Mornington Peninsula: London Chardonnay & Pinot Noir masterclass

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula map & masterclass wines

Conducted at breakneck speed, my report on September’s Mornington Peninsula Masterclass focuses on my tasting notes.  This year, the visiting vignerons elected to show both Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, nicely whetting the appetite for my upcoming visit, leading an Arblaster & Clarke wine tour.

From 2012 to 2016, the Chardonnays reinforced the consistently high quality of this grape in this region – great individuality of site and style on display; age-worthiness too.

As one might expect of Pinot Noir, vintage but also the region’s stylistic evolution is writ large(r).  Though focused exclusively on 2016, a very early, compact year, the Pinot Noirs showed very well indeed, neatly under-scoring the general shift towards greater freshness and definition.

You’ll find my notes below and, for more information about Mornington Peninsula, check out my earlier reports under this link.

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay

Ten Minutes by Tractor Wallis Chardonnay 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from an uphill vineyard in Main Ridge on red volcanic clay at 113-127m.  Because, said Ten Minutes by Tractor’s owner Martin Spedding, it was consistently warm, not hot, over the whole year, the wines are balanced with concentrated fruit – “it fills in all the holes already.”  The nose reveals this single vineyard’s fresh acidity, with delicate lime blossom aromatics cut with limey acidity.  In the mouth, it shows lovely weight and balance, with silky white peach, juicy white apple, apple puree, a zesty streak of lime, a hint of nutty, fresh dug Jersey potatoes and a glisten of crystalline minerals.  With a touch of creaminess, it’s hard not to think of classic French cuisine –  turbot and beurre blanc.  Pretty, lithe, long and textural, with persistent but very balanced, integrated acidity. Yep, very complete.  14%

Stonier KBS Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from an east-facing, downhill vineyard in Merricks on basalt loam, transitioning to sandy loam over basalt clay at 55m.  Stonier’s winemaker Will Byron reckons that, now the vines have hit 25 years old, the wines are more expressive of minerals and botanicals – “moving away from primary fruit.”  A tight, introspective nose and palate with a distinct nutty, savoury edge, bacon fat going back, leads onto a firm palate, with reductive struck match notes and green glints – the botanicals.  I’m not sure if a reference to chamomile in my notes is mine or Byron’s, but I don’t mention fruit!  Tightly wound, with an exacting streak of acidity pushing it along.  Taut, persistent and exciting, with an edge of seat feel to it.  I’d like to see this again with bottle age.  13.5%

Kooyong Single Vineyard Farrago Chardonnay 2015 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from a downhill (Tuerong) low-cropping vineyard at 105m on sandy loam over clay, mottled by a high percentage of ironstone pebbles. Kooyong’s Marco Gjergja explained that this excellent or “gentle”, as he put it, vintage was selected because it showcases this vineyard’s very linear acidity and very pure fruit flavours.  Despite its striking juicy yellow peach at the core, zesty limey acidity really drives the palate (this wine saw no malo and no batonnage), making for a long throw wine, with spicy toasty oak (20% new), struck match lift , dancing minerals and savoury intensity to the finish.  Super balance and length.  Very complete (a 2015 trait).  13.5%

Polperro Mill Hill Chardonnay 2015 (Mornington Peninsula)


Mornington Peninsula

Sam Coverdale, Polperro

Polperro’s owner/vigneron Sam Coverdale lays claim to the region’s highest vineyard at Mill Hill in Red Hill (suffice to say uphill!).  It is located close to Arthurs seat, at 220m and was planted to Chardonnay (clone I10V5) in 1994.  Soils are red volcanic clay over a bedrock of granite. Reinforcing Byron’s comment about vine age, Coverdale observed, “we’re seeing across Mornington Peninsula generally that vine age is playing a really critical part, and aspect/cooling maritime influence.” Sealed under Diam cork, with minimal sulphur, Polperro’s wines were an outlier stylistically.  Doubtless the site plays a role too given the fruit was picked relatively late, in early April.  It has a buttery nose and palate, quite chewy, with substance – dry extract.  It makes for a slow mo delivery, though this wine is also tightly wound – yet to give of its fruit?  Different, but attractive, with earth and minerals to the finish.  Give it time. 12.9%

Paringa Estate The Paringa Chardonnay 2015 (Mornington Peninsula)

Paringa Estate The Paringa comes from the first vineyard planted by Peninsula pioneer, Lindsay McCall, in 1985.  It is located in Red Hill (uphill) on red volcanic clay at 150m. Picking up on the impact of vine age, for McCall moving to a situation beyond the “useful age of vines at 10-15 years” to having many of 25/30 years old or more, has “made a huge difference to our style of wines.” There was a TBA query over the first bottle of this wine (sealed under screwcap).  A second bottle showed more purity, with bruised apple and steely grapefruit – cool and mineral of delivery, with taut acidity and spicy oak chiming in on a firm finish. Young.  13.5%

Crittenden The Zumma Chardonnay 2014 (Mornington Peninsula)

From Crittenden’s oldest vines – the Home Vineyard – downhill in Dromana at 50m on sandy loam over grey clay soils.  This is a more laid back, relaxed wine, quite gentle.  A function of site and also bottle age.   It shows sweet lemon, juicy fruit salad and, going back, rock melon – a hint of tropicality – with balancing, savoury, creamy lees.  I also detect a characteristic I often find in this wine – a nubular, sandstone character – a textural rub of minerals, which embeds the flavours.  Nutty, toasty, spicy oak plays out on the finish – resonance, so not full on oak.  Nice.   13.2%

Ocean Eight Verve Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)

Mornington Peninsula

Mike Aylward, Ocean Eight

Sourced from downhill – a Tuerong vineyard on a flat section at just 32m on sandy loam and within a kilometre of Yabby Lake and Moorooduc Estate.  Ocean Eight’s winemaker/co-owner Mike Aylward selected the 2012 because, he said, “it’s important to show how the wines are ageing – still young and in the zone of where you want to drink it.”  A whip cracker for earlier picked, leaner styles, Aylward pointed out but for this stylistic shift, people would have been drinking Sauvignon Blanc instead and, more graphically, “the big wines [old school Chardonnays] would have been dying on their arse.”  It reminded me of my first encounter with Ocean Eight’s wines and Aylward in 2010, when I followed up the Landmark Tutorial with a visit to Mornington Peninsula.  The tutorial’s opening dinner kicked off with a glass of 2005 Ocean Eight “3gms” Sparkling Pinot Noir Chardonnay, specially hand disgorged for the occasion.  Taut, razor sharp and bone dry, it provided a good indication of what was to follow when I visited Ocean Eight a week later – wines which Aylward told me are made “to go with food, so wines which have a good acid structure.” Verve is fermented and aged in used barrels with lots of solids and I’ve always enjoyed the distinctly Chablis-like subtle mouthcoating and saline, oyster-shell quality of this wine.  The lees cleave to the palate, rather than billowing it out or making it creamy, gently slippering (my just invented word) or sheathing (better) the crystalline grapefruit and lemon fruit, with its crab apple bite.  The oyster shell is really savoury and persistent  on the back palate.  Emphasising that you need a cool region with a really long ripening period to get this style, he pointed out that, whilst the winds are more gentle over our side of the peninsula, it is still very cool, since they are “like an air conditioner for the region.” Going back, Verve 2012 is firm long and lively.  Lovely restraint and minerality, with line.   13.5%

Yabby Lake Block 1 Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)

This September Wine of the Month was sourced from Yabby Lake’s downhill vineyard in Tuerong at 40-91m on light sandy clay loam, sandy loam, deep soils.  I first tasted it in 2014, remarking on its imposing structure and “bottled electricity” ageing potential.   In scintillating form, it thoroughly lived up to its promise.  Made from 100% Mendoza or Gin Gin clone, which is grown on the lowest, coolest part of the vineyard with the heaviest clay, its energy is evident from the off.  A tangy, zingy, tightly-wound nose shows lemon zest and pith, which follow through on the attack.  Yellow peach, savoury lees, nutty oak and subtle struck match lift build resolutely, as it opens up.  With a chewy, palpable sense of dry extract, it has terrific palate presence. A lingering, slow burn finish – perfumed, still building – suggests this wine is just hitting its stride.  Superb complexity, structure and length.  12.5%

Moorooduc The McIntyre Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)

Kate McIntyre MW’s parents founded Moorooduc in the Moorooduc sub-region in the north of the peninsula; her father, a surgeon, makes the wines.  She emphasised the impact of soil type and aspect on Mornington Peninsula’s diverse styles within its Chardonnay and Pinot Noir specialism.  The flagship The McIntyre is sourced from the estate’s original block, planted in 1983 at 90m on free-draining very sandy duplex soil (over clay) from an ancient seabed.  Dry grown, the sand allows roots to go deep and, I guess, find the moisture and nutrients they need.  Naturally fermented and allowed naturally to undergo the malo (100% here), it has lovely depth and nice breadth, with savoury notes and fruit to nose and palate – very much in Moorooduc’s relatively generous style (compared with Ocean Eight and Yabby Lake).  It shows creamy white peach, cooler pear and bruised apple, angelica, fennel (botanicals!), with fresh dug Jersey Royals.  With time in glass, nougat, vanilla spice.  Textural, with some attractive phenolic chew to the finish.  13%

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

This is Ten Minutes by Tractor’s oldest, highest site, planted on southern slopes at 198-201m in Main Ridge on red volcanic clay.  For Spedding it typically shows bracken and 5 spice and has a delicate, pretty structure.  The nose is indeed pretty, with a pingy, playful bounce to its red and black cherry fruit, fleshier (fresh) plum, said five spice and a hint of sous bois which I can associate with childhood memories of playing hide and seek in the bracken.  There’s some attractive pick to the tannins which, with the pingy fruit, fresh acid and lingering, lifted spice, lends animation to the palate.  Young, the tannins fine but gently mouthcoating on the finish.  Very good.  13.5%

Stonier Merron’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

As it happens, Merron’s Vineyard is Stonier’s highest.  Located at 195m, it is in Red Hill on classic red basalt over basalt clay.  This is a darker, brooding Pinot, with black currant and berry fruit.  Hints of savoury earth and beetroot and more fleeting chinato, cheroot and orange peel lend complexity and layer.  Firmer tannins make for a relatively closed, well-structured palate.  Quite buttoned up, but plenty to unfurl.  14%

Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

From downhill Tuerong’s classic sandy loam soils at 115m, but this vineyard takes its name from the rusty blobs of iron which are scattered through the block like buckshot.  Ferrous 2016  is a deeper hue than its predecessors.  It was fermented in concrete then racked straight to barrel, c. 20% new. Drier and a little reticent too (it was released just three weeks previously), it seems initially sappy on nose and palate, with a herbal edge.  But this is a muscular wine when it comes down to it, with paper fine but ever present taffeta tannins, which blot/meld into the satiny black and red berry and cherry fruit, making quite an impression.  Black liquorice, with just a hint of lifted anise and chinato, earthy beetroot and an iron, mineral tang make for a savoury finish.  Brooding, young.  13.5%

Polperro Mill Hill Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Like the Chardonnay, this Pinot comes from the region’s highest vineyard at Mill Hill in Red Hill and is a suitably singular wine.  Located close to Arthurs seat, at 220m, it was planted to Pinot Noir in 1994 (MV6) and 2009 (115, Q120a & Q320a).  Soils are red volcanic clay over a bedrock of granite.  Coverdale emphasised that, given the elevation and exposure (with ocean on both sides), its north-facing aspect and long daylight hours are key to ripening.  It probably also helps that yields are low – he told us he is lucky if he gets 1t/acre!  The grapes were picked in April – again at the later end of the spectrum.  By way of comparison, Ten Minutes by Tractor’s McCutcheon Pinot (its highest site at c.200m) was picked on 17 March.  An earthy nose and palate, with fleshy plum, clove and, with time in glass, anise.  A touch of zippy, volatile acidity and denser, less refined tannins, makes for a hands off feel. Not as polished as the others and still finding its feet, but interesting (in a good way); needs time to unfurl.   14%

Paringa Estate The Paringa Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

The pigeon pair to the Chardonnay, this Pinot hails from the first vineyard Peninsula pioneer Lindsay McCall planted, in 1985.  It is located in Red Hill (uphill) on red volcanic clay at 150m.  Aged in Francois Freres oak, 30% new, it shows smoky charcuterie to nose and palate, with lovely concentration and depth of plum, raspberry and macerated cherries.   Good palate weight and girth, well supported by fine, graphite tannins, a touch chewy on the finish.  A powerful Pinot with plenty of gas in the tank. A baby. 14%

Crittenden Cri de Coeur Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Mornington Peninsula

Rollo Crittenden, Crittenden Estate

From Crittenden’s oldest vines – the Home Vineyard – downhill in Dromana at 50m on sandy loam over grey clay soils.  For Rollo Crittenden, beautiful structure and textural substance are a hallmark of Mornington Peninsula’s 2016 Pinots. When launched in 2013, this cuvee featured 100% whole bunch fermented fruit.  In 2016, the proportion is down to a smidge under 50%.   Crittenden Cri de Coeur Pinot Noir 2016 is a deep hue, with earth and spice (whole bunch) and smoky, charcuterie (oak) notes to nose and palate, which bring lift and layer to the markedly fresh, persistent palate, with pingy, sappy red and black fruits and resonating spice.  The energetic fruit is deftly harnessed by an underlying (long wheel base) chassis of ripe, graphite tannins.  Surprisingly accessible now, yet with the structure to go long distance.  13.3%

Ocean Eight Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from downhill – a Tuerong vineyard on a flat section at just 32m on sandy loam and within a kilometre of Yabby Lake and Moorooduc Estate.  Winemaker/co-owner Mike Aylward’s aim is to highlight everything he is doing in the vineyard in the wine and this cuvee always has a guileless, unpushed quality. Fruit is picked on the earlier side and, since he doesn’t want oak-derived flavour in the wine, it is pressed into one year old puncheons to better preserve the (red) fruit.  All de-stemmed too, for the same reason.  That said, he explained that he is letting ferments heat up more than in past to get some savoury characters into the wine.  Ocean 8 Pinot Noir 2016 shows sappy, juicy raspberry, strawberry and blackberry fruit, with hints of green and earth. Graphite tannins, a touch savoury, gently but palpably lend support. Has a lightness of being/sense of ease with itself.  13.5%

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from a downhill vineyard in Tuerong at 40-91m on sandy clay loam, with iron shot stone and light medium clay soils – “a blend of blocks and clones within the vineyard blended for purity and silkiness of tannins without sacrificing depth and length,” said its maker, Tom Carson.  This wine featured 30% whole bunch ferment, with 70% whole berries.  Carson is doing more pump overs than plunging for softer tannins.  A deep colour with a raft of liquorice/anise-accented black cherry and pippy berry fruit, waxy floral lift and beetroot undertones.  Going back, more liquorice than anise, so darker, more savoury. Chamois/suede tannins – fine and soft, but present – build slowly and spicily going through.  Lovely detail and layer.  Going back, a touch salty.  Beautifully crafted, long and confident.  Ticking over, time in hand.  13%

Moorooduc Estate Robinson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 (Mornington Peninsula)

Sourced from the Robinson family’s vineyard in Moorooduc at 60m on sandy duplex soil from an ancient seabed.  A bouncy but complex nose, with a touch of catering chocolate, coltsfoot and red cherry, which notes follow through on the palate.  Spine and chew to the tannins combined with juicy acidity makes for a dynamic, leavening quality to the palate.  Whilst the fruit is smooth and expansive, like satin, the palate is never heavy.  Very good. 14%

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