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By Kath Gannaway

Remember ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ a sweet, fruity, often bubbly British series that became the longest running sitcom in the world!
Well, forget all that, longevity is not what our Yarra Valley summer wines are about.
Sure, a bit of age can add to the quality, but really, don’t hold back; bubbly, sweet, fruity or otherwise, there’s no end in sight to the “Best of the Yarra Valley’s Summer Wine”
And, in any case, they’re best enjoyed in the moment!
What does make a good summer wine? Tourist News did a Q&A with Wine Yarra Valley CEO Richard Howden starting with that very question.
Q: So, Richard, what DOES makes a good summer wine? we asked!
A: A summer wine needs to be versatile. It needs to be enjoyed while sitting in the shade on a sunny afternoon and extend through to an impromptu barbecue with friends. Anything crisp, dry and cool will fit the bill.
Q: Is there a typical Yarra Valley wine that shouts “Summer’s here”?
A: Rose. At our house there are always a couple of bottles of dry, crisp Rose in the fridge. It’s perfect for a lazy afternoon or entertaining friends. Great quality Rose is also surprisingly cheap, so you can spend more on the bottle of Pinot once the Rose has run out.
Q: The Yarra Valley is renowned for its cold climate wines, but is there a particular aspect to the terroir of the Yarra Valley that could be said to add to a wine suited for the warmer weather?
A: Wines from cool climate regions are perfect for warmer weather. Cool regions like the Yarra Valley produce wines that make you stop for a second and think ‘gee I like that, I hope we have another bottle’. Yarra Valley wines are elegant and classy with flavours which are complex but subtle.
Q: Summer in Australia means Christmas, New Year and lots of holiday get-togethers with family and friends. Do you have any recommendations for a ‘champagne’ breakfast?
A: Firstly, I highly recommend Champagne breakfasts particularly during summer, whoever developed the concept deserves a medal. What a great way to start the day. In Australia we have Sparkling Wine (the French won’t let us use the name Champagne) and the cool climate Yarra Valley is home to some of Australia’s best. My go to for Yarra Sparkling’s are Coldstream Hills and Chandon. However, if I am feeling like taking it up a notch I will seek out a boutique producer such as Seville Estate or Mandala.
Q: Are there any ‘rules’ to matching wines with food which at this time of year can range from the traditional roast Christmas dinner (yeah tradition!) to prawns on the barbie or fabulous antipasto boards.
A: There are hundreds of ‘rules’ about matching wine with food, and I take great delight in ignoring them all. Our table for Christmas dinner is usually overflowing with all manner of beautiful food ranging from salads, seafood, cold meats and the traditional roasts. To match a particular wine to this is impossible, so we always have a good selection, Sparkling, Rose, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Shiraz in abundance. In general, I keep it simple and have a lighter wine with the lighter food and heavier wine with the heavier food.
Q: I’ve been asked to bring a “nice red” to my book group break-up – budget around the $25. Any suggestions?
A: That’s a tough one. People who attend book clubs are usually very discerning people who have an opinion on most things and wine would be one of them. Whatever wine you choose make sure you do a little research on the winemaker and where the grapes come from so you can counter punch when the group know-it-all jumps in with an opinion. To be safe from any criticism, take an alternative variety from a boutique winemaker and if possible buy it directly from the winemaker and you will have all bases covered. I would be taking a bottle of Thick as Thieves Arneis.
Q: I have two days in the Yarra Valley and want to visit six to eight wineries. What’s my strategy for a great, well-rounded Yarra Valley wine experience?
A: The overall strategy should be to first select the best winery restaurants for lunch and dinner each day and then select a number of smaller cellar doors to get you from one dining experience to the next which minimises the time without a wine in your hand. On day one, cover the area around the Melba and Maroondah highways and spend a little time exploring the village of Healesville. On day two travel up into the hills of the Upper Yarra visiting wineries around Seville and beyond and to round out the trip with a stop at Gembrook on your way back to Melbourne.
Q: Outside dining is popular in summer, but is it ever, repeat ever, acceptable to drink a good wine (or even a not-so-good wine) from a plastic glass?
A: The short answer is NO, however if it is totally unavoidable then plastic is better than missing out on a great wine on a beautiful day; however, surely there is a glass available! Last time I was caught without a proper glass we went into a local restaurant, told our story, and they lent us two lovely glasses. After we finished the bottle we returned the glasses and ended up staying for dinner, one of the better meals I’ve had for quite some time.
Visit wineyarravalley.com.au .

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