Coldstream Hills: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the Yarra Valley
Monday, April 08, 2019 in News
Coldstream Hills is a key player in the modern Yarra Valley. Adrian Read reports…
Yarra Valley vineyards and wineries thrived during the second half of the 1800s, but by the 1920s it was all over. Vineyards became dairy farms and changing tastes favoured fortified wines, for which the region was unsuited. The Yarra Valley fell to the cow.
It was not until the 1970s that new wineries were established - notably Mount Mary, Yarra Yering and Seville Estate - and others - notably Yeringberg - were re-established.
The only threat faced by the modern Yarra Valley was Melbourne’s suburban spread.
The red wine boom of the 1960s and the white wine boom of the 1970s led to renewed interest in table wines and fed into both the growing success of the region - now larger than ever before - as well as the emergence of varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Generally, the wines were made in savoury styles, spicy and elegant rather than oaky and rich. Wine-loving baby-boomers embraced them with enthusiasm.
James Halliday, then still a part-time wine writer/critic and a full-time lawyer, founded Coldstream Hills with wife Suzanne in 1985. His growing prominence as a commentator attracted plenty of attention.
Reserve Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley 2017
Already a co-founder of Brokenwood in the Hunter Valley, Halliday voted with his feet when he moved from Sydney to Melbourne, changing valleys from the Hunter to the Yarra.
He sold Coldstream Hills in 1996 and further developed his national and international career as wine critic, author (more than 40 books) and judge, culminating in the award of membership in the Order of Australia (AM), in 2010.
Exiting winemaking, but remaining the most influential public figure in Australian wine, also meant he could review Coldstream Hills wines for the first time. Today his home is on the property and his photographs continue to appear on Coldstream Hills labels.
Aerial shot of Vineyard
Winemaking, however, has been in the capable hands of Andrew Fleming since 2001. Fleming has a Bachelor of Agriculture from the University of Melbourne and a winemaking diploma from the University of Bordeaux in France.
Before Coldstream Hills he made wine at Mildara in Coonawarra, Chateau Haut-Brion in Bordeaux, in the south of France at Languedoc, in California and in Victoria at Lindemans Karadoc and Seppelt Great Western.
Coldstream Hills’ reputation for quality has never faltered. The wines attract generally rapturous reviews and a continuing flood of major awards.
Fleming has access to grapes from many of the best vineyards in the region. The core or entry-level Coldstream Hills Yarra Valley range express the character of the region in wines of elegance, length and complexity.
Reserve Chardonnay, Yarra Valley 2017
The Single Vineyard wines aim to highlight the unique characters of particular sites. There has always been a focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Fleming says: ‘We make a distinction between the Lower Yarra, lying roughly between the Warburton and Melba Highways and comprising the townships of Healesville and Yarra Glen, and the Upper Yarra, some 30km upstream and to the south-east.
‘The Upper Yarra is at a higher altitude, is cooler and receives higher rainfall. Harvest normally commences a week or two later and wines are elegant and finely structured compared with the more robust or opulent styles typical of the Lower Yarra’.
Reserve wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon) are released in exceptional years and may be single vineyard parcels or blends from blocks earmarked for the purpose.
Another wine may also be released in exceptional years - Amphitheatre Pinot Noir, made in a quantity often less than 100 dozen, from the best parts of one of the two original Coldstream Hills vineyards.
Explore the Coldstream Hills range now.