As son of the founder of one of Mornington Peninsula’s longest established wineries, Rollo Crittenden of Crittenden Estate has the inside track about wines from a region that is winning plaudits and prizes for its award-winning cool climate wines. Here he explains why he thinks the region is so special and worthy of a place on your wine list.
Rollo Crittenden says it was almost inevitable that he would follow his father into the family’s winery business, but he is also now stamping his own mark and personality on the wines being produced at Crittenden Estate.
Next week sees 10 of the leading wineries and producers from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula region make the trip to attend a series of events including its key London trade tasting on September 6. As well as Rob Critterden from Crittenden Estate there will be Polperro, Kooyong, Mooroduc Estate, Ocean Eight, Paringa Estate, Polperro, Port Phillip Estate, Stonier, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Yabby Lake Vineyard. All showing their styles of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz that are synonymous with the peninsula.
Over the last few weeks leading up to the tasting we have been featuring each of the producers involved. Here’s Rollo Crittenden of Crittenden Estate offering his take on the region, and all it has to offer.
Tell us about your winery, a bit about it’s history and where you are now?
Crittenden Estate is one of the oldest family owned and operated wineries on the Mornington Peninsula. My Dad (Garry) first planted the 4.5 acre vineyard in 1982, which amazingly doubled the region’s area under vine at the time. Plantings expanded to a capacity of 11 acres by the early 1990s with the entire vineyard now being operated under an effective organic regime with a huge focus on microbial soil health.
With a childhood spent helping in the winery and vineyard it seemed inevitable that I would ultimately join the family business. After completing my studies at Charles Sturt University, I headed to the vineyards of Burgundy, Oregon, California and Italy. It was there, working vintages internationally, where I honed the skills acquired from my dad during my younger years. After returning to take over the winemaking at our family business in 2007 I was fortunate to win the 2010 Australian “Young Gun” Winemaker of the year award.
More recently we have received great accolades for our 2013 Crittenden Estate Cri de Coeur Savagnin, which won the trophy for best white wine at show at the 2017 AAVWS and was described by the Halliday Wine Companion as, “One of the most remarkable wines crafted in Australia.”
Now, as the father of two young boys I can only hope that one day my kids will also choose to join the family business and to continue what my father started all those years ago.
What types of wine are you making for export and why?
As one of the earliest vineyards planted in the region and with a lack of prior climatic understanding the majority of our original plantings were to Cabernet Sauvignon with only a small portion of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Quickly Dad learnt that the latter two varieties were far more suited to our cool maritime climate and the majority of our subsequent plantings have taken place accordingly and all Cabernet has long been grafted across also. The one exception is our 0.6-acre planting of Savagnin which we are ageing under Flor for up to 4 years. It’s the collection of these three varieties (the pinnacle of our winemaking efforts) which make up the majority of our export offering.
What do you think makes the Mornington Peninsula unique and worth telling the world about, and how does it differfrom other Australian regions?
The Mornington Peninsula has a rare and enviable combination of a cool climate, varied yet suitable soil types and a range of aspects and altitudes. The alignment of these attributes broadly provides a unique and enviable tapestry of perfect vineyard sites for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The one additional aspect that ensures quality (and makes it different from many other Australian regions) is the absence of large parcels of plantable land. This has resulted in very little influx of the large companies with the majority of wines being made by small family-owned wineries who are driven by passion rather than profit.
What perception do you think UK buyers have about Mornington Peninsula?
I believe the UK’s perception of our region has increased in recent years, commensurate with the quality and consistency of the wines being produced. It’s our job to continue to strive to make better wines and naturally to spread the good word.
What do you hope to achieve by the tasting and events in London and UK in September?
While naturally I’m keen to engage with the UK trade on our brand, it’s safe to say that this trip is primarily about the Mornington Peninsula as a whole. We are very lucky to have a cohesive group of wine producers who band together for the greater good. We will all benefit a great deal more if we can collectively reinforce to the trade and consumers what makes Mornington wines both different and great
Which types of importers/ restaurant/channels in the UK do you think your wines are best suited to and why?
I believe we are best suited to independent restaurants and retail outlets. Given the price points and relatively limited production of our wines we will undoubtedly appeal to those who can hand sell our wines and share our passion with their customers. We certainly have no significant volume aspirations for our wines in the UK and I dare say you will never see any of our wines adorning the supermarket shelves – we simply don’t (and can’t) make enough
Why should a UK buyer come and visit your stand?
I’ll be showing a nice range of current release Pinots and Chardonnays but I’m also pulling the cork out of a couple of bottles of our yet to be released 2015 Cri de Coeur, Sous Voile Savagnin. This is the second vintage of Flor aged Savagnin to be released and I feel it’s a very worthy follow up to the highly acclaimed 2013.
What sort of export prices do you have?
Our wholesale bottle prices range from £13 (the Peninsula Range) to £28 (Cri de Coeur) with the Zumma and Kangerong ranges falling nicely in between.
What other markets do you export your wine to and why?
Currently we are only exporting to the UK (where we are distributed by Field Morris & Verdin), though this may increase to include Japan and Singapore in the not too distant future.
What opportunities remain for premium wines from Australia?
I think the future of Australian wine in the UK needs to be driven by small independent producers such as those from the Mornington Peninsula. If we can make it clear that we are not just a nation of sunshine and broad acre viticulture, then our premium wines will have a very bright future.
What are you most looking forward to about coming to the UK?
From a business point of view the UK trade is without doubt some of the best people to taste with around the world. They are always extremely respectful and engaged which makes my job so much easier. From a personal point of view, what’s not to love about a week in London in early autumn! The food, the parks, the people… and perhaps a pub or two – London has a buzz that very few other cities can live up to. I can’t wait!
- Win flights to Australia and tickets to next year’s Pinot Celebration in Mornington Peninsula. Visitors to the Mornington Peninsula tasting in London on September 6 are in with the chance of winning two flights to Australia, accommodation and tickets to the Pinot Celebration on February 8th and 9th 2019. Held every two years the Pinot Celebration is the region’s biggest and most important wine event and packed with a host of activities from winemaker sessions to dinners featuring local chefs. All you need do to enter the competition is fill out an entry form at the tasting or post on social media. Find out more about the event and to register here.