Explore Victoria’s stunning Pyrenees mountain range, where the vineyards nestled at the bottom of rolling foothills provide incredibly inspiring outlooks.
Less than a two-hour drive from Melbourne, this small-but-bright wine region gives travellers the idea they’re in a scaled-down version of the similarly named range joining France and Spain. The rocky landscape with gnarled vines not only looks great through a camera lens, but the region promises wanderers the chance to take some time out at neat picnic locations or on a bushwalk.
The Pyrenees is not only about sweeping vistas, but also rich-red wines, fresh whites and sparkling wines. With its long farming- and wine-growing history, and its backdrop of undulating hills and rugged landscapes, this western Victorian area offers a diverse and exceptional wine experience.
James Halliday on the Pyrenees
The frenzied wine history of the region might be said to commence with its name: the hills and slopes may well be ideal for viticulture, but the scale of the Pyrenees Ranges is puny compared to the alps on the Franco–Spanish border.
When gold was found in 1853, it didn’t inspire the initiation of vineyards as it did in so much of central Victoria. It was not until 1887 that Edwin Horatio Mackereth planted vines. As the size of his family grew, so did that of the vineyard and winery; the enterprise was sufficiently successful for one of his daughters to establish a wine cafe in High Street, Avoca. The youngest son, Alfred, was able to write in 1962 (at the age of 91) telling how successful the winery had been – particularly with its ‘pinneau’ – producing both prize-winning red wines and ports.
Alfred’s brother Edwin ran the winery, and at the end of the First World War began negotiations to sell the business to Seppelt. It still had 90,000 litres of storage capacity and supported three wine shops in Avoca. At the last moment Seppelt withdrew: Edwin wished to retain some winemaking equipment and Seppelt suspected he intended to set up in competition. Instead, Seppelt purchased Hans Irvine’s Great Western winery. When a Methodist minister bought the Mackereth property in 1929, he promptly smashed all the winemaking equipment and pulled out the vines in a bizarre twist.
A ‘Mr Adams’ established the only other winery near Moonambel; it became known as Kofoed’s Mountain Creek. In 1941 Francois de Castella wrote that ‘the vineyard still flourishes’, but it went out of production in 1945.
There was then a hiatus until 1963 when Remy Martin (of France) formed a joint venture with Melbourne wine merchant Nathan and Wyeth to establish a brandy-making business, named Chateau Remy, planting trebbiano and doradillo. When the local brandy market collapsed in the wake of the imposition excise duty, Remy Martin (for various periods the owner of Krug, Charles Heidsieck and Piper Heidsieck) decided to switch to sparkling winemaking, yet another bizarre twist, for if the Pyrenees is suited to anything, it is to the production of full-throated red wines.
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