Hillcrest Vineyards Villages Chardonnay, Yarra Valley
Hillcrest is one of the Yarra’s first ‘new’ vineyards – planted in 1970 at the beginning of the Victorian wine revival. Production is tiny – little more than 1000 dozen each year in total – and while Hillcrest keeps a low profile it belongs in the same company as Mount Mary, Yarra Yering, Yeringberg and the like. The ‘Village’ label denotes an ‘entry-level’ wine, the name an indication of the Burgundian approach owners David and Tanya Bryant take to Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir). Above the Village, labels are the ‘Premium’ and ‘Reserve’ ranges. From 1999 until 2005 the wines were made by Phillip Jones, of Bass Phillip, but since then winemaking has been in the hands of the Bryants themselves. The Hillcrest style is clearly influenced by Old World viticulture and winemaking, with the added richness that is a distinctive feature of Australian wines. Working with some of the Yarra’s oldest vines on an elevated 8ha site in the Woori Yallock sub-region enables the Bryants to make wines with excellent structure, length and texture. The site provides great fragrance, rich fruit with solid tannin structure and excellent natural acid for ageing. Only wild yeasts are used and under no circumstances are tannins or acid added. The wines are natural expressions of their terroir and vintage with oak seen as a background element to enhance structure. Only French oak (mostly Francois Freres) is used with around one-third new each year, and another third one year old.
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.