Who says Australian wines don’t age?



At last week’s Yarra Yering Dinner in Berrys’ Cellars, Mark Haisma, Winemaker at YY since 1997, steered 35 fortunate guests through six wines and one fortified; the final pair coming from the 1980 vintage.

Mark kicked off with a 2006 Viognier and 2006 Chardonnay: both apricot stone and citrus rich respectively; fresh, taut and minerally despite the drought. We then skipped a decade or so to the rare 1992 Merlot: a beautifully compact, yet full wine, lush with herb and earth characters held fresh with some stone fruit structure. A 1991 Underhill Shiraz followed, a single vineyard wine of Hermitage proportions: grilled meat, savoury and herbal notes crammed onto the palate, ushered in by the silkiest of textures; again, still young with 5 – 10 yrs ahead of it.

The final pair, from the 1980 vintage, showed why Yarra Yering is feted among those in the know: the No. 2 (a blend of Shiraz, Viognier and a dash of Marsanne) showed a Côte-Rôtie-esque perfume and femininity; the antithesis of the Underhill. While alongside was the No. 1 which even at 28 yrs old was totally composed and linear, no hint of drying out or fraying.

And as if that wasn’t enough, Mark unveiled a stunning Potsorts, a deadringer for the Douro and the finest Portuguese fortified I’ve tasted outside of Pinhao: still young with rocky blackberry fruit and taut minerality.

So what’s the secret? Terroir, in a word. When Dr Bailey Carrodus, now in his ninth decade, created the estate in 1969, he chose an elevated site, cooled by the onshore breezes and blessed with significant diurnal shift. Heavy canopies are encouraged to shade the fruit, while being dry-farmed from the start has imbued the vines with the wherewithal to look after themselves come what may. Yields are low and up to 30% stalks are used in the fermentation, giving added polyphenol structure.

Just when the rest of corporate Australia buckles under the water shortages, Yarra Yering’s 2006’s have never looked so smart!