The Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia, is producing beautiful Pinot Noirs from a variety of new and well-established wineries. Roger Jones explores what's on offer
Pinot Noir is certainly having a great time in the market, whether it is the traditional wines from Burgundy or the New World upstarts from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.
With its modern style of clean, vibrant flavours, this is definitely a wine for all seasons. It's more fruit-dominated than earthy, with a hedonistic perfume and a luscious but delicate mouth feeling of berry juice. It can be drunk in the height of summer for its cooling, bright flavours, or in winter to brighten up a gloomy day.
This region, based on the outskirts of Melbourne, has certainly been making an impact on the scene in recent years. It's more famous in the past for being Melbourne's foremost holiday playground, full of golf courses, but it's now hitting the big time in wine.
It is clear that the uprising of smart cellar doors (where consumers can taste wines) and boutique restaurants in vineyards is helping to showcase this region to both locals and the international tourists that flock to the area. Today, there are more than 170 vineyards with 50 cellar doors.
The area has been producing wines for nearly 40 years and, on my first visit in early 2000, it certainly struck me as not only a fine wine area, but one of great beauty and fine food. From diving for abalone to fishing for King George whiting, as well as the incredible fruits and free-range meat, it is certainly a foodie paradise.
The region is surrounded by the sea on three sides, giving it a strong maritime climate. But sub-regionally there can be plenty of differentiation, with the Red Hill area in the south and Moorooduc at the warmer north end.
There is evidence that the proximity of the sea is a big influence on the style of the wine, with a fresher and cleaner style abounding. The winemaker can significantly challenge or change Pinot by use of new or old oak and time left on its lees.
The big names - Paringa Estate, Stonier, Kooyong, Ocean Eight, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Moorooduc Estate and Yabby Lake - are now well-recognised across the wine world, but there are always new wineries emerging. A particularly interesting example is Paramdeep Ghumman, who jumped on a plane from Bombay to Sydney to seek a new start in Australia. He was so intrigued by his first taste of alcohol - a fine glass of Champagne on the plane - that he set up his own vineyard and became a winemaker. His Nazaaray Estate winery (which means 'beautiful visions' in Punjabi) is now firmly established.
Paringa Estate was founded in 1984 by Lindsay McCall when he purchased a derelict orchard on Paringa Road, Red Hill. Lindsay continued his day job of teaching while he set about planting his first vines in 1985 - the first vintage was in 1988 and was a mere three tonnes. Twenty-five years on, production is now 200 tonnes, McCall has given up teaching and Paringa Estate is one of the most highly-awarded wineries in Australia.
His production includes three levels of Pinot Noir: Peninsula Pinot Noir, Estate Pinot Noir and the single-vineyard Paringa Pinot Noir.
Peninsula Pinot Noir, Paringa Estate, Mornington Peninsula 2013
The fruit for this wine was sourced from three leased Red Hill vineyards and a number of other high-quality grower vineyards across the Mornington Peninsula. This is a very attractive Pinot with that perfect blend of sweet and savoury that all top Pinots possess. There's lovely dark cherry and plum notes, a hint of oak, soft spice and subtle mushroom notes. It has a nice acidity with a delicious silky mouth feel and a great length of flavour. It's right up there with the best Pinots that Australia can offer.
Available from Hallgarten Druitt
Estate Pinot Noir, Paringa Estate, Mornington Peninsula 2010
A light crimson-purple shade, this wine has an expressive bouquet of red and black cherry, a splash of plum and a touch of French oak. It is generously fragrant and the oak is evident, balancing beautifully with the refined liquorice and spiced fruits notes. Poised, pure, long, luscious and oozing sheer class.
Available from Hallgarten Druitt
Other regional Pinots from the Mornington Peninsula
Pinot Noir, Ocean Eight, Mornington Peninsula 2013
Ripe and juicy, this is bright with notes of lush black cherries and brambles. It's medium- to full-bodied with velvety tannins and a long finish with notes of sweet spice and fresh minerality complementing the opulent fruit. This wines offers great value.
Available from Hallgarten Druitt
Haven Pinot Noir, Kooyong, Mornington Peninsula 2012
Kooyong makes three levels of Pinot, with the Massale label offering great value, while the single-vineyard Haven has a nose of brooding black cherry, dark Christmas spices and a slightly earthy edge. On the palate, the wine delivers a taut, linear backbone surrounded by the calm texture that is its hallmark. The great length of the palate is tied together with red cherry and loganberry flavours along with a wet stone finish.
Available from Enotria & Coe
Ten Minutes by Tractor, Wallis Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula 2010
Ten Minutes by Tractor is one of the icon's of Mornington, set up by ex-financial and IT guru Martin Spedding in 2002. He's after pure perfection. The Wallis is one of his original vineyards and this wine is a monumental trophy and testament to how to make great Pinot Noir.
It has notes of bright and fragrant red fruits and fresh rosehip. The palate has lovely, fleshy fruit with a fresh, elegant acidity. Concentrated yet fine, this wine is precise and lingering with a luscious finish that creates pure elegance.
Available from Bancroft
Food and Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is certainly a diverse wine and as a red is well-suited to seafood - especially fish that is more 'meaty', such as wild sea bass, turbot and tuna.
The more modern and cooler-climate Pinots carry a brighter freshness that balances well with seafood and can be a far better match than a Chardonnay.
Many of these Pinots have a lovely perfume to them and it is important to hold onto this by not overpowering the dishes with spices.
Equally, these wines will go well with light game dishes, such as English grey partridge or carpaccio of venison with truffles.
Wine and beer news
Sommelier in your pocket
London restaurant Angelus is trialling a new sommelier app. Diners are encouraged to enter their dish into the WhatWine app and it will recommend a wine based on the restaurant's list.
Angelus founder Thierry Tomasin, who spent 12 years as head sommelier at Le Gavroche, said: "Competition on the London restaurant scene is fierce, so I'm always on the lookout for anything that can give me an advantage in terms of customer experience and profitability. WhatWine gives diners the confidence to make informed decisions."
Vanilla stout is Champion Beer of Britain
Binghams Brewery's Vanilla Stout has been named Champion Beer of Britain.
The Twyford-based brewer, a supporter of the Society of Independent Brewers' 'Assured Independent Craft Brewers' initiative, was praised for pulling off a beer that was a little different.
Owner Chris Bingham said: "This is absolutely massive for us; a huge leap and a big profile builder for us as a little brewer - this win could take us to next level."
Takeaway wine education
Wholesaler the Vintner has introduced an educational app designed to enable managers to encourage employees to undertake wine education away from work.
The app can be tailored to suit the wines stocked by an operator, with information about each product and tips for up-selling alongside interactive educational elements such as online quizzes.
The Vintner trainer Johnny Parkhurst said: "Over the years, we've refined the way we offer staff training. We've found that 80% of training requirements tend to be at an 'introduction to wine' level - be it about the product itself or how it's served."