Yarra ValleyThe Yarra Valley was first planted by the Ryrie brothers who explored a way through the Snowy Mountains to the Yarra Valley, planting grapes in 1838 just three years after the foundation of Melbourne. A wine industry (developed by Swiss Settlers particularly Hubert de Castella and Baron Guillaume de Pury in the 1850s) thrived during the gold rush era and heyday of the 19th century. However, the end of the gold rush brought the wine industry into decline and it was not until the 1970’s that the modern wine industry started up again. The region is probably Australia’s best-known cool-climate area, yet it is really a patchwork of meso-climates. This varied topography creates an incredible set of variables. Vineyards are planted on elevations of 50 to 400m on varying aspects and management programmes. The more exposed sites are subject to severe spring frosts and winds. Overall, the area experiences a relatively high rainfall pattern and is known for its temperature extremes during ripening. Site selection is crucial, with the best vineyards often located where the original vines were once planted, generally on sandy clay loams and gravels. The Yarra Valley is well known for high quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Blends with Shiraz increasingly garnering attention. Sparkling wine production is also extremely important, with many of Australia’s finest examples produced in the region.
Handpicked Wines is a multi-regional operation focused on crafting superlative wines from Australia’s most propitiously situated regions and vineyards. To facilitate this, a flagship vineyard and winery have been established on the Mornington Peninsula, with satellite vineyards in the Yarra Valley, Tasmania and Barossa Valley.
While each region offers different shades, articulated as meticulously crafted wines hewn of those cultivars best suited to the respective climate and geologies, five of Handpicked's vineyards focus on top-drawer pinot noir and chardonnay. These consist of two in Tasmania's Tamar Valley, Capella Vineyard in the Mornington Peninsula and two in the Yarra Valley, including Wombat Creek in the Upper Yarra, a Grand Cru equivalent boasting the highest elevation of any regional site.
This focus has reaped rewards. Handpicked wines are consistently rated highly by major critics, accentuated by the Mornington Peninsula Trophy for the 2018 Collection Pinot Noir and an entrenched position amidst Huon Hooke’s 52 Best Australian Wineries.
Barossan Shiraz and Grenache are naturally a highlight. A detailed Yarra Cabernet, too, flecked with aged complexity is possibly the most cellar-worthy of the stable.
Director of winemaking Peter Dillon travels extensively to ensure stringent quality control throughout the regions. The emphasis is on optimal physiological and fruit ripeness. In essence, nothing is excessive with finely meshed tannins and juicy acidity laying a platform for svelte, flavoursome fruit.
Together with assistant winemaker Jonathon Mattick, the duo work closely with a team of viticulturists who manage the vineyards. The operations are complemented by a contemporary cellar door in Sydney's CBD, showcasing the holistic meld of concept, region, site, vineyard and consummate hospitality.