Pride of the Pyrenees
Named after the mighty mountain range stretching across Spain to separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe, the Pyrenees is a name well known by the vastly travelled, geography aficionados, and wine lovers alike. The raw, rugged natural beauty of the Australian Pyrenees reminded European settlers of the majestic mountain range in Europe which is also renowned for its wine production. Boasting many distinct microclimates, the region is responsible for producing some of the most exquisite and varied wines in Australia and with a host of critically acclaimed wineries, the region has achieved global recognition for its vibrant viticulture. Sitting down with Kiara Sullivan, marketing manager at Taltarni, Emma Warner Allen discusses the appeal of this unique region for both wine connoisseurs and intrepid explorers.
For most, the beautiful Pyrenees region conjures up images of rolling hills, adorned with manicured vineyards, sticking out like jewels against the untamed Australian countryside. Heralded for its wine production, most are unaware of the undiscovered beauties that lie hidden just a stone’s throw away from Melbourne’s bustling metropolis. While the Pyrenees region is difficult to beat for those seeking a drop of tantalizing wine, it is also host to a range of other activities that makes the region a popular choice for those seeking to explore the wonders of regional Victoria.
A RICH HISTORY
A strong advocate for the wonders of this beautiful corner of Australia, “located at the western reach of the Great Dividing Range”, Sullivan explains that the Pyrenees is considered one of the most naturally beautiful wine regions in Australia. “Early settlers called it ‘the natural garden of Victoria’ because of the sub-valleys and lush green rolling hills,” she describes. Abundant with natural resources, the region had prosperous beginnings after European colonization whereby these valleys teemed with gold miners in the 19th century, and “as gold became scarce, vineyards were developed”. “Taltarni is one of the founding wineries of the Pyrenees region, leading the revitalization of wine growing in the region in the 1960s,” Sullivan notes.
Boasting a range of climates and distinct seasons, the Pyrenees region remains a stunning area to visit all year round and supports a range of different activities which adapt with the changing seasons accordingly. If you are planning your own trip, Sullivan recommends scheduling a visit for the cooler months of Autumn. “Autumn is a beautiful time to visit, the vines are changing colour after harvest, the days are calm and mild, but not too hot, and the evenings are cool – perfect for a glass of red by the fire.”
With wine naturally being the region’s primary focus, wine lovers alike have an inexhaustible selection of wineries and vineyards to visit upon a trip to the region. Marked by its distinctive terroir, the wine’s produced are inextricably linked to the Pyrenees region and is responsible for some world-renowned varietals. Highly regarded for its “cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and shiraz, as well as pinot noir and pinot meunier”, the remarkable Pyrenees offers a range of wines to suit everyone’s tastes. “A lot of the wineries are hidden gems – the smaller private cellar doors that are not largely marketed as well as Ferntree Falls in Mount Buangor State Park.”
The secret to producing wines that draw crowds from around the world? “At a latitude of 37-degrees South, with soils of red clay, quartz and sandy loam, the Pyrenees region lies in a perfect climatic band for growing grapes,” Sullivan elaborates. “The cool nights and warm days allow for slow ripening and create ideal conditions for crisp sparkling wines.” As the region encompasses a significant geographical footprint, “the soils can range from grey-brown to brown loam, to red sandstone and red clay quartz,” as such, “these soils give rise to thirty-three different varieties across the region which are suitable for the production of rich flavoursome red, white and sparkling wines.”
ROOM FOR ACTIVITIES
For a region of unbridled natural beauty, it is unsurprising that many of the activities offered by the region take advantage of the gorgeous natural surrounds, and for good reason. When taking a break from visiting some of the best wineries in Australia, Sullivan advocates for visitors to “get active and explore some of the spectacular walking or cycling tracks”. “They vary in length and difficulty, so there is something for people of all abilities – from short walks through fern-lined gullies to hill climbs that lead to spectacular views across the Western Plains, to Langi Ghiran and the Grampians.”
For those less inclined to the great outdoors, “the Unearthed Pyrenees Festival [held in] April each year along the Avoca River” is a tempting prospect. Offering a vast range of wine, beer, cider, gin and local food produce, all set up in tents for tastings and purchases, also accompanied by “live music and kid’s activities” this fun event is perfect for the whole family. “The Avoca Riverside Markets [occur on the] fourth Sunday of every month,” Sullivan explains. “The tranquility of the venue adds to the enjoyment of wandering between the forty-plus stalls providing wine, crafts, fresh food, plants, garden care, clothing and more. Local community groups raise money through a bacon and egg breakfast and sausage sizzle for lunch.”
The Pyrenees is a spectacular region which has a range of activities to satisfy visitors with even the most particular of tastes and keep them happy throughout their stay. If you’re looking to observe the best of regional Victoria’s natural beauty, sip on some of the world’s finest of wines, and enjoy quaint and vibrant events, the remarkable Pyrenees region awaits your visit.
Photos courtesy of Taltarni Wines