Mornington Peninsula has rapidly become a cherished source of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for those in-the-know. Here are several wines to look for from this cool climate, Australian region, including the Paringa Shiraz which is worthy of mention. All tasted by Decanter's Tina Gellie.
Tasting notes below by Tina Gellie. Introduction by Chris Mercer following a meeting with several Mornington Peninsula wine producers at Australia House in London in October 2018.
Mornington Peninsula’s emergence in the last 20 years, and especially the last decade, goes hand-in-hand with the rise to prominence of cooler-climate Australian wine regions.
Andrew Jefford wrote on Decanter.com in 2014, ‘This hilly maritime finger of land just beyond the Melbourne suburbs is making an ever-more convincing case for being one of the great Southern Hemisphere Pinot locations.’
Close connections to Melbourne have also given many wineries a strong ‘cellar door’ dimension to their businesses via tasting rooms and restaurants.
There is, too, a sense of collective learning, alongside a joint-understanding of marketing fundamentals, among several winemakers in this area; two ingredients that, when backed by quality wines, can create a so-called ‘cluster effect’ that has been shown to significantly improve a region’s development.
This doesn’t necessarily translate to homogeneity in the vineyard and the cellar.
For example, winemakers still differ on a range of methods, such as the extent to which whole bunch fermentation should be employed on Pinot. And, for a relatively small region, weather patterns can vary strongly.
Mornington Pinot Noir
It could be argued that a signature style for Mornington Peninsula Pinot is still a work-in-progress to some extent.
That said, a number of tasters have commented on the complexity achieved in the best wines, helped on in recent years by a greater diversity of vine age. Plus, an increasingly granular understanding of vineyard land, the prioritising of fresh red fruit flavours and the natural acidity driven by the climate have certainly helped to gain plaudits.
Burgundy has been mooted as a reference point, but no one wants to merely be a tribute act. Martin Spedding, owner of Ten Minutes by Tractor winery, admitted to ‘a bit of a cringe factor’ whenever the ‘B’-word comparison comes up, despite its flattering connotations – although he spoke of ‘shared values’ between the two regions in terms of focus on the vineyard and sense of place.
Kate McIntyre MW, of Moorooduc Estate and second generation of the owning family, added, ‘People associate our wines with Burgundy, so we all make sure that we understand Burgundy. But we benchmark to Pinots all around the world. It’s important to understand what Oregon, New Zealand, Yarra Valley and Tasmania are doing.
‘Having that level of knowledge of Pinot around the world, and for Chardonnay as well, allows us to define our own [wines].’
As a maritime climate, vintage variation can be more of a prominent factor in Mornington. Harvest dates vary, with 2016 seeing the earliest on record and 2017 proving a slower ripening year, with grapes not picked until late March in some cases.
As you would expect, use of oak is relatively restrained.
For Pinot, the general consensus around the briefing table at Australia House in London is that wine matured in new French oak tends to sit in lightly toasted barrels and makes up between 20% and 25% of the final blend on average. New oak can be a lot less on some wines, however.
The point of which, as you will no doubt have read about other regions, is to draw out the fruit and sense of place in the wines, plus emphasise the natural acidity that this climate provides.
If you haven’t chosen your Christmas dinner wine yet, then Mornington could be a worthy contender.
Great Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines to try:
You’ll also find two Paringa Shiraz wines in this list, sampled at the same tasting and considered worthy of mention. In addition, we’ve included Tina Gellie’s note on Crittenden Estate Pinot Noir 2016, which she tasted earlier this year.
Main varieties: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. Pockets of Semillon, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, also.
Altitude: Between 25 and 250 metres above sea level
Number of vineyards: Around 200
Number of wineries: Around 50
Based on figures from the Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association
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