Mornington Peninsula - Wines and Vines Facts

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Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Montalto Vineyard and Olive Grove, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©Great Wine Capitals]

View over vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria
The Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, has a unique maritime location which creates pinots with outstanding flavours

Location

Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula is approximately 60km-100km south-east of Melbourne. It comprises the hook-shaped strip of land that separates Port Phillip Bay from Westernport Bay and Bass Strait.

The peninsula is one of five premium quality wine regions that collectively make up the Port Phillip zone. The remaining Port Phillip regions are the Yarra Valley, Geelong, Sunbury and Macedon.

Commercial viticulture is a relatively recent innovation here. The region’s official status as an Australian Geographical Indication is barely a decade old. ‘Mornington Peninsula’ was entered in the Register of Protected Names in March 1997. The term defines the region’s physical boundaries and proscribes its use under Commonwealth of Australia law (Australian Wine and Brandy Corporation Act 1980).

History

Vineyards existed on the Mornington Peninsula throughout latter part of the nineteenth century, chiefly in the Hastings area. Small scale, and family-owned and operated, they ceased production during the early part of the twentieth century. An attempt to establish a vineyard at Arthurs Seat in 1948 enjoyed limited success but eventually petered out.

Elgee Park, planted by the Myer family in 1971, is regarded as the Mornington Peninsula’s modern day industry pioneer. Today, the region is home to around 200 vineyards. As in the past, sites are small and often family-operated.

Climate

Bounded by three large bodies of water, Mornington Peninsula’s climate is essentially maritime in nature. That not only makes it the coolest and most marginal wine-growing region in the Port Phillip zone, it ensures that growing grapes and making wine here is as challenging as you’ll find anywhere in Australia.

Ever-present sea breezes provide significant cooling effects during the growing season. On exposed sites along the peninsula’s main ridge, vineyard heat summation figures nudge 1080 units. The resulting wines display characteristic fresh acidities and wonderfully pure varietal aromas.

Vineyards closer to the townships of Mornington and Moorooduc enjoy greater protection from the elements. Heat summation figures here approach 1600 units, prompting an interesting diversity of table wine varieties.

No matter where you choose to visit, mean January temperature maxima across the peninsula fall within a narrow range of 17.7°C-18.0°C.

Peninsula rainfall increases with both altitude and latitude. The region’s highest monthly totals are recorded during winter and summer. For the wine producer, average rainfall during the growing season occurs within the range of 320mm-386mm. Supplementary drip irrigation offers additional relief from the region’s high rates of evaporation.

Unwelcome combinations of wind and rain during the critical months of November and December can be troubling for grape growers. At worst, it can reduce vineyard yields by compromising flowering and fruit set.

From vine to glass

On international markets, the Mornington Peninsula brand is associated with premium quality wines. In 2006-2007, export sales for wine labelled Mornington Peninsula exceeded $2.7m. Its top five destinations were the UK, the US, Sweden, China and Canada.

In 2007, the average price per litre of exported Mornington Peninsula wine was valued at $16.18, well in excess of the $3.78 average per litre calculated for all Australian wine exported during that period.

Cellar door, on-line and mailing list sales account for a significant proportion of producer income. And despite the region’s small production volumes, local and interstate sales demand is strong.

The message is clear. If you want the best wines on offer, there’s no better way than tracking them down at the vineyard.

Mornington Peninsula vineyards at a glance:

  • Port Phillip Zone
  • GI registered 1997
  • Located 38°20'S, 144°58'E
  • Terrain: 722 sq.km of undulating bushland trimmed by 193km of coastline
  • Altitude: 25m-250m
  • Heat degree days: 1080-1570
  • Mean annual rainfall: 737mm-1000mm
  • Growing season rainfall: 320mm-386mm
  • Mean January temperatures: 17.7°C-18.0°C
  • Planted area (2007): 649ha
  • Principal varieties (in order of planted area): Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Typical harvest period: March-May
  • Total crush (2007): 2131 tonnes ( 2007 harvest significantly affected as a result of severe frosts during October 2006).

Regions

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

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