the cellar door restaurants located within the vineyards themselves. At the acclaimed eating houses of cellar doors like Port Phillip Estate, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Paringa Estate, bon vivants can enjoy fine dining on a sundeck overlooking rows of vines, punctuated by emerald green pastures, rocky outcrops and the obligatory dam or two.
On a recent field trip with a few mates, it was perhaps the menu of Polperro that supplied the gastronomic highlight, but when it came to wines and outlook, it was Yabby Lake which titillated the tastebuds.
The Yabby Lake vineyards are located at Tuerong on the Northern Mornington Peninsula and were planted in around 1998 along a north facing escarpment. The aspect ensures that the vines capture as many of the sun’s rays as possible each day.
Recognising the enigma of the distinctive character of fruit from adjoining blocks, the wine making team at Yabby Lake have embarked upon a single block release program to allow each parcel of vines to express itself as an individual statement of its aspect, elevation, soil structure and micro climate. It is hard to believe the grapes of the same varietal grown only a couple of hundred metres apart can have some disparate outcomes once vinified and in the bottle.
2016 Yabby Lake single vineyard Pinot Noir
And while Pinot Grigio, Shiraz and Chardonnay all cope very well with the maritime climate and cool nights of the Peninsula, it is the Pinot Noir which champions the region’s viticulture. At Yabby Lake, the 2016 Yabby Lake single vineyard Pinot Noir was their stand out offering. It is a step up from their Red Claw range and at $60 per bottle at cellar door, probably overpriced the product. But if you can overlook the price tag, your nose will appreciate the uplifting floral bouquet of raspberry and plums and the overlaying herbaceous spiciness. Once on the palate, layers of strawberry, cherries and blood plums unfurl in a kaleidoscope of stone fruit and red berries, before fine tannins appear at the back end and linger through a velvet edged conclusion.
But if Yabby Lake fails to impress, fear not. The Mornington Peninsula spoils visitors for choice with another 500 boutique cellar doors in the compact region. If you plan to try all 200 plus premium wines made in the region, it might be best to plan ahead, hire a driver and possibly even pack yourself a spare liver!