As Australia continues to link signature grape varieties with smaller regions, a January 2013 masterclass in London explored Yarra Valley chardonnay and Mornington Peninsula pinot noir.
The masterclass was led by Phil Sexton from Innocent Bystander/Giant Steps, leading on Yarra Valley chardonnay, and Martin Spedding from Ten Minutes by Tractor, leading on Mornington Peninsula pinot noir.
Australian pinot noir has only recently begun to rise to exponential acclaim. The Aussie’s are just getting their heads around the variety’s unreliability. Spedding said “there is a certain amount of insanity that’s required when growing pinot noir; obsessive compulsive behaviour; a fastidious attention to detail in the vineyards and the winery. And the results aren’t always guaranteed.”
Morninton’s key influence is the water that surrounds it on three sides: Port Phillip Bay to the east, the Bass Strait to the south and Western Port Bay to the east. “There’s a very significant maritime influence, plus cool sea breezes” Spedding said, and “we’re only beginning to understand the importance of those breezes.”
Mornington also has an approximate west-east running ridge some two-thirds of the way down, off which a series of north-south sub-ridges emanate. It is among these ridges that many small-scale vineyards typical of the peninsula are located.
It might take just ten minutes to get from top to bottom, but there’s about four weeks’ difference in the length of growing season.
He selected wines to show the ‘up the hill’ and ‘down the hill’ developing dichotomy, which Spedding outlines as being “redder fruits, more elegant [up], to darker fruit, bigger pinot noir [down]”, but he added “it’s too early to come to conclusions about sub-regional characters.”
A broad difference in style may be emerging, but I reckon individual producers are still playing with style preferences to find the one best suited to their particular locale and personal philosophy. It’ll take a bit longer for sub-regions to assert their character over that of the winemaker.
2010 was a “fantastic vintage, cooler and long-lived” Spedding said, while 2008 “was very different, relatively cool at the end of drought years, and more forward.“ While the last four were from the warmer, more forward 2008, the picture is complicated because the first two 2008s were picked after a few days’ hot spell, and the second two 2008s were picked before the warm spell.
We tasted in order from latest picked wines (up the hill) to earliest picked (down the hill), which varied from the middle of March to the end of January.
Tasting, London, January 2013
Ten Minutes by Tractor, Judd Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Pale cherry colour, richly aromatic, violet and dark cherry, enticing nose and palate. Sweet attack and core. Delicious. Long finish. Precise and focused and moreish.
Paringa Estate, The Paringa Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Crunchy red cherry nose, bigger palate. More full bodied, sweet fruit all through, integrated, warm alc (14.5%) at back palate, more structure and backbone, more substance for ageing. Strong and good.
Stonier, Windmill Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Not so aromatic, and with warm, open knit texture. Lacks a little generosity of primary fruit, but makes up for it with graphite, savoury notes on the mid-palate adding layering. Well-framed, with spiciness coming through on back palate. Quite intense wine, sort of creeps up on you, but feels a bit like you can see the some of the seams.
Kooyong, Ferrous Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Plush, velvety dark cherry nose, all silky and seductive and come hither. Graphite notes on the mid palate layer with smooth-textured fresh and spiced cherries. Very nice.
Crittenden, The Zumma Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Not so immediately aromatic. Warm with almost rumtopf spiciness. Medium body, showing its ribs, savoury lines.
Yabby Lake, Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Graphite, fine-grained long in-palate length. Big boned and with nice toning nonetheless. Sweet fruit core, with warm earthiness and nicely balanced.
Ten Minutes by Tractor, McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2008, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Bit of hessian development on the nose, smooth and plush texture. Sweet fruit core evident. Mellowing into itself, filling out its skin. Lovely. Long and lush.
Eldridge Estate, Pinot Noir 2008, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Bright, crunchy red cherries. Quite spiced and feel the alcohol (14%), not obtrusively though; has warm, plush varietal definition. More muscular style. Good.
Dexter, Pinot Noir 2008, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Pale colour, showing some development with smooth and savoury, dry finish.
Moorooduc Estate, The Moorooduc Pinot Noir 2008, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Attractive rumtopf-y red cherry development showing. Some roundness of texture, mellowing into itself.