Our trip started with a great flight on Qantas with James, the in-flight sommelier. We had 2004 Pol Roger Cuvee Winston Churchill in the upstairs lounge and before we knew it we were in Melbourne.
It took us a moment to acclimate. Driving on the opposite side of the road was a challenge, but we soon got the hang of it as we headed north to the Yarra Valley.
As soon as we dropped off our things, it was off to Mac Forbes for our first tasting and a little lunch with Austin Black, their winemaker.
We were immediately impressed by the variety of the wines—chardonnay, riesling (skin-contact examples of both), as well as several pinots and other reds.
And then there were the relatively low alcohol levels—all under 13 percent—the cool climate allowing longer hang time and phenolic ripeness while the wines still had really bright acidity. I’ve had many examples of low-alcohol wines that should have stayed on the vine longer. These were complex and very interesting. There was quite an energy, a nervosity to all of the wines.
And then we went to meet the man, the myth, the legend, Timo Mayer. We discussed winemaking styles, cork (he’s one of the few local winemakers to use it instead of Stelvin) and “stalky shit,” as he puts it, which is a reference to using whole bunches of grapes. It’s his belief that it makes a sturdy, more age-worthy wine. Some of the Yarra pinots really play the elegance angle and are great at it, especially on the valley floor. I love elegance and would drink Santenay and Savigny aux Serpentières forever, but whole cluster in these wines is great and gives them great structure to hang everything else on with amazing savory qualities.
“Every piece of dirt has a different flavor” was one of my favorite quotes from Mayer.
The day concluded with a dinner at the Healsville Hotel with Levantine Hill, Yarra Yering, Coldstream Hills, Tokar Estate, Giant Steps, Domaine Chandon, Punch, Punt Road and a few more wineries. The camaraderie of the wine community in the Yarra Valley was immediately apparent. It was a great way to end our first day!—Sarah Clarke
This story appears in the print issue of jan 2019.
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