Although the Henty brothers planted the first vines in Victoria at Portland, Yering Station in the Yarra Valley was the site of Victoria’s first commercial vineyard. It was planted by the Scottish-born Ryrie brothers, but the property remained primarily a cattle station until Paul de Castella took ownership in 1850. The current cellar door building dates from 1859.
Yering Station was founded just three years after Melbourne was first settled by Europeans. The Ryrie brothers acquired 43,000 acres (17,400 hectares) of land around 50km from the new settlement and planted two varieties of grapevines. Although Victoria’s first commercial vineyard dates back to 1838, the first Yarra Valley wine was not made until 1845.
After Paul de Castella took ownership, new vines were imported from Chateau Lafite in France and production increased. Yering won a number of awards including the Argus Gold Cup for best Victorian Vineyard in 1861 and a Grand Prix at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1889.
By the 1860s a number of other vineyards had been established in the Yarra Valley. A second de Castella brother, Hubert, planted St Huberts in 1863 and Guillaume de Pury established Yeringburg in 1864. Plantings reached nearly 1000 acres by the turn of the century.
All did not go well thereafter. Victorian vineyards were badly affected by the phylloxera pest and demand shifted towards the heavier, more alcoholic wines of Northern Victoria and South Australia. The last vines in the Yarra Valley were uprooted in the 1920s and the land returned to pasture.
A resurgence began in the 1960s, with many new vineyards planted including the re-establishment of Yeringburg and St Huberts. It wasn’t until 1989 that Victoria’s first commercial vineyard, Yering Station, was replanted. It is now owned by the Rathbone family.
The Yarra Valley now has more than eighty wineries and is best known for producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. Because of its proximity to Melbourne, it is a popular tourist destination.