On-board with Leanne De Bortoli, Owner at Yarra Valley’s De Bortoli Winery!

Attention wine enthusiasts! Today we catch up with Leanne De Bortoli, owner at De Bortoli Winery. Leanne gave us an insight into the intricate wine making process, great food & wine combinations, and what it was like growing up amongst the vineyards!

How long have you been at the winery for?

I have grown up living opposite a winery for most of my life. In my earlier years I lived in NSW and was lucky enough to have a winery as my playground. My brothers and I would scoot around the tanks; me on my roller-skates and them on their skateboards. After Steve and I were married in 1989, we moved to the Yarra Valley to look after my family’s vineyard there. We were babes in the wood at that time moving to a new region but have loved seeing the way the Yarra Valley has now developed into a must-visit destination for wine, food and natural beauty. Also, it’s only a one hour drive from Melbourne. How lucky are we!

Can you tell us something interesting about the winery/wine making process?

In the early days, we were more intent on the wine-making process, it wasn’t until about 2004 that we actually paid more attention to how we grow our grapes. As a result of looking after the health of the soils, the vines benefit and we have seen a marked difference in the quality of our wines as a result.

Here at De Bortoli, we make our own compost from the left-over Marc (grapes/seeds/skins after fermentation), green clippings, cardboard, hay, woody material etc, we also make our own compost teas too. This is referred to as Biological Farming, and we are working towards the health of the biology in the soils. We try to minimise other sprays, but it is a very delicate balancing act to maintain the health of the vineyard as well as being pragmatic farmers.

What is your favourite part about the wine making process?

Enjoying the end product! Honestly, once you have seen the effort that goes into growing the grapes and making the wines, it gives you a greater appreciation for the final result.

Most interesting varietal of wine you have made/come across?

I would say Gamay. From its homeland of Beaujolais in France, it has translated well to being planted in the Yarra Valley. It makes such a delightful wine that is delicious on its own or makes and interesting wine when blended with Shiraz like we do with our La Boheme Syrah Gamay.

Your favourite place to holiday?

When we are not travelling around the South of France drinking Rosé, we do like the Mornington Peninsula. We have a beach house there and the smell of the sea is a welcome change from the sight of grapevines.

What is unique about your wines?

We have spent so much time in the vineyard getting the viticulture right and our wines reflect where they are grown. I think our wines are charming, approachable, and good with food. Basically, our aim is to make delicious wines no matter what the price point. My grandfather believed that everyone should be able to enjoy a good bottle of wine on the table and I think he would be pretty chuffed at what we are making now.

How long is the process to make wine? Red as opposed to white?

The process of making wine is relatively easy. Get some grapes, add some yeast and voila – Wine! However it is a year-long labour of love.

Vintage generally starts mid February (sometimes earlier depending on the season) and goes for about 6 to 8 weeks. Within that time, all the fruit is harvested and brought into the winery where the magic begins. It can be a very stressful time as you only have a small window of opportunity to pick the grapes you have spent all year growing….and we never know what nature is going to throw at us. Some wines like our La Boheme Rosé are ready for bottling within two months of harvest, whereas others are matured in oak for some months before bottling later in the year.

We age Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet in French Oak and generally it is older oak we prefer. It is so important to get the balance of oak just right, because no one want to feel like they have a mouthful of oak chips when tasting wines! Once harvest is over, we wait until the start of winter when pruning starts in the vineyard, generally finishing by August. The growing season starts again in September and the cycle continues yet again.

What are your favourite wine and food combinations?

Sooooo many!

  • Sparkling wine or Pinot Blanc with freshly shucked oysters.
  • Chardonnay would have to be one of the best food wines around and goes so well with pan-fried John Dory.
  • Pinot Noir screams for pig or duck fat. Delicious with Confit of duck or gnocchi with Pork Ragu.
  • Gamay is a lovely autumnal wine that goes well with pine mushrooms, particularly served with pasta.
  • Our Botrytis Semillon dessert wine (made from the mother ship up at our NSW winery) is wonderful with Blue cheese drizzled with truffled honey.

While the Yarra Valley is a world-renowned wine growing region, wine is only half the story of this gourmet wonderland! Departing daily, we provide Yarra Valley wine tours to rival any other,  as well as providing a fine blend of the very best of the region’s other gourmet produce.