There’s a romanticized vision in many people’s minds about ‘wine country’, about rolling hills and rows of vines, green pastures and wide open spaces … And Victoria’s wine regions, or at least the pats we visited, is all this and more. Simply stunning!
Our adventure filming for The Flying Winemaker (a TV show coming next year to the Discovery networks if you haven’t heard me waxing lyrical about the show already) started of in the Yarra Valley, the most visited wine region in Victoria. It’s well worn on the tourist trail and rightly so. But arriving under the cover of darkness we were unaware how picturesque it was until we woke the next morning enveloped by the De Bortoli vineyards. Waking up we were all excited to look out the window and as soon as we did he cameras were out, time lapses were started and cameramen were a buzz with angles and morning sun.
I have to say a huge thank you to Leanne De Bortoli and the team for inviting us to stay at the vineyard house, we felt like family!
Up at the De Bortoli cellar door and the dream continues, Australia does wine country so well not just amazing wine on show and to sample but they make their own cheese to boot – I’m in love!
I must admit I’ve had a soft spot for De Bortoli since I visited their Hunter Valley property many years ago, I had a few favourites but now for pure label alone I think the La Boheme special editions replaces them all, so pretty… yes I do judge a book by it’s cover and a wine by it’s label, I know that’s against the point of the show that I am making but I am a visual person!
The great thing about the Yarra is while it’s home to some big guns of wine and first families of wine like the DeBortolis it’s also a place that embraces young gun wine makers. Mate of our host Eddie, Syd Bradford is one such bloke. Last time they caught up they were dragging hoses around Giant Steps winery here in the Yarra but now Syd’s got his own label, Thick as Thieves and he’s turning heads in the industry.
Syd was great, the perfect example of how a winemakers is not pretentious but rather passionate. He loves what he does and is darn good at it. He’s not up for the wank factor of wine, he just makes great wine and has fun with it. I also really liked that his wine labels tell a story and are hilarious, the Show Pony, the Love Letter, Lady Chetterley’s Lover (which is a Nebbiolo and the name comes from the fact that he believes Neb is the mistress to anyone who has a love affair with Pinot Noir) and the clincher is called ‘Another Bloody Chardonnay’ (a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that the Yarra is famous for it’s Chardonnay).
When chatting to Syd and setting up the story I asked him about some of his favourite wines and winemakers in the region, it was a long list that I would have loved to have included in it’s entirely but with only 22 minutes of TV and 5 days to film, and travel, we had to be succinct and choose one. So it was next door to one of the top Chardy produces in not just the Yarra but the country – Dave Bicknell.
Dave is Head Winemaker and CEO of Oakridge, he is another legend of a winemaker, in my eyes anyway (and also in those of a lot of people who hand out awards). He’s a guy that speaks frankly, that loves what he does and loves the product. He doesn’t speak of bouquets of flavours or liken his wines to 12 different fruits talking over the heads of the other people in the room who might not be able to keep up with ‘wine speak’. When explaining the new direction of Chardonnay he simply says that wines should taste like ‘grapes’ and not ‘trees’, in reference to the oak qualities that people refer to in regard to wines.
That rung a huge bell in my book, I am still trying to understand the complexities of this fancy fermented grape juice and I’ll admit I’ve been turned off Chardonnay because of that woody taste. It’s great to know Aussie winemakers are taking a new direction and it really put Chardy up there on my list to drink again, particularly Dave’s 864 – anyone want to buy me a bottle or case feel free… Syd’s Neb is also on that list and I fear over the next few months a lot more will be added!
We could have explored the Yarra for days jumping from winery to winery, and hopefully one day I’ll get to do that at a much more leisurely pace but there was TV to be made – next stop, The King Valley!