Yarrh Wines winery review by Brent Lello, Yass Valley Times Wine Columnist

Imagine taking a countryside drive along a winding road, over creeks, through stringybark forests, and up a sun-filled slope to breathe in the invigoratingly fresh air.  That’s the trip out to Yarrh Wines at the North-Eastern extremities of the Murrumbateman region. 

It’s a lovely trip that culminates in meeting lovely people and fantastic wines.  Neil and Fiona are the dynamic and down-to-earth duo behind Yarrh Wines.  They are immensely passionate about every aspect of their wine’s “grape to glass” journey.  Spend some time with them and you get a sense of rolling calmness, much like the running waters of the nearby Yass River.  Yarrh is traditional language for “running water” – a respectful nod to tradition and sustainable nurturing of their environment.

Journey to Yarrh Wines through a stringybark forest to uncover one of Yass Valley’s winery jewels

Yarrh has been producing quality cool climate wines for over twenty years.  Over this time, they have worked out what varieties work well in their vineyard and how to skilfully extract every last dimension of quality from their wines.  Their wines exhibit a true sense of place and time and demonstrate real classical varietal definition through a cool climate lens.

I ventured out to Yarrh Wines and spent some time with Fiona, working through their current range of wares, and discussing the highs and lows of recent growing seasons. 

Yarrh Fiona hard at work in the winery – Beth Jennings Photography

There have been challenges aplenty in recent years, but they are so in tune with their environment, that they continue to produce a quality wine experience for their customers.  Here is what we tried:

Yarrh Riesling 2021 – fragrant, floral aromas of lemon blossom with a hint of kaffir lime zest.  The flavours are crisp and of freshly juiced lemons and limes with a lovely lick of acid, leading to a food-friendly finish.  Salt and pepper prawns for me.

Yarrh Pinot Noir 2021 – aromas of ripe, red cherries and raspberries with some crushed cloves and a shake of allspice. The palate is supple and flavours are ripe with cherry and vanilla compote and a touch of sugar plum – a must with Peking Duck pancakes.

Yarrh Sangiovese 2021 – bright red cherry aromas abound with hints of dried herbs and crushed pepper.  The flavours are bright red and blue fruits with a savoury tang that will be a real food pleaser.  Chargrilled lamb cutlets with rosemary, garlic and sea salt are the go here.

Yarrh Shiraz 2021 – classic cool climate Shiraz with blackberry and plum aromas with loads of crushed white pepper and cloves.  The palate is smooth with blackberry and plum flavours and a fulfilling line and long finish.

Yarrh Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 – aromas of ripe plums, blueberries and black cherries with a shake of star anise and a dusting of pepper.  The palate is full, rich and robust with black and blue fruit flavours, bold tannins and a long, lingering finish.  This is a prime cut of beef territory.

There’s also a range of “Mr. Natural’ wines, which is a great way to introduce people to the world of minimal intervention in the winery.  These are tasty and intriguing additions to the Yarrh portfolio.

Always changing with the season Yarrh – enjoy the Yarrh Sail food and wine pairings

Fiona and Neil have worked hard to create an open, naturally lit cellar door space that elevates the tasting experience to the next level – an immersive extension of the stringybark forest beyond.  They offer gourmet grazing boards so you can sit back, relax and enjoy the moment with good food, fine wine and great company.  There are different tasting experiences for punters to ponder too, including the Wine Flight for those wanting to simply taste their wines, the Wine Sail which matches their wines to a selection of gourmet foods, and the Winemakers Tale which offers up a real sense of the story behind each of their wines and an introduction into the holistic Yarrh philosophy.

Join Neil, Fiona and Rosie the LBD for a winemaker’s Tale as they walk you through the wine-making process and their philosophy. Simon Thorp Photography

So, take the trek along that winding track and treat yourself to one of the great wine experiences in our region.  You’ll be glad you did.

Cover Cropping at Yarrh Wines

Cover cropping (or “green manuring”) is an age-old farming technique, regaining favour as farmers look for more environmentally friendly and sustainable ways to feed their soils and produce their crops. The opportunity in vineyards lies in the mid-rows between the vines, typically set aside for perennial pasture, or sometimes nothing at all!

Yarrh Wines innovation: Field peas in between the vines

At Yarrh, we’ve been experimenting with small plantings of cover crops over the last few years (mainly field peas), hand broadcasting and rolling.  Unfortunately, the birds cottoned on to this, and our last seedings were almost entirely eaten by well-organised rows of magpies marching down the midrows!  So, we’ve invested in a seeder (it’s been a long time coming, thanks COVID!) to enable us to plant these green manures between the vines.

Yarrh Wines innovation: disc seeder to improve cover cropping & outwit the birds!

This disc seeder enables us to “direct drill” into the pasture, minimising (we hope!) the need for cultivation while planting the seeds deeply enough to get away from stickybeaks.  We can now expand the program, with autumn sowings into every second row across the whole vineyard, depending on the season.  A vast array of plants can be sown, each doing a different job and, combined, creating the diversity that is so important.  Excitingly, some of these cover crop plants show the promise of mining phosphorous locked up in deeper soils, further reducing the need for external inputs.  Another step on the sustainability journey!