The Yarra Valley has changed dramatically over the last 20 years with the growth of the mega wineries with their beautiful cellar doors and expansive restaurants. This is a global trend where wineries are becoming destinations in their own right and not just places to try and buy wine. From Tarawarra with their art installations, to Rochford with their concerts and the many wedding venues it is about not just relying on cellar door sales but having multiple sources of revenue to sustain the business. This is especially important during times when wine sales are under pressure such as the current trade war with China…but more on that in another article.
The trick with these mega wineries is staying true to their humble wine origins and remembering that at the end of the day glitzy tasting rooms and wow restaurants won’t make up for poor or over priced wines…consumers will vote with their wallets. It is a fine balancing act.
Originally setup in 1978 Oakridge has gone through a number of owners and iterations whilst growing and developing over the years to what we see today. Alot of that has come down the vision and drive of chief winemaker David Bicknell who has lead the wine making teams since 2002…an eternity in the industry where wine makers normally last a few years. I had the opportunity to spend some time with David at a wine judging course a few years ago and whilst being quirky, some would say eccentric, his wine knowledge and precision were exceptional. My impression was that he was all about the purity of the wine and the ability to express where it came from often called Terroir.
Although Oakridge sells alot of different wines for simplicity they fall into four main categories:
- Yarra Valley range which is sourced and blended from multiple vineyards in the Yarra Valley;
- Local Vineyard series which are from single vineyards;
- 864 series which are sourced from individual blocks within single vineyards;
- Specialty range with often plays with different grape varieties e.g. Pinot Meunier, vineyards and wine making techniques.
The philosophy is simple…as you move from the Yarra Valley range through the Vineyard series and into the 864 series the wines become more distinct and more closely reflect where they were grown. Due to decreasing volume and greater individual attention the price also increases but this creates a price point and style for everyone.
For me the most exciting wines are in the Speciality range where the showcase Pinot Meunier, one of the three ranges that normally goes into Champagne. Not only do Oakridge do a straight Pinot Meunier they also do a sparkling Rose version which is excellent.
We recently had the opportunity for a private tasting in the Oakridge cellar door manager and tried quite a bit of the range. They provided a site map of their vineyard which was very helpful especially for the Local Vineyard series so we could picture the sites were the grapes came from. In the Yarra Valley the elevation of the vineyards is very important as higher cooler vineyards help to offset the summer heart in the valley.
All of the wines were well made, as you would expect from David Bicknell and his team. The Pinot Noirs were generally light and elegant with some whole bunch adding vibrancy and restrained use of oak allowing the fruit from the different sites to shine. It was interesting to see how the different sites impacted the same grape variety.
The Chardonnays were cleans and lean. There is pretty much no use of malolatic fermentation, that produces creamy buttery characters, in the wine and a very restrained use of oak. This creates very pure and acidic wines that go very well with food but may disappoint some Australian Chardonnay drinkers expecting more body to their wines.
Now that things are opening I would highly recommend a visit to Oakridge wines but just be aware that it can be busy of the weekends and bookings are recommended. Make sure to support some of the smaller wineries in the region as they have been doing it tough over the last year.
But you don’t have to visit the Yarra Valley to try some Oakridge wines. Wine Matchmaker is running a wine immersion with Oakridge wines on Saturday the 22nd of May from 2pm. There will be six wines with matching food and you can find out more from the following link: https://winematchmaker.weteachme.com/classes/1038880-wine-immersion-with-oakridge-wines
Please note that we also run corporate and personalised wine tastings and education in conjunction with our partnership with the Life’s Too Short Bar in East Melbourne. Please head to our website for more information or email me here.