Drinking Victoria: Sarah Crowe

Published on 8 May 2020

Photo: Yarra Yering winemaker and General Manager Sarah Crowe

Your guide to what's in the glass from the people in the trade.

She might be from the Hunter Valley originally, but standout winemaker Sarah Crowe has been proudly claimed by Victoria as one of its own. Taking the reins at the prestigious Yarra Yering estate in 2013, Sarah inherited a significant legacy but it’s something that she has proven more than capable of honouring, if her accolades are anything to go by. James Halliday Winemaker of the Year in 2017, and finalist in GT Wine’s Winemaker of the Year award in 2019, Sarah is perfectly placed to steer one of the state’s benchmark wineries into a new era.

The last three delicious things I drank were on the last day of harvest when we stopped for lunch with the winery and vineyard teams. I cooked a lamb shoulder and we sat in the sunshine (1.5 metres apart, of course) and poured a 2018 Stefani Estate Boccalupo sangiovese, which was perfect with the meat, beautifully savoury but with a bright fruit palate. To indulge my love of Australian riesling, I went for something a little different: Best’s 2017 Foudre Ferment Great Western. It’s floral and citrus but made more complex by the hints of oak and extra texture. I also have a soft spot for Beechworth, having spent quite a few harvests there when working for Brokenwood, so we cracked one of A.Rodda’s chardonnays from the Smiths Vineyard site and it took me back there immediately. It was layered, with beautiful fruit-weight. Adrian Rodda also makes a cracking Yarra Valley chardonnay.

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne is City Wine Shop because the staff and selection are amazing. You always leave there happy with your experience and purchases.

My favourite place to buy booze is Boccaccio Cellars. Independently owned, family-operated and with an amazing supermarket, too. I come out of there needing a second mortgage.

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I go straight to the chardonnay section. I probably drink this more than any other variety and it’s a great place to start (as fizz too!). I never miss an opportunity to try a new one.

The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is Melbourne Gin Company’s dry gin. MGC take a winemaking approach by distilling the botanicals separately and then blending them in batches to ensure the best flavour balance. Because it’s a fine and delicate gin, all it needs is a slice of lemon and Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic. I don’t want my gin to be all about the garnish.

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than Hoddles Creek chardonnay or pinot noir. How do they make it so good yet so cheap?

I’d love to see us planting more non-traditional grape varieties in Victoria – we’re lucky to have a very diverse climate across the state, which leads to lots of exciting possibilities. I’m curious about grenache blanc and what we can do with aligoté. Many of the Iberian varieties we know from Portugal and Spain already do well; there could be a few more tintas and tourigas worth a look in my opinion.

My guilty pleasure in the fridge is Champagne. Krug, please.

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has been becoming more open-minded to all possibilities and blends, to try something new or revisit something old, like the wonderful fortified wines from Rutherglen.

For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is Michael Dhillon of Bindi who thinks deeply and writes beautifully about the daily ups and downs of farming grapes, making wine and then marketing your heart and soul to the world.

Yarra Yering wines are available for purchase direct at yarrayering.com/shop. Keep up with all the goings-on in the winery and the vineyard at @yarra_yering.

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