Cool climate Australia – tasting notes from around Melbourne.

Published by Sally on November 30, 2011

Mornington Peninsula

Mornington Peninsula

Pinot noir is effectively a proxy for cool climate, and in the Burgundian model, where pinot noir does well, chardonnay is sure to follow. Perfume, brightness of fruit and vivacity of body should be hallmarks of cool climate wines, so when Wine Australia held a tasting in London during November of wines from Victoria that are available in the UK, these are the two varieties I stuck with, and I still didn’t manage to taste them all.

Australia, with many of the top examples coming from Victoria, has revolutionised its approach to these two grape varieties in the last, less-than-a-decade. Practitioners who are making classy pinot noir have often worked vintages in Burgundy at high profile domaines, and are bringing back to Australia the philosophy and practicalities around site-specificity required by such a capricious grape variety.

Attitudes to chardonnay, traditionally in Australia the winemakers’ malleable friend, are also revolving to much less active involvement. Instead, minimal intervention and more fruit-caretaking are leading to more refined, linear, even austere, expressions of this grape.

In Victoria, specific sites within such places as Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Gippsland, Yarra Valley and Macedon Ranges are all making some outstanding examples.

Tasting notes, London, November 2011


Crittenden Estate, Estate Chardonnay 2008, Mornington Peninsula, ~£18
Sweet leesy cream nose and palate with tropical fruit, and I feel a bit of an alcohol kick though it’s a pretty standard 13.5%.

Crittenden Estate, The Zumma Chardonnay 2008, Mornington Peninsula, ~£25
Creamy lemon on dry brown toast to nose, verging on the buttery sweet, which detracts a little for me. Sweet, unctuous sort of style, has good backbone, but a bit full-fat for my preference.

Dexter Wines, Chardonnay 2010 Mornington Peninsula, ~£25
Mealy and a hint reductive in that leesy, crème fraiche sort of way. Lovely sweet texture that’s not overpowering and with an acid frame that keeps everything fresh and tingly.

Kooyong Estate, Clonale Chardonnay 2010, Mornington Peninsula, ~£15
Light and leesy – meal, brioche, with sweet notes amid citrus fruits. Uncomplicated.

Kooyong Estate, Farrago Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2005, Mornington Peninsula, ~£26
Fatness and slippery broadening texture of some age, vegetal would be a bit strong, but still with savoury, leesy lines (as opposed to sweet lines), bread and dry biscuit notes, hints of sweet texture come towards the back. Lovely balance.

Stonier, Chardonnay 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£12
Sweet lemon cream nose and palate in quite a sharp lemon-syllabub sort of tartness. Softens on the palate into a good example at the price. Balanced, uncomplicated.

Stonier, Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Mornington Peninsula, ~£18
Weightier that the straight chardonnay as you’d expect, with some aromatic tarriness on the nose. Everything in the right place, but can’t quite get excited.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, 10X Chardonnay 2010, Mornington Peninsula, ~£24
Closed nose, in reductive style of slight sweat / flinty element, mealy notes amid just-ripe peaches on the palate attack, rich-linear profile of good intensity. Good personality and dimension. Some nice sophistication here, very good.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, Estate, Chardonnay 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£35
Wafting wood smoke is the first nose, slippery-textured attack, very smooth and richly concentrated. ‘Nice’ biscuitiness, almost unctuous-dry texture with linearity and clarity.  Vg.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, McCutcheon Chardonnay 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£45
Cream, leesy gentle toastiness, richness and creaminess are the themes, sweet-dry textured.  A huge wine, but finely balanced and sweetly balanced for that. Seductive and blanket-wrapping cuddliness at the same time. Vg.

Yabby Lake, Red Claw Chardonnay 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£15
A bit gunflint and austere, lean lemons and acacia-steel sort of stuff.  Good volume of that apple tart fruit, with a bit of leesy cream alongside. Good at £15.

Yabby Lake, Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£26
Lees, meal, lemon cream, steely/metallic note on the mid tongue. Austerity, or, at 12%, just not quite ripe?

By Farr, Geelong Chardonnay 2008, Geelong, ~£34
Meal, white peachiness, huge intensity of ripe, near tropical fruit amid that leesy, toasty refinement, erring to full body, in quite muscular style, and with backbone of defining acidity. Not a particularly elegant wine but has a well-proportioned balance.

De Bortoli, Reserve Release Chardonnay 2008, Yarra Valley, ~£20
Lees and crème fraiche. Sweet texture and purity of fruit without huge complexity, but packs a lot of those lovely, sweet-line chardonnay characters into a straight down the line wine.

Pinot noir

Crittenden Estate, Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£18
Crunchy black cherries with attractive hessian notes, nicely balanced with fresh core. Good intensity.

Crittenden Estate, The Zumma Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£25
Fresh and juicy, with very nice concentration of primary fruit. Good.

Dexter Wines, Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, ~£20
Pale colour, bright, sweet red cherry fruit, juicy succulence, enticing density of fruit with sweet lines. Lovely drinkability.

Kooyong Estate, Massale Pinot noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, ~£16
Rich, round sweet footballs of juicy red plums and redcurrants. Sweet balance and uncomplicated juiciness. Focuses on the primary fruit, with the backbone of acidity, so not a fruit bomb.

Kooyong Estate, Haven Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005, Mornington Peninsula, ~£28
Developing a nice feral forest floor on the nose, dark berries, sweetened and fattened with ripeness, with a savoury spear of structure keeping the whole in its pure lines. Some nice sophistication of texture and dimension here. Vg.

Paringa Estate, Peninsula Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£25
Warm herbal and earthy note on the nose, supple fruit with firm defining acidity, medium full body of huge intensity. Richly textured and layered with light bramble fruits and graphite earthiness. Vg.

Stonier, Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£13
All quite light and with a faint hint of bitterness. Not hugely liking this one.

Stonier, Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£20
Pale colour, redcurrant spiciness nutmeg and allspice. This is nice in a good ‘solid’ unexciting way. Sound, but at a high level of soundness.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, 10X Pinot Noir 2010, Mornington Peninsula, ~£28
Bright, sweet red cherry and redcurrant, big hit of fruit delineated by freshness that gives it form. Perkily balanced with nicely toned lines. Vg.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, Estate Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£38
Smokiness an added note of complexity here, amid dark cherries and hint of dark chocolate, in a full, rich, nutmeg infused whole. Fine grains of new oak still to meld in, as are youthful notes of silkiness. Vg.

Ten Minutes by Tractor, McCutcheon Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£55
Smoke with hint of charcoal, on the nose, smooth, super-fine grained tannin in rich, lush (dry) palate sensation. Is a seductive, strong and slinkily built wine. Filling out on the palate nicely. Long finish. Vg.

Yabby Lake, Red Claw Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£22
Pale colour, spicily toasted redcurrants, medium weight, bit of austerity here too, certainly less fleshy than some other examples. Gentle, modest texture.

Yabby Lake, Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Mornington Peninsula, ~£29
Sweet red cherry/redcurrant compote on the nose, enticing and cuddling. Perfectly proportioned tonality with intoxicating fruit/acid balance and volume of fruit/ nutmeg spiciness on the palate. Vg.

By Farr, Tout Près Pinot Noir 2008, Geelong, ~£65
Aromatic smoky with a hint of graphite on the nose. Sun-dried cherries attack the palate sweetly and freshly, warming into a full bodied, big style for pinot noir. Succulent, juicy, and with retaining frame that keeps the whole thing tastily proportioned. Long finish. Vg

William Downie, Gippsland Pinot Noir 2010, Gippsland, ~£35.00
Earth, dry compost and high-toned raspberries on the nose, an intriguing combination. Full steam ahead on the palate, rich, tongue-tingling, fresh dried raspberries and strawberry pieces; savoury, not quite earthy/graphite core. Hints of tannic grip, just enough to intrigue and critique, without losing the pleasure of tasting/drinking. Just young. Vg.

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