Whether you’re hoping to relive a recent sojourn to the south of France, or you’re dreaming of the day you clasp a baguette and cycle the rolling green hills of the Provence countryside, a glass of rosé at Dominique Portet winery in the Yarra Valley is arguably the closest thing to a French winery you’ll find this side of the equator. Famous for the dry rosé that’s been the go-to for a generation of sun-seekers, it’s hardly surprising that a day at this winery feels so French given it’s the brainchild of 10th generation winemakers.
“It was 1698 when the first recorded generation of our family started making eau de vie or “water of life”, which is a distilled wine that is used to make cognac,” says Ben Portet, the 10th generation winemaker. With “wine in our blood”, Ben’s father Dominique kept the tradition going, formally studying winemaking to bring modern science to the techniques his family have been developing since before the French Revolution. “He wanted to put his mark on his own [wines],” Ben says. “In France, you’re very restricted by the rules of winemaking; you can only grow certain varieties in certain regions in certain ways. Whereas here, there’s no rules so he could have a lot of freedom to go and create something for himself. And the Yarra Valley reminded him a lot of Bordeaux.”
For Ben, joining his father at the family winery he established in 2000 was a no-brainer, allowing him to build on the knowledge he’d been absorbing since childhood, and continuing perfecting the art of the perfect rosé. “I grew up on a vineyard – I love that we can follow something through and watch it grow then taste what we’ve grown,” he says. “It’s always connected me to the soil, and I think I understand where wine fits culturally.”
While the range of Dominique Portet wines includes beautiful sparkling, whites and reds, it’s the Dominique Portet Fontaine Rosé that arguably put the winery on the map. “We’ve been making it for 25 years – people come here and say, ‘We visited France and had a picnic and a glass of rosé and this rosé reminds us of that,” Ben says. “It evokes emotions for them, and especially after COVID [we appreciate] it’s important to have those memories. I find everyone in any demographic or age group will drink rosé – it doesn’t have any stigma attached to it.”
Upon arrival, you’ll be immediately captivated by the classic arched windows and vine-covered walls reminiscent of Provence. “We’re an Australian family with French heritage, and for us, it’s important to have that French [feel] when you arrive – there’s a feeling of being ‘home’ for us here,” Ben says. Eager minds can take part in a seated tasting to learn about the process that creates such memorable wines, while those looking to catch up with friends might grab a table in the bistro for a beautiful meal. But it’s not just the tipplers who are treated to a day out at this expansive establishment – there’s ample grass for kids to get their energy out, and four-legged friends are welcome too. “There’s tables outside where you can sit al fresco for a charcuterie and a glass of rosé while the kids run around,” Ben says. “We’re quite a relaxed space so there’s always pets as well – there’s other places around here that you’d never take your dog, but it’s quite welcoming here.”
Products featured are available from 06/09/23 to 10/10/23, while stocks last. Some products or varieties featured may not be available in all stores.