History

Outside of Melbourne, settlement in the Yarra Valley represented a very significant segment in the history and economic development of the state of Victoria.

Being on the route to the goldfields of Warburton during the 1850's, and with the main traffic path in the state, the Yarra River, being at the centre of timber industry during the 1890's, the Yarra Valley developed as the primary food production region for Melbourne.

The Yarra River or ‘Birrarung’, as it is known to the indigenous Wurundjeri people means "Place of Mists and Shadows", played a huge role in the development of Melbourne which was rapidly growing up around its banks. The Wurundjeri people have occupied the lands around the Yarra Valley for at least 30,000 years and the Yarra River was a life-source. Their dreamtime stories tells us that the river was etched into the landscape by the ancestral creator spirit Bunjil - the wedge tailed eagle.

Beginning with the Victorian gold rush it was extensively mined, creating the Pound Bend Tunnel in Warrandyte, and the Big and Little Peninsula Tunnels above Warburton, that can be visited today. Widening and dams, like the Upper Yarra Reservoir have helped protect Melbourne from major flooding. The Upper reaches of the Yarra Valley remain very important for Melbourne’s fresh water supply and feed close to 70% of all inflows.

The Yarra Valley was Victoria's first wine growing district – with a history stretching back nearly 180 years. Vines were first planted in 1838 by the Ryrie brothers, on their property known today as Chateau Yering. Viticulture spread rapidly through the 1860s and 1870s, lead by the early settlers including the de Castella and de Pury families, who were exporting local wines to the British and European markets and were winning awards around the world. However, increased demand for fortified wine saw Yarra Valley wine production cease in 1921.  Replanting began in the late 1960s and by the early 1990s and the area under vine passed the high point of the 19th century.

Today it is one of the worlds leading cold climate wine growing regions, with internaitonally known names such as Domaine Chandon, St Huberts, De Bortoli, Yering Station, Oakridge, Coldstream Hills.

By the turn of the 20th century, the region was serviced by a rail link to the city and was fast becoming the playground of holidaymakers looking to escape the city.

The region has continued to play an important role in agricultural berry and fruit production along with its acclaimed reputation for cool climate wines. It remains Victoria’s premier food and wine tourism destination owed to it natural beauty flanked by the Great Dividing Range.