Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is producing pinot noir in a variety of styles, writes Peter Ranscombe.
WINEMAKERS have put up with a lot over the past year.
Fewer restaurants to sell their wines, fewer pickers to harvest their grapes, and less sleep as they host Zoom calls for awkward journalists at all hours of the day and night.
And now, the ultimate ignominy – taking their shoes off for a virtual tasting.
Padding around in their stocking feet was worth it this morning though for eight winemakers from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula.
After introducing their wines, each pair of winemakers shuffled off camera to be replaced by the next pair, with their socks ensuring less noise in between scene changes.
If the stream of positive comments in the webinar’s chat function is anything to go by, then it was all worth the effort.
Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, is surrounded by water on three sides, with the seas’ influence bringing cool nights to temper the area’s warm days.
“It’s unrivalled on the planet for growing pinot,” said Jukes in his introduction, admitting it was his favourite boutique wine region for pinot noir, a grape revered by drinkers for its elegance and cursed by farmers for its fussiness.
“Boutique” is a key word – what Mornington lacks in quantity, it more than makes up for in quality.
A fine introduction
The 2019 Stonier Pinot Noir (2018: £18.99, Majestic Wine) is a great starting point – it’s made from fruit harvested across the peninsula, as opposed to the single vineyards or even single plots favoured by the majority of small producers.
Strawberry, raspberry, and spun sugar on the nose, and then a concentrated mix of black pepper, cold tea, and raspberry jam on the palate, with an assertive kick of tannin that characterises many of the spit’s wines.
Winemaker Rollo Crittenden described 2019 as a “fantastic vintage” with a warm summer, and there’s definitely a delicous ripeness to the fruit in his 2019 Crittenden Estate The Zumma Pinot Noir (£27, David Alexander Wine).
It walks that really intriguing sweet yet spicy mix that’s recognisable in many of the wines from the Mornington Peninsula, with cranberry, red plum, spun sugar, and five spice, plus chewy tannins.
Similarly, 2018 was described as “benign” and “idyllic” by several of the winemakers.
My favourite among the 2018’s on show was the 2018 Ocean Eight Pinot Noir (£26.99, All About Wine), partly down to it being such great value for money.
Perfumed strawberry and raspeberry aromas led into textured tannins and fresh yet well-integrated acidity, with rich red cherry, red plum, and strawberry jam.
In contrast, the 2018 Scorpo Estate Pinot Noir (£32.45, Haynes Hanson & Clark) still needs a wee bit longer in the bottle for its acidity to settle.
Yet that same structure is what will give this wine a long life ahead of it.
Right now, the delicious strawberry and spun sugar flavours, and the red cherry and blackcurrant aromas, are firing on all cylinders.
Ten Minutes by Tractor winemaker Martin Spedding explained that 2018 had seen 179 days between the buds breaking on the vines until harvest, while 2019 had chalked up 173, compared with an average of 203.
The “idyllic” summer that followed the wet winter in 2018 led to complex fruit flavours in many of the wines on show, including Spedding’s own 2018 Ten Minutes by Tractor Coolart Road Pinot Noir (£49.75, Vino Fandango).
It’s a step up in price, but that’s reflected in the complexity of the fresh and ripe fruit flavours, stretching from cranberry and redcurrant through raspberry and strawberry and on to red plum, along with spun sugar and an earthy note, accompanied by textured tannins with surprising grip.
A contrasting style came from the 2018 Kooyong Estate Single Block Meres Pinot Noir (£223 for six bottles, The Fine Wine Company), with a touch of violet in amongst the raspberry and strawberry on its floral nose.
It might be more delicate, but there’s no compromise on the concentrated fruit flavours to balance its fresh acidity, with a squeeze of tangerine amid the fresh red fruit.
Switching to 2018, and Spedding revealed there had been 205 days between bud break and harvest on his vineyards.
Those extra days on the vine were reflected for me in the concentration and complexity of the 2017 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir (£23.95, Noel Young Wines), which rivaled the Oceans Eight in terms of value for money.
Red cherry, red plum, and cedar on the nose led into dark chocolate, five spice, spun sugar, and more red fruit on the palate – but it was the chewy texture that stood out for me.
The 2017 Paringa Estate Estate Pinot Noir (£49.38, Strictly Wine) shared the Moorooduc’s deeper colour compared to the other wines, but brought more floral aromas to the party – there’s a delicous weight and depth to the wine too, with a touch of blackcurrant among its red fruit flavours.
Forget any misconceptions that pinot has to be watery and wishy-washy – the Mornington Peninsula is producing wines with indivdiual styles, but which are brought together by the density of their concentrated fruit.