A daylong tour of wineries Yarra Valley is a fascinating tour that includes four wineries that showcase all aspects of the region’s defining industry. We explore the many facets of the Yarra Valley wine industry over the course of a leisurely day with professional direction, taking in everything from the straightforward rustic appeal of Yering Farm’s cellar door to the expansive sophisticated modernity of Domaine Chandon.
Of course, the wine industry as we know it today is the result of more than 150 years of history. Victorian wines experienced some outstanding successes in the nineteenth century, winning numerous European medals. Up until the 1950s, when a revival started and is now going strong, the industry’s development was severely halted by shifting economic conditions and a catastrophic outbreak of the phylloxera aphid disease. The Yarra Valley switched from winemaking to fruit growing during this time, and it was frequently the orchards that laid the groundwork for winemaking’s revival in the middle of the 20th century. Punt Road, the first destination on our day tour, is a good illustration.
The Napoleone family, Yarra Valley orchardists and wine farmers since the early 20th century, was responsible for Punt Road’s beginnings. Their main crops during much of that period were apples and pears, and even now, orchards make up half of the Punt Road acreage. That provides the first hint of the Punt Road offering’s extraordinary breadth; however, more on that in a moment.
The third generation of Yarra Valley Napoleones realized that winemaking was once again a viable endeavor after watching the wine industry almost collapse in the middle of the 20th century, and in 1987 Joe and Michael Napoleone planted the first vines at the family’s property at St Huberts Road. They gave it the name Punt Road after the well-known boulevard that united early Melbourne’s northern and suburban areas. It was once overlooked by a hill of vineyards; after being incorporated into the Melbourne conurbation, it became South Yarra. Today, it is home to some of Melbourne’s most expensive real estate.
Punt Road is currently Australia’s leading supplier of apples and pears to Coles and Woolworths and a highly productive fruit grower. The Napoleones not only provide fresh fruit but also produce an astonishing assortment of premium ciders and brews.
However, we had come to learn about and sample the wines. Punt Road served as our class as wine tasters and was the first stop on our trip. We received a crash course in wine tasting from our outstanding driver and guide, which helped us for the rest of the day. A few tasting-related concepts were introduced to us, as well as the significance of wood tannin in maintaining and improving the flavor of the wine it contains.
We also discovered that a winery like Punt Road achieves the quality it requires in its grapes by heavily trimming the vines, which reduces the grape harvest to only 3 tonnes per acre (cask wine farmers see more like 15 tonnes per acre) while enhancing the harvest’s flavor and aroma.
Punt Road is a small winery, with orchards taking about half of its land. In a sector where tonnages of 20,000 or more are by no means uncommon and 500 or less is regarded as “boutique,” it presses roughly 800 tonnes of Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir, Pinot Gris, Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay grapes annually.
It’s interesting to note, though, that Punt Road produces vintages for a number of small vineyards. And it’s easy to see why once you try Punt Road’s own premium vintages. We were much more knowledgeable when we left Punt Road than when we came, and we were ready to put our newly acquired tasting knowledge to use at the day’s next destination.
Get in touch with us if you want to visit Punt Road for yourself.
Winery Tour Yarra Valley
Unit 201/98 River Esplanade
Docklands, VIC 3008
(03) 7042 3201