When it comes to the wines of the Mornington Peninsula
, one of Australia's hot cool-climate regions, there can't be many who are more passionate or knowledgeable than Kate McIntyre MW
. Her father started the Moorooduc Estate winery
in the Peninsula when she was 10 and following studies in language and theatre she too joined the wine trade, joining the family business back in 2004. Since then she has not only become Moorooduc's Marketing Manager, but has chaired the Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Noir Celebration and become one of the region's leading advocates. Wine Australia spoke to to her following the recent 'Making Waves' tasting in London to get an insider's view on a region that is being tipped by many as Australian wine's next big thing.
Mornington Peninsula – wines with a taste of place
The Mornington Peninsula is a small, cool climate, maritime region an hour's drive from Melbourne in southern Victoria. The Peninsula itself is a long, narrow spit of land that butts into the Bass Strait. This leaves it surrounded by water on three sides in between two bays - Port Philip and Western Port. This predominance of water, and the cooling winds that blow up from the south, east and west, combine to give the region a wonderful climate that makes it ideal for growing noble, late ripening varietals such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling to name but a few. For a relatively small area there are a surprising array of soils to be found: everything from mottled yellow duplex and red volcanic soils to sandier ones around the Peninsula's geographic centre in Moorooduc. This interplay between climate and soil creates a complex network of microsites that are capable of producing everything from its famed Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to high quality Shiraz to Arneis.
Despite its suitability for the production of quality wine vines, the industry has only relatively recently started to achieve the acclaim its wines deserve. The original wine industry was formed in the 1886 around Dromana and won an honourable mention at the Intercontinental Exhibition. The early 20th century was less than kind alas, and phylloxera and economic decline led to wine production being abandoned until the late 1970s. The resurgence in interest in winemaking that followed Main Ridge Estate's opening in 1978, brought forth a second wave of estates that have secured the region's future and produced a new generation of wine pioneers, including Kate, who look destined to realise Mornington's potential.
Kate McIntyre MW - the view from Moorooduc Estate
Kate's parents bought the empty paddock that became Moorooduc Estate in 1982, so were part of the second wave of Mornington Peninsula planting and, as she puts it, 'We’ve been learning ever since.' 30-odd years on they know that their site is warm enough for Shiraz but not Cabernet Sauvignon et al, and that their sandy soil allows their vines' roots to find ground water deep below the surface. Like most of the region, Pinot Noir is Moorooduc's signature varietal. Kate told us that their Pinot is dark, spicy and structured, with a beautiful perfume in the best vintages. And as for their Chardonnay, especially from their old vines, it is 'rich, yet fine, flavoursome and textural, with complexity and saline mineral touches that delight us.' One of the signs of maturity in the human influence at Moorooduc is their attitude to winemaking. Richard (Mcintrye, Kate's father) coined the description, 'Natural, with a touch of quality control' to describe a combination of working on getting the best quality fruit they can grow to the winery in pristine condition and doing as little as necessary to these grapes to turn them into wine. Wild fermentation, wild malolactic fermentation, barrel fermentation on solids for whites, reduction of new oak usage to 20% across the board, small batch, open fermentation for Pinot with hand plunging during fermentation and more experimentation and experience with whole bunch fermentation all add up to the Moorooduc Estate style. Add in two single vineyard Chardonnays and three single vineyard Pinots at the top level, and their story is wonderfully complex - just like the wines.
Kate is quick to point out that this is not unique - on the Mornington Peninsula or in Australia. What is unique, however, is the combination of four individual vineyard sites - all within 5km of each other - and the human factor at Moorooduc. As Kate said, 'Such pure expressions of vineyard terroir are stories that Burgundy and Piedmont have told with their wines for a long time, but it’s a narrative that has really just begun for us. The tale of wine that speaks uniquely of its site and its maker, in equal part, is no longer exclusive to Europe.' This then is the story that the Mornington Peninsula has to tell. They are chasing cool climate quality. They are not afraid of complexity. They are interested in not only how the region expresses itself, but how single sites express themselves, and they have been doing it for long enough now to know that they are on the right track. We look forward to seeing the Mornington Peninsula's star rising higher and travelling further in the future.
A new wave of Australian winemaking pioneers
The 'Making Waves' tasting highlighted both the sublime quality and variety of wines being produced on the Mornington Peninsula. It also demonstrated that the classic Australian winemaking pioneer spirit is alive and well. Take Rollo Crittenden from Crittenden Estate. Alongside his multi award-winning Pinots and Chardonnays is a Savagnin Blanc, a wonderful variety rarely seen beyond its homeland in the Jura in eastern France owing to its susceptibility to coulure. Another notable offering was from Geraldine McFaul at Willow Creek and her fresh, tangy Pinot Gris, a vine that is fast garnering admirers across the region. And how many winemakers can you name who were born in India, trained as an IT consultant, moved to Australia to raise cattle and became a master exponent of Pinot Noir? Well that is the story of Paramdeep Ghumman from the Peninsula's Nazaaray Estate.
Mornington Peninsula - a tale waiting to be told
There can be little doubt that the Mornington Peninsula star has just begun its ascent and that it is capable of taking its place among the other Australian star regions. It's strikingly impressive cool climate premium wines are the essence of the 'new' Australian wines to which consumers are flocking in increasing numbers. The only question - and it's a fascinating one - is how good these wines can become. Only time will tell, but it would be a brave wine lover who would bet against them.
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