Victoria – Mornington Peninsula – cellar doors open by appointment only

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By Mark Smith
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Pinot Gris barrel at Ocean Eight Vineyard and Winery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
The Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, has a unique maritime location which creates pinots with outstanding flavours. Photographer Adrian Lander
Cellar door at Ocean Eight Vineyard and Winery, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

 

Victorians have been heading south into the Mornington Peninsula for more than a century, but wine-growers have been heading there for only 35 years - time enough to take in new varieties and developments in viticulture; precious little to find out what works best and where.

Today, the region is a patchwork quilt of almost 200 individual vineyard sites. Some sprawl luxuriantly across the landscape around Moorooduc and Teurong in the north. Many more are tucked away out of sight on either side of the peninsula’s main ridge.

No matter where you travel, you’re never far from a good glass of wine. This part of Victoria boasts more vineyard cellar doors per kilometre of tar and gravel than any other winegrowing region in Australia.  

 

Small players, big reputations

Large companies are noticeably absent along the wine trail. Even mid-sized players find it hard to balance the competing demands of running a successful hand-tended vineyard and selling wine at the cellar door. Fewer than half of the region’s wineries open each day to the public. Mornington Peninsula’s Vignerons Association can provide an up-to-date list at the click of a mouse (see links below for more information. Many small players have big reputations. Take time to ring and arrange an appointment. You won’t seem so surprised when you find that the hands that poured your glass also grew the grapes and made the wine.  

 

Need more variety in your varieties?

There’s more to Mornington than simply pinot noir and chardonnay. The region nowadays is the largest producer of pinot gris in Australia. Besides, there’s an alphabet soup of lesser varieties to try, from arneis, aligote and albariño to verduzzo and viognier among the region’s whites. Warm and well-protected sites produce wonderfully spicy shiraz and Mediterranean-inspired sangiovese, nebbiolo and tempranillo. Pinotphiles will find warmer sites scattered across the north of the peninsula produce relatively deep and tannic wines, showing plenty of rich berry and plum fruit.Cooler, more elevated sites are exposed to the vagaries of wind and rain. Pinots here are lighter and more fragrant than their sheltered cousins. Expect cherry and raspberry fruit notes with fine-grained tannins and lingering acidity.  

 

Adding craft to nature’s art

Great wine is made in the vineyard. Peninsula vignerons strive for perfection in their premium wines. The best examples show purity of fruit expression, great persistence of flavour, and trueness to grape variety and style – an elusive quality that European makers refer to as ‘typicity.’ Most producers adopt a minimalist approach to winemaking, preferring only subtle interventions to preserve fruit quality and enhance the uniqueness of its cool climate origin.  

 

Four picks… open only by appointment

Roughly 20 percent of Peninsula wineries only open by appointment, or restrict cellar door sales to the region’s annual Winter Wine Weekend (Queen’s Birthday Weekend).  

 

Hurley Vineyard

Located on the site of an historic farm, established in the 1870s by the original Hurley family. Famous in the past for high quality produce and now making exemplary pinot noir.  

 

Kooyong

Pinot noir and chardonnay specialist making waves on the peninsula’s winemaking scene, an extraordinary achievement given the exalted status of its sibling vineyard, Port Phillip Estate. The latter produces outstanding syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay, and top-notch sauvignon blanc. Tastings and sales are at Port Phillip Estate. The extended Kooyong range now includes pinot gris and viognier.  

 

Prancing Horse Estate

Rated by James Halliday as one of the top 10 new wineries in Australia in 2007. Currently in conversion from organic to biodynamic viticulture. While the name pays homage to Italian thoroughbreds of the mechanical kind, the vineyard’s owners have their sights fixed on Burgundy. Top ranked, stylish chardonnay and pinot noir. Eye-catching vineyard sculpture the “Wild One” a feature in real-life and on the wine’s labels.  

 

Yabby Lake Vineyard

Medium-sized by Peninsula standards but gaining cult status nonetheless. Pinot noir and chardonnay the biggest fish in the lake, with distinctive and complex pinot gris a bonus. Wines to date made by dynamic duo of Tod Dexter (ex-Stonier) and Larry McKenna (The Escarpment, New Zealand). The pinot noir is rich, full-bodied and multi-layered.

 

Scroll down for addresses, maps and contact details.

Regions

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

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