Discovering the Riverina’s dark horse

By Halliday Promotion

16 Mar, 2021

Yarran Wines was one of the Riverina’s best-kept secrets – until it took out our 2021 Dark Horse Winery of the Year award. Now, its future looks brighter than ever.

    In 1978, Sam Brewer’s parents set out to redevelop an old fruit farm into commercial vineyards. More than three decades and an oenology degree later and Sam has turned those vines into the production site for some of the most exceptional and unique wines in the Riverina. Time spent travelling and honing his winemaking skills helped him realise the potential of his home region and in 2009, Yarran Wines was born. Here, Sam talks ambition, family and winning the 2021 Halliday Dark Horse Winery of the Year.

    Yarran Wines director and winemaker, Sam Brewer.

    Sam’s parents, Lorraine and the late John Brewer, began their foray into viticulture with the intention to supply fruit to a larger local winery. “One of my earliest memories growing up was delivering the grapes from our vineyard to the winery at vintage time with Dad. Those grapes would later return as a bottle of wine at the dinner table,” says Sam. Growing up vine-side fostered an early fascination in winemaking, which would eventually lead him to study oenology at Charles Stuart University. “After finishing my studies and working through various international and national wine regions, I really saw the potential that the Riverina had to offer.”

    While Sam had been away working, the plan for Yarran Wines had been hatched back home. “We played the role of the new, small kid in a region of giants of the Australian wine industry,” he says. “I was the perfect example of a young, ambitious winemaker that believed that what I was going to do in my little farm-shed winery would actually get some attention,” – and last year, with the award of 2021 Halliday Dark Horse Winery of the Year, that attention arrived.

    The Yarran Wines cellar door, located in NSW's Riverina region. 

    After a decade spent dedicated to the health and evolution of their vineyards, Sam and his team have grown Yarran from a commercial development to a boutique, low-yielding and sustainable operation. “Winemaking is only the end product of the months spent in the vineyards establishing healthy fruit,” say Sam. “We’ve re-planted parts of our vineyards to more regionally suitable varieties, established sustainable vineyard practices and set up a cellar door that gives our visitors a space to share our story.” The stunning cellar door is open six days a week, and offers the full wine range for tasting – complete with gourmet cheeseboards and panoramic vineyard views.

    2021 has seen Yarran Wines launch fresh, contemporary branding and release unique, regional varieties – all offering excellent value for price-point. For a taste of the Riverina winery’s small-batch, sustainably made wines, try the below standout styles:

    2020 Yarran Pinot Grigio
    Picked in the cool of the night and pressed immediately with no de-stemming or crushing to minimise any colour pick up from the skins. Soft and light, easy drinking with slight tropical fruits and floral lift. RRP $15.

    2018 Yarran A Few Words Botrytis Semillon
    Iconic Riverina botrytis semillon style from misty, late-autumn mornings with perfect conditions. Golden hues, luscious apricot and quince fruits – complex, juicy and decadent. RRP $26.

    *This article was produced in partnership with the featured winery.