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Innocent Bystander


With a fearless attitude and award-winning wines, this winery is crafting truly exciting bottlings

Originally founded by Phil Sexton, Innocent Bystander was bought by the much larger Brown Brothers in 2016. While its history dates back more than a hundred years, its recent exploits (particularly in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) has elevated Innocent Bystander to the higher echelons of Australian wineries.

Innocent Bystander is an estate-driven entity from the Yarra Valley that has emerged as one of Australia’s top wine producing areas. It was first introduced in 2003 and immediately attained cult status with an adoring client base. Innocent Bystander sources grapes from a number of wine growing areas with the supposition that individual growing areas (Yarra Valley for Pinot Gris, for example) are more suited to specific varietals. Creative labeling and many on-premise (restaurant) placings have significantly increased Innocent Bystander’s national and international reputations.

Just one hour east of Melbourne, Innocent Bystander’s unique bar/restaurant in Healesville is a must for the wine inspired aficionado.

Map of the area

Joel Tilbrook - Winemaker

Picture of Joel Tilbrook - Winemaker

Tilbrook admits to having interest in agriculture since childhood. Later, he was drawn to wine and secured a job at Norman Wines in the Adelaide Hills. He joined Brown Brothers in 2004 and was delighted to find the company “open to new ideas as well as a culture of including people and encouraging people to give new ideas into the business, to be open, and to challenge in discussion about the way things are done.”

Today, he is chief winemaker for Brown Brothers and Innocent Bystander. His duties include fruit sourcing, stylistic direction of wine blending, and producing wines that over-deliver in terms of value and quality. He also serves as a top wine show judge throughout Australia.

Australia's Winemaking History

Picture of Australia's Winemaking History

Like most wine-producing countries, Australia has benefited mightily from the increased worldwide interest in wine. Much of its success can be traced to the resurgence of the Shiraz grape and its worldwide effect on producers of Syrah. A number of countries have even changed the varietal spelling of Syrah to Shiraz to benefit from the grape’s resounding popularity.

As recently as thirty or forty years ago, most Australia wines were popularly produced and priced, but that has changed in a dramatic fashion. A number of boutique wineries have suddenly surfaced in the country with particular emphasis on terroir-driven varietals with focus on microclimates and limited production.

More importantly, Australia wines have continued to score highly in international competitions and highly-rated wine industry periodicals. A number of smaller producers command high prices for their award-winning wines, a fact that would have been thought nearly impossible three decades ago.

Australia wines have always been user-friendly, particularly for the American palate and its taste for softer, high fruit-intensity wines. The country continues to produce these popular wines and will do so as long as the demand continues. But, the future of great Australia wines lies in the smallish, boutique-style artisan wineries that seem to have popped up overnight. Kudos to these excellent producers for attempting to elevate their country’s wine status on the world wine stage.

We are proud to offer these three selections from Down Under as part of our International Wine Club. We know you will be impressed with their quality.

Yarra Valey

Picture of Yarra Valey

With a history that spans back to 1838, the Yarra Valley provides cool mountainside vineyards along with a warmer valley floor. Located an hour east of Melbourne, the foothills of the Victorian Alps provide an excellent mineral base for varietals such as the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. There are more than 300 vineyards in Yarra Valley encompassing some 6,000-plus acres of vineyards and his home to more than 160 wineries.

Yarra Valley’s climate is cooler than Bordeaux but warmer than France’s Burgundy region. Soils vary between loamy sand to clay loam with red-brown clay subsoils that are frequently rocky to brilliantly colored red volcanic soil. These layers are deep and fertile and quite hospitable to vines.