Tasting Peninsula terroir

By Louise Johnson
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The Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, has a unique maritime location which creates pinots with outstanding flavours

The Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, has a unique maritime location which creates pinots with outstanding flavours [©Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association]

Lindenderry, Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

The Mornington Peninsula is developing a strong reputation both in Australia and internationally as a premium producer of pinot noir. The fourth biennial Mornington Peninsula International Pinot Celebration gave pinot lovers the opportunity to take a close look at local terroir.

Terroir, a French term used to sum up the characteristics unique to a vineyard site, was the theme for the weekend and tasting sessions explored the concept of a distinctive Australian terroir and its characteristics. Two tasting brackets were dedicated to the particular characteristics of Mornington Peninsula wines.

Session facilitator Ben Edwards says he has watched the Peninsula develop into a highlight of the Australian wine industry. “Now we’re seeing all the stuff you look for in great pinot noir,” he says.


One of the great attributes of the area was the local winemaker’s ability to share knowledge, says Ben.

Eldridge winemaker David Lloyd says the regions winemakers are working collaboratively to make better pinot noir. Nicknamed the “king of clones”, David says winemakers in Burgundy have had hundreds of years to determine which grape varieties grow best in each area. Collaboration helps speed up the learning in relatively new wine regions.

A benchmarking project has been running for the past four years to collect temperature data from within the vineyards to give growers a map of what is happens to particular sites during temperature fluctuations. “We will be able to use this data like a frost alarm in the future,” he says.

Other projects include exploring the differences between gravity and pumping for wine transfer and analysing the carbon footprint of vineyards to ensure they are energy efficient.

Regional Style

Wines selected for the Mornington Peninsula brackets explored the micro terroir, looking at different sub regions within the Peninsula. Ben Edwards says elevation plays a key role with fruity, red berry characteristics common in higher altitude vineyards such as Main Ridge and Red Hill, and richer, deep savoury flavours common in lower lying areas.

Co-facilitator and visiting UK wine writer Jancis Robinson says there is a distinctive regional style among the wines presented. “They’re subtle and refreshing, not going for the sweet red with oak route. There are lots of variations in the wines, but it’s this freshness that is common throughout the region. The wines have lots of natural acidity which often isn’t the case outside of Burgundy.”

Jancis also attended the Central Otago Pinot Celebration in January and says Mornington Peninsula pinot noirs had more stylistic differences than Central Otago wines. There is a lot of contract winemaking in Central Otago, so winemaking is very centralised. “I like that aspect of this [Mornington Peninsula] region. Most people are grower winemakers and I think that gives a lot more personality to the wines.”

The wines

Main Ridge Estate Half Acre Pinot Noir 2006

2006 was a good vintage for Main Ridge and winemaker Nat White says the climate was just right through from flower set to the end of vintage. Intense human intervention in the vineyard enables minimal intervention in the winemaking process to achieve purity of fruit.  Textural, red berry and raspberry fruit characters. Complexity will come with age.

Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006

Winemaker Martin Spedding says his goal is to produce wines true to their terroir, with intrigue that is worth exploring. The McCutcheon Vineyard is the highest of the three sites, all ten minutes by tractor apart. A wonderful vintage, he says with high natural acids that will develop and age well. Dark berry nose. Red fruits and spice, slight chilli finish.

Port Phillip Estate Morillon Pinot Noir 2006

Set in a natural amphitheatre with north and north-east slopes the site has excellent drainage and exposure to sunlight.Winemaker Sandro Mosele's winemaking philosophy involves ensuring low yields in the vineyard and then preserving the distinctive characteristics of the fruit in the wine. Every vintage is different, he says and this wine is a product of the vintage with forward fruit, high acidity and fairly subtle characters. Bright, cherry flavours with musty nose.

Lindenderry Pinot Noir 2006

Lindenderry vines were planted in the late 1980s to complement the Country House Hotel, which hosted this year’s Pinot Celebration. Winemaking is contracted to Lindsay McCall, of Paringa Estate, who has made the estate wine here for over 10 years. Lindsay says this is quite a cool site and gentle handling is used in the winemaking process to preserve fruit characters. Fragrant, sweet fruit, delicate oak background.

Paradigm Hill Pinot Noir “L’ami sage” 2006

Attention to detail is paramount at this Merricks Road vineyard. Winemaker George Mihaly says fruit was hand picked in five separate parcels and the 2006 vintage was fairly gracious. The vineyard lies at 50 metres above sea level and is one of the lowest planting densities on the Peninsula with just 1300 vines per hectare. Aromas of red fruit to dark fruit, which change as you work your way through the bottle. Cinnamon spice finish.

Kooyong Single Vineyard Ferrous Pinot Noir 2006

Kooyong is a 93 hectare property in Tuerong, equal distance between Port Phillip and Western Port, in a wamer, drier and relatively protected location compared to other Mornington Peninsula vineyards.Winemaker Sandro Mosele says they have done extensive soil sampling on the property and planted in small parcels, with each block showing different characteristics. A muscular, deep red wine with a slight blue tinge. Inky plum flavours, but still with a freshness.

Morning Sun Pinot Noir 2006

One of the regions youngest and most promising winemakers,Owen Goodwin had his first vintage at Morning Sun in 2006 and this was his first production of pinot noir. The vineyard was planted as a hobby by Mario Toniolo in 1995 at age 70. Owen says 2006 was a wonderful year resulting in the most impeccable fruit he’s seen. Red berry aromas, full fruit, with hint of raspberry flavour. Soft tannins.

Eldridge Estate Pinot Noir 2006

Winemaker David Lloyd says six Pinot Noir clones are blended in this wine. He says clonal flavour can be distinctly different, but as vines age this becomes less important. The average age of vines at Eldridge is 20 years and David has experimented heavily to find which clones work best on his patch of dirt. Warm herbal nose, succulent cherry fruit flavours. Delicate and warm.

Montalto Pinot Noir 2006

Much hard work has gone into the Montalto sites including removing vines to control vigour and create balance in the deep red volcanic based soils. The 2006 pinot noir is a blend of fruit from two vineyards and is made as a small hand crafted batch. Winemaker Robin Brockett says at bottling the wine was an “ugly duckling” and is just starting to come together. Warm red currant, smokey nose. Pinched finish. Keep another two to three years.

Scorpo Pinot Noir

Owner and winemaker Paul Scorpo says it took four years to find the perfect site at Red Hill South, which was a derelict apple and cherry orchard. He says 2006 was a classical vintage with a cool summer, which didn’t really start until January. Earthiness with spice elements. Slightly dry note on finish.

Hurley vineyard Pinot Noir “Harcourt” 2006

Owner and winemaker Kevin Bell says extraordinary ripeness in the 2006 vintage caught them by surprise and they worked frantically to get the fruit off in time. The young Balnarring vineyard is 80 metres above sea level with an average vine age of just eight years. Fresh fruit nose, silky red currant characters.

Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 2006

Yabby Lake was planted in 1998 and winemaker Tod Dexter says each block is subject to the same winemaking processes so they can ascertain each site's individual characteristics. As they learn, processes are changing with less trimming done now to give fruit more shading on the warmer sites. Warm burnt sugar and plum characters, with rustic tannins.


  • Melbourne Surrounds (VIC)
  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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February 19th, 2009
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