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Pyrenees’ love affair with cabernet sauvignon

Visit Ballarat

31 Mar 2021

Filed underFood & Drink


Think Victorian Pyrenees and you probably think quality table wine, possibly sparkling white and, more likely, cabernet sauvignon.

These are two wines that the Pyrenees is well known for.

But the region has been producing many different varieties since the first vines were planted in 1887.

This happened on a farm just two kilometres directly west from where the Pyrenees Unearthed Food & Wine Festival is being held on Saturday 17 April.

A Yorkshire-born farmer called Edwin Horatio Mackereth had been tilling the earth for 20 or so years before he saw what was going on at Great Western and decided to plant his own vines.

At that stage, the Colonial Government was handing out assistance for budding vignerons.

Their Italian-born consultant Romeo Bragato took a look at the soil, climate and altitude of Avoca and suggested black Hermitage (shiraz), Burgundy (pinot noir), and Mataro for red wine, and Pinot, Verdelho and Riesling for white.

Mackereth took the advice, settling on Pinneau (pinot noir) to make his reds and port.

He had a thriving business for several decades.

But by the late 1920s, with a downturn in consumption post-gold rush, things were not looking too bright.

Negotiations started with the Seppelt family from South Australia to buy his business.

However, Seppelts instead decided to buy at Great Western instead, which became one of our biggest sparkling makers.

So, Mackereth sold to a Methodist priest who smashed the barrels and ripped up the vines.

The region plodded along with one other vigneron, Kofoed’s, who survived until the end of World War II.

The French cognac producer Remy Martin arrived in 1963 and planted the utilitarian grape varieties Trebbiano and Doradillo to make brandy.

When the brandy market collapsed due to changes in excise, the company focused on classic champagne varieties of pinot noir and chardonnay to make sparkling wine.

That business has transformed and is now known as Blue Pyrenees Estate.

The renaissance of the wine industry in the 1970s and 80s saw a significant increase in the number of vineyards concentrating on two red varieties – shiraz and cabernet sauvignon.

Sally’s Paddock at Redbank Winery

Some of the vineyards planted during that period include Dalwhinnie, Mount Avoca, Mountain Creek, Summerfield, Sally’s Paddock, Taltarni, and Warrenmang.

Some of the vines in those vineyards are coming up to 50 years old.

This brings us to cabernet sauvignon.

The Pyrenees is known for long, dry and warm summer days and nights that cool down, thanks to the prevailing breeze but also the altitude, which sits between 220m to around 550m.

This is the perfect climate for ripening the berries until they reach full fruit flavour.

At the same time, the cool nights help retain the acid that gives the wines their structure and helps with longevity.

Crowlands’ Dogrock Winery

And while the region produces outstanding whites and alternate variety reds, it is the good old French variety cabernet sauvignon that the region has often become best known for.

Elegant red wines with ripe blackcurrant fruit that can head towards old fashioned plum when ripe, complemented by chocolate and hints of mint, forest floor and cedar oak flavours.

Pyrenees cabernet sauvignon wines are proudly medium bodied with classic cabernet sauvignon structure full of fine-grain tannins.

When you drink a Pyrenees cabernet sauvignon, you are drinking some of the finest examples of this style made in this country.

Try them for yourself at the Pyrenees Unearthed Wine & Food Festival on Saturday 17 April, or come and visit the many Pyrenees cellar doors.

pyreneesunearthedfestival.com.au

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The City of Ballarat acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land we live and work on, the Wadawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung People, and recognises their continuing connection to the land and waterways. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging and extend this to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.