A Look into the Terroir of the Pyrenees

contributed article
I was sitting with guests the other night, discussing the various elements which contribute to the aromas and characters of a wine. There I was, swirling my glass, watching the light play on the rich red liquid when I remembered a quote I'd read from professional wine-writer, Huon Hooke, in an article he'd written for The Sydney Morning Herald:
"it's not the winemaker or vigneron alone that make a wine great, it's the terroir."
This prompted me to write this post about the part the terrior of a region plays in the making of a palatable wine.

I decided to write about the Pyrenees wine region for a few reasons: I visited this part of western Victoria a few years back, their terroir is renowned for producing exceptional red wines, and I'd already written a previous article on the area so I was already armed with information.

The history of wine production in the Pyrenees region dates back to the 1800s; back then however the territory was first and foremost known for its gold mining and sheep grazing industries. In fact, the first wine-producing vineyards which were planted in 1880, did not even survive; the prosperous production of wine in the area didn't occur until eight decades later in the 1960's and 70's.

When the Pyrenees vineyards began to flourish, the cool nights and warm days; soils rich in sandy loam, quartz, and red clay, combined to create the finest full-bodied red wines, particularly Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Some of the elements which make up the terroir of the Pyrenees include:

  • A temperate climate.
  • Moderate vine vigour.
  • Gypsum and lime in the soil.

These elements influence the Shiraz varietal to produce spice, cherry and dark chocolate aromas, while the Cabernet Sauvignon is blessed with a rich mid palate. Due to the region having a large number of gum trees, there is a hint of eucalypt and peppermint characters noticeable in the red wines, particularly the Cab Sav.

This region has now begun producing some talked-about white wines, particularly Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc and also a handful of sparkling wines; however the main vintners, or winemakers as they are better known, in the area continue on with the tradition of focusing on producing premium red wines. Some of these pioneer wineries include Taltarni Vineyards, Blue Pyrenees, Mountain Creek and Mount Avoca Vineyard, among a select handful of others.

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