MORNINGTON PENINSULA VIGNERONS (PART 1)
Morning Peninsula - A picturesque peninsula that stretches 60 km south east of Melbourne (in the state of Victoria), jutting out from Frankston and Pearcedale before tapering into a westerly direction. Before the European settlements, it was part of the Boonwurrung Territory. Today it is a popular weekend holiday destination to most Melburnians, commonly known as "The Peninsula" , a home away from home, with some of the most internationally acclaimed Golf courses (Moonah Links, Sorrento and St Andrews Beach Golf course). Apart from Golf, it is known for its year around competitive water sport events and a busy network of mountain biking and hiking trail routes running through this mix of sandy and rocky region. Surrounded by Port Philip Bay to its west, Western Port to the east and Bass Strait to the South West, the topography starts off from sandy plains from the north (where it joins into the mainline), going further southwards to mild undulating hills. Altitudes of around 300-350m make it the perfect grape growing zone along with cool breeze from the Bays moderating the day and night temperatures. Further more, being on southerly latitude levels (38 degree south of equator) also means the grapes go through long days and long periods of warm sunshine, perfect for achieving physiological ripening.
Recently the Australian High Commission arranged for the MP Winemakers (Morning Peninsula Vigenerons) to organise a Tasting for the Wine Trade and Press and here are some of my tasting notes of the Walk about MP Wines while meeting with the very affable and friendly Wine Producers. My general observation was very positive: a trend towards more elegant wine making, emphasising on expression of terroir. Maintaining the vibrancy of the fruit notes was definitely a common theme but what was interesting is the heightened levels of awareness amongst the Wine makers to promote concentration and intensity in the grapes and their singular efforts to increase levels of complexity in wines by lengthening the 'hang time' of the grapes. Also notable was the gentle use of old oak with a conscious desire to bring in levels of harmony and structure. While Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the two signature grapes suiting well to the cool maritime influenced geography of the region, increasingly Pinot Gris and more so, Italian mountain grapes are also finding a new home in this upcoming wine country.
Given that most of the vineyards were only planted in the late 1980s/1990s, Mornington Peninsula has now come to be universally recognised as a very competitive wine region, producing some of the better fine wines of the New World. 2015 and indeed 2016 have been one of their best vintages so far and the producers are very optimistic and determined to achieve World Class recognition and indeed they are on their way!
Started by Gary Crittendon in 1982, it is one of the oldest family owned and operated wineries. Their home vineyard is situated on the Red Hill. I met with Gary's son, Rollo who now also is also fully immersed in the running the business along with his daughter Zoe, who looks after the marketing activities. 95% of their wines are sold in Australia and increasingly they are seeing sales pick up in the UK/Europe. For more information, visit www.crittendonwines.com.au
Dry white with a unique blend of Italian grapes Vermentino, Arneis and Friulano (from Friuli). Fermented and left on skins for upto 10 months, this is part of their experiment to bring out a rich style of wine. The wine is moderately high on acidity with strong notes of lemon and grapefruit but also has aromas of ripened apricot and guava with some good density on the palate. Though it has a youthful appeal, the wine is definitely leaning towards taking on mature reigns. What I will give them credit for is taking on the risk of growing these grapes (that are unusual for the peninsula) by testing out small batches and then using the art of judicious blending and skillful wine making to let these wines express for themselves elegantly. The experience and hard work is paying off positively well. (8.5/10)
2015 Crittenden Estate, Zumma Chardonnay
Dry, with high levels of cool climate expressive acidity the wine has strong citrus notes, apricot and stone fruits on the palate, further enriched with barrel fermentation. Fruit driven & youthful, it is has a friendly drinking style. (8/10)
2014 Crittenden Estate, Peninsula Pinot Noir
Using growers blend of grapes, this is good commercial style Pinot Noir with nose of red cherries, aromatic floral notes and cranberries, classic to this region and some spice, cinnamon and black pepper notes from 12 months of oak ageing. (7.5/10)
2010 Crittenden Estate, The Zumma Pinot Noir
Crittendons have selected and planted 7 clones of Pinot Noir and Zumma is their Creme dela Creme wine. The tasting did confirm that too. Zumma has 2 of their best clones of Pinot Noir and the vines are the oldest in their entire range (almost 35 years old). With impressive acidity backing the palate, I found the tannins very ripe and silky, beautifully structured, giving it a powerful intensity. The wine has high levels of cherries and red fruit concentration but what stands out is its lovely velvety texture. Whilst alcohol levels were kept very much contained, a little over 13%, the fruits and rich oak spice notes integrate beautifully. Whole bunch fermentation is the additional work done to this batch, to add a marked level of complexity that brings out its savoury earthiness and wet leafy notes. An interesting point is the new strategy that Rollo has introduced for this wine to spend less time in oak and more time in bottle which has elegantly helped stabilise it. (9.5/10)
KOOYONG /PORT PHILIP ESTATE
Kooyong belongs to Belongs to Marco & Melissa Gjergja who acquired it in 2000. The vineyards themselves were planted in 1987. The family could not attend the Tasting demonstration but I met with their Distributor Enotria Winecellars Ltd. Its situated over 93 hectares and on a slightly warmer and drier location, equal distance from Port Phillip and Wester Port bays. Aspect is North facing and soils are sedimentary light and sandy clays. They also have a beautiful Dining Room open open for bookings for lunch and dinner, which was described by the Gourmet Traveller as one of the top dining experiences serving eclectic European cuisine.
The wines I tasted were:
2015 Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay
Apart from notes of tropical fruits melon, banana the wine also elicits beautiful ripe apricots and pears. A good level of linear acidity and also a touch of oak that is blending well with the citrus notes and fruit concentration. Use of wild yeast for fermentation and minimal interventional approach during vinification, such as gravity for flow and control are some of the eclectic natural wine making methods that are practised here . There is a good level of richness and on the whole a reasonably good structure to the wine. (7.5/10)
2014 Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir
With deep red cherries and strawberry notes, there is a high amount on ripeness on the palate for this Pinot Noir which demonstrates super fruit concentration. The finesse falls slightly short but overall its a good easy to drink wine showing typicity for this region. (6.5/10)
2015 Kooyong Beurrot Pinot Gris
Beautiful mouthwatering acidity melting away with notes of ripe melons, peach and some honey notes. Good intensity and a great expression of Pinot Gris. Another approachable friendly wine with a good aftertaste. (8/10)
2012 Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir
This was the best of all Kooyong wines I tasted - one which is rich, supremely concentrated. Youthful notes of ripened cherries and wild sun kissed strawberries slowly give way to spicy pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon from the well integrated oak. Hints of earth, mushroom savoury notes have also started emanating softly. The wine is impressively balanced with a long finesse and is ageing very well. Can be easily kept away for another 6-8 years. (9/10)
Owned by Richard and Jill McIntyre, the Moorooduc vineyards were planted in 1983 on a north/north westerly aspect of the hill. They not only grow but also source fruits from 2 other vineyards (including Robinson vineyard) within a few kilometres of their site. Their daughter Kate McIntyre MW has joined them as their Marketing Manager since 2010. It was lovely to meet her and do the tasting of her wines.
2013 Moorooduc Estate The Moorooduc McIntyre Chardonnay
Dry with lovely acidity and notes of white peach, banana, melon, pears and lemon. Impressive structure coming out well due to whole bunch press and fermentation on wild yeast. With a creamy texture on the palate the wine shows incredible depth and richness. The fruit notes are elegantly supported by vanilla spice and toasty oak character which clearly explains the work gone into it through barrel fermentation and leaving it to age on the lees for upto 8 months. The grapes come from vines that are atleast 30 years old. So in all in a good degree of complexity and fine balance on this lovely wine! (9/10)
2013 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir
Dry, bright ruby and fruity, good amounts of integrated acidity that lifts this wine up, this is expressive of a lovely youthful concentrated wine with notes of cherry, rhubarb flavours. Hints of savoury notes of cloves and cinnamon also demonstrate soft use of oak. They are made a blend from McIntyre, Robinson and Garden vineyards. Good varietal purity and ripe soft tannins. (8/10)
2013 Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir
With 20% whole bunch press, the grapes are handpicked and selected from Robinson vineyard. The fruit concentration is equally vibrant and expressive. Soils are heavier clay in this vineyard which helps develop silky, fine grained and ripe tannis. Well rounded wine with memorable finesse and a good length (8/10)
2013 Moorooduroc Estate The Moorooduc McIntyre Pinot Noir
Made from the oldest vines planted in 1983 at the McIntyre estate, comes this incredibly expressive and complex, rich wine which demonstrates layers of different aromas. Starting with notes of dark cherry, mulberry and baked cranberries, it transforms into pepper, spice, vanilla, cinnamon and sweet liquoriche notes while also displaying some ageing savoury character from mushrooms and cabbage leaves all draped with ripe and velvety tannins. There is a good tension amongst all the elements that gives it a very dynamic feel and at the same time a silky texture, all throughout showing supreme balance of oak, fruit and tannins. Soils are sandy and roots have penetrated deep down and with more than 30 year old vines, the resulting wines are expressive, elegant and complex. (9.5/10)
After an experimental block in 1996, owner Paramdeep Ghumman decided to plunge into the business of Wine Making after retiring from his IT job. Backed by his wife, Nirmal, he took time out to study and understand the commercial and viticultural side of the business before making the transition into this full time. Since then, he has committed himself full time into developing Nazaaray, which means in Punjabi- Beautiful visions. Together they produce about 200 cases of wines and now seek distributorship in the UK. I enjoyed the tastings with him and he came across as a man with an intense passion for Wines, proud of his work at the same time humble about his achievements. The vineyard is at the southern most tip of the Peninsula so enjoys a huge amount of maritime influence both from southerly and westerly oceanic currents. Soils are red clay with some volcanic deposits so minerality is expressed well in his wines. His whites are very elegant and he seeks to employ fewer wine making influences letting the terroir speak out through his wines. His wines have won Bronze medals amongst other accolades in 2010 at IWC competition. Nazaaray's 2004 also got a special mention in the Gourmet Traveller Top 100 wines.
2015 Nazaaray Pinot Gris
Dry with mouthwatering acidity, it displays strong aromatic floral fragrance of honeysuckle and a focused fruit concentration with notes of citrus, ripe pears and peach, hints of honey and mild herbal and spicy notes. The texture is rich and oily with some good depth and intensity. The grapes are whole bunch pressed and after fermentation aged in 20% oak. Which gives it the soft subtle spice note of white pepper and toast. The wines are youthful, well integrated and express purity. They display a lingering finish and have the capacity to mature further for atleast 4-5 years. Although the estate started off with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, I strongly believe that Pinot Gris stands out as having a huge potential to becoming their signature variety. (9/10)
2015 Nazaaray Chardonnay
Intense stone fruit and citric notes and despite the stated warmer climate, it shows good elegance of a cooler grape and the right balance of ripened apricot and peach fruits and oak integration. There is barrel fermentation and malo lactic conversion to an expressive degree and harmony has been obtained by gently segregating the ferment 30% into New oak, 30% in 1 year old and 40% in 2 year old oak. (8/10)
2014 Nazaaray Pinot Noir
Dry and ruby red with deep aromas of sour cherries, strawberries, rose petals and distinctly fragrant, it displays a good elegance, vibrance and youthfulness. Good and easy drinking style wine (8/10)
2012 Nazaaray Family Reserve Pinot Noir
Each clone was separately picked and pressed and the best of it came together in the blend, which was whole bunch pressed and fermented. Displaying brilliant elegance, the wine is beautifully balanced with oak and acidity flowing in beautifully into the concentrated fruit flavours. The tannins are soft and closely knit and have the capacity to help age the wine for another 5-7 years. (8.5/10)
Established in 1985 by McCall family, Paringa has been recently winning a lot of recognition as Australian Winery of the Year by James Halliday in 2007. Teacher turned Wine maker, Lindsay McCall worked very hard over the last 30 years slowly building on his acreage and increasing volumes slowly and steadily. Their vineyard also has a restaurant that is open for visitors. I had the pleasure to taste the following:
2013 Estate Pinot Noir
Good amount of red fruit punch with immense concentration, the spice notes stand out elegantly in this aromatic wines. With 11 months maturation on lees, 50% has been aged in new oak. Lots of peppper, cinnamon and liquoriche on the palate with soft rich tannins creating a good structure underneath, giving it an ageing capacity of atleast 6-7 years. (9/10)
2015 Estate Chardonnay
Dry, refreshingly acidic and with lemon, pear drops, apricot and stony peach fruit notes. The barrel fermentation and lees ageing for almost a year in a mix of old and new oak, has given it an underlying richness and wide spectrum of secondary flavours which makes this wine very bountiful and also versatile at the same time. There is good expression and also a creamy texture that adds on to give a persistently lingering finesse. (9/10)