Pinot Perfect on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula

An interview with David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate, Red Hill interviews
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Eldridge Estate overlooks the valleys of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Eldridge Estate overlooks the valleys of the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©]

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David Lloyd, Eldridge Estate, Red Hill, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©]


Wine has been part of David's life since he was born and Eldridge Estate on the Mornington Peninsula became part of his life in 1995, when he and wife Wendy bought the property. 

They have since transformed it with a continual program of grafting, canopy management and replanting (500 vines). The vineyard is now predominantly a mix of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  

"I’m a South Australian by birth and came into the world in a family of winemakers, the Hardy Family, and my father being the local Rector supplied me with the odd glass of wine as I grew up. So from my early days I became passionate about wine. Obsessed is a better way of putting it."

At University he took winemaking seriously, investigating the relationship between flavours and the science of winemaking. "[They] are really quite interrelated and you’ve got to start with great fruit and a great vineyard first. And that’s how we ended up here chasing down perfect Pinot Noir," he says.

"We are on the Mornington Peninsula at Red Hill and at Red Hill it’s a coolish area and we have a range of climates, depending on exactly where you are. We have a vineyard that faces due north, we are about an hour and a quarter drive from Melbourne and I think the vineyard is perfectly sited to produce excellent Pinot Noir.

Daivd says it's very hard to know if you are making great Pino. "It’s something you get with experience and the first indication is out in the vineyard and the season. Even in a bad season you can still produce a great Pinot if the final few weeks of vintage go right. Then the job of the winemaker is to have minimalist intervention and no stuff ups, preserve the flavours of the area.

"We’re working on quality production of fruit. That means that we can only have a small quantity of fruit and if I produce more than that, say three tonnes an acre, you start to see a difference in the quality and it’s fruit flavour in the mid pallet impact."

In warmer climates in the Mornington Peninsula region you can get a higher yield than that and produce a nice Pinot, he says, "but on this particular site you’ve got to shoot for the top, otherwise it’s a waste of time; it’s just an expensive place to grow grapes."

At Eldridge Estate they have selected the best clones, and drafted across to those clones. "I's a continual process of evolution. We started off with a single clone of Pinot, MV6, we have now got five on the property and depending on how they go we’ll end up with even more of them," he says.

"People visit our cellar door because the flavours that we have in the bottle reflect the site and we are a small scale, single vineyard, handcrafted wine that has gained quite a reputation. We are not big and they get to meet the winemaker and they get to have this magnificent view.

"When I know I’ve made a great wine, it’s tremendously satisfying because it started from the ground up literally. Ground up into the glass and it’s very satisfying to see you’ve captured the flavours that represent your site in that particular year and that’s what you are drinking. And if everything’s gone the way you hope it has, it is very satisfying."

David doesn't expect to become a millionaire from his Pinot endeavours. "[It's an] old joke: How do you make a million out of having a vineyard? Start with 2 million. I think with Pinot Noir you’d probably say 10 million!

"I’ve seen a lot of people in other places who have $50 million properties and wineries and they’re not huge, they’re like three or four times bigger than ours ... and they say that they’re quite happy because they don’t [have to] count the capital costs because they have the money to start with. As long as it’s covering it’s cost ... and they sell all their produce and it’s a great wine, they’re happy.

"I can’t operate that way. We have a smaller scale and we want to make a modest income and if we can’t do that without having excellent wine, there’s no point in continuing."


  • Mornington Peninsula (VIC)

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June 25th, 2008
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