The cool climate and maritime influence of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula has seen it produce some of the world’s most sought-after Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Roger Jones attends a showcase and concludes that this is a region you need to discover… and fast.
The Mornington Peninsula showcase at Australia House brought together 12 of the region’s best producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
Making an impact into the UK market is not easy, but when you have a dedicated group of highly talented and like-minded winemakers from Mornington Peninsula who fancy an awayday to London then you are definitely in with a chance.
The Mornington Peninsular showcase kicked off with a Pinot Noir master class, hosted by Matthew Jukes, at the impressive Australia House in the Strand.
Twelve Mornington Peninsula wineries were represented, and showcased the 2010 vintage and one other of their choice. Jukes suggested that Mornington Peninsula may have a definitive style, but clearly in my mind there was a vast difference in the style and flavours of the Pinots. Interesting a new term came into the panel’s discussion, “droopy and erect vines” discussed in depth but dismissed by the President of The Mornington Peninsula Vignerons, Lindsay McCall as unimportant. Lindsay suggested that soil, area (distance from the sea and height) and weather were far more important in defining the style.
Surrounded by water on three sides, the Mornington Peninsula has a maritime climate. With a wide variety of soils, altitudes and microclimates, this niche region is one of the most suitable in Australia for the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. On a much lesser scale Pinot Gris is also making an impact.
The area has been producing wines for nearly 40 years and on my first visit there in early 2000 it certainly struck me as not only a fine wine area but an area of great beauty. From diving for Abalone (illegally) to fishing for King George Whiting which we then filleted on the beach before deep frying them at Doug Crittenden’s beach house, washed down with some fabulous Chardonnay, including his ‘house wine’ Giaconda.
Possibly more famous to Melbourne residents as a golfing peninsula, Jukes described Mornington Peninsula as “one of the great, great Pinot Noir areas of the world – passion, honesty and skill – a community who are at one with each other.”
The big names: Paringa, Stonier, Kooyong, Ocean Eight, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Moorooduc Estate are now well recognised in the UK, and worldwide, although both Stonier and Moorooduc are currently seeking UK distribution. What was exciting with this roadshow was too see the new breed coming onto the market.
Paramdeep Ghumman jumped on a plane from Bombay to Sydney in 1981 to seek a new start in Australia and was intrigued by his first taste of wine, a fine glass of champagne at the front of the plane. He was so taken by this new experience that he set up his own vineyard and became a winemaker. His winery, Nazaaray Estate (which means beautiful visions in Punjabi) was established in 1996 with some experimental vines, followed by further plantings in the following five years.
His 2010 Nazaaray Reserve Pinot Noir has a sweet aged balsamic nose, followed by a lovely bright intensity, with superb length, bright precise fruit and a wine that certainly makes an impact. I also enjoyed his 2015 Pinot Gris – vibrant, fresh, clean, with layers of silky rich fruit.
The Willow Creek Vineyard, under the direction of ex-Stonier winemaker Geraldine McFaul showed off her skills with the 2013 Willow Creek 0’Leary Block Pinot. A single block precision of a wine, elegant, bright, linear, picture perfect. The feminine gentle style is evident in all her wines including the Chardonnay.
Paul Scorpio from Scorpo Wines, highlighted the diversification in style, with both his 2010 and 2012 showcasing the deep cherry, marzipan flavours of a Central Otago Pinot Noir, rich and full but delicious. Equally vibrant was his 2015 Pinot Gris, richly textured with dashes of fresh citrus. Ex-Kooyong winemaker Sandro Mosele has been working with Paul on these wines, which are also seeking representation in the UK.
Best wine of the day, I would have to say was ‘The Paringa’ Pinot Noir 2010. I had marked this 19 in a Decanter Panel Tasting in 2014. A big brooding classic Pinot, luscious fruit, spices and lingering flavours. And I do have quite a few magnums in my cellar ready to go on by the glass in a few years time.
Kooyong under new winemaker Glen Hayley, who was Sandro’s assistant, continue to shine across the board, the Beurrot Pinot Gris especially highlighting what can be achieved with Pinot Gris, named after the endangered Burgundian Beurrot grape variety. Jasmine flowers, flinty, vivacious, honeysuckle refreshed with bright acidity.
In conclusion if you are not listing Mornington Peninsula get on the band wagon before it leaves you behind.