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Published: February 20th 2020
In the environs of Melbourne and Adelaide we visited several wine areas. It is easier to cover them all together even though they were on separate days.
Melbourne has the famous Yarra Valley northeast of the city, basically surrounding the area of the Healesville Aniam Sanctuary we visited. However, when we were at the the Sanctuary it was obvious that traffic was heavy and we found out that Elton Jon was giving a concert that night and the next night. Rather than going back up there to try the justifiably famous wines, we elected instead to go to the Mornington Peninsula. Mornington is Sonoma to the Yarra Valley's Napa. Much more laid back and informal, and frankly more fun.
Viticulture is intricately related to microenvironment. A little higher tip a slope and the annual rainfall or the average temperature may be different enough to make a difference in what grapes do best there. Mornington has a somewhat cool climate compared to some other areas, and their best product is fine Pino noirs. However, we discovered that most vintners and winemakers enjoy making small batches of unusual varieties, and often these are quite interesting to taste. The limiting factor, of
course, is the need for a designated driver. All of the wineries take some great pains to make the cellar door operations very presentable and usually quite beautiful.
Our tour along the Great Ocean Road ended in Mt. Gambier. Starting just a few kilometers north of of that lovely little town is another famous wine producing area called Coonawarra. It is famous for the wines produced there, but also as a grape-growing area for many producers who use the grapes grown in Coonawarra to combine with those grow elsewhere. Coonawarra is most famous as the best Cabernet Sauvignon growing area in Australia, largely due to a ridge of terra rosso, a bright red soil virtually identical to the La Mancha region of Spain. Other varieties are also grown here, such as chardonnay and sauvignon blanc. The limestone underlayment of the terra Rosso allows for good drainage. Only 60 km from the coast, the semi-maritime environment somewhat resembles Bordeaux.
Adelaide is just north of the Coonawarra, and has important wine-growing regions. To the north is the Barossa Valley, home to Penfold's Nadine of the best wines in the world, the famous Hermitage Grange. The Barossa Valley is primarily known
for its great shiraz wines (shiraz being the same grape as the syrah grapes of the Rhone valley. There grapes that are grown in the Rhone are now being grown here also. In addition, there is an increasing interest in white wines. The higher elevations of Barossa and the immediately adjacent Eden Valley produce great rieslings. The oldest winery is Seppeltsfield, and that is reflected in their large and elaborate cellar door operation. The name reflects the fact that this area was originally settled by Germans.
The last area we covered was the McLaren Vale southwest of Adelaide. This is another great shiraz region, although the surrounding hills and differing soils give microclimates for other varieties as well. Our favorite winery here was D'Arenberg. Jennie and I visited there in 2005, but it is much larger and quite different now, with a wealth of sculptures by Dali and others, all featuring whimsy. We had a great visit at the cellar door called The Cube for obvious reasons. The wines have unusual names, and there is a story behind each one, and some are hilarious.
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