In 2008 the acclaimed Yarra Valley winemaker Dr Bailey Carrodus passed away. He left behind no partner, no children, just friends, colleagues and his beloved Yarra Yering – a winery and vineyard he had built and planted. Yet Bailey was far from your average winemaker with a Doctorate from in Plant Physiology.
The story of Yarra Yering began with a letter penned by Bailey and published in Melbourne’s Age. The late sixties was the time of the six o’clock swill and the government was trying to outlaw the practice of backyard winemaking, practiced mainly by the newly arrived Europeans. Bailey argued that wine was preferable to the beer swilling drunks found at closing time around the nation. His letter was spied by a young lawyer, Reg Egan, and the two met up for lunch at Jimmy Watson’s in Carlton starting a friendship that would lead to the founding of Yarra Yering.
Reg and Bailey made their first wine together – a 1969 Riesling with Bailey using an improvised mangle to crush the fruit. It was most likely the first of Bailey’s winemaking inventions, but not the last.
Soon they purchased the property with Reg and Bailey spending every weekend from dawn to dusk planting and tending vines. It was not long before the partners went their separate ways with a disagreement seeing Reg leave to concentrate on his own Wantirna Estate while Bailey and his partner Laurel Pascoe remained at Yarra Yering. Bailey harvested the first commercial vintage for the Yarra in 50 years back in 1973 with Wantirna Estate, Mount Mary and Yeringberg following soon after.
The original winery was designed by a sharp mind so that one person could do it all. Old tea chests were used for ferments and Bailey added a range of handmade devices. He did not, however, ever install a winery laboratory; grapes were picked on taste, not numbers.
The original Yarra Yering vineyard is a mix of classic Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay backed by an eclectic fruit salad mix of Port and Rhone varieties, such as Touriga Nacional and Viognier. Bailey was the first to blend Rhone white and red varietals in 1973, long before Shiraz Viognier became fashionable. He even drew the labels himself with bay leaves a tribute to his long-time partner Laurel. It is legend that Bailey only left the winery for a single night during his whole career, just one of the many legends around Dr Carrodus.
The Doc studied at Oxford University and it was probably here that his taste for wine and desire to be a winemaker began. One night he was invited to dinner with the head of his college and Bailey carefully selected a bottle of Australian wine for the evening. It did not impress and Bailey was challenged to do better on his return to Australia. And that is exactly what he did.