Top picks from the Pinot Celebration Australia

By Ned Goodwin MW

6 Mar, 2019

Master of Wine Ned Goodwin shares his highlights from a trip to the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria to explore the region's popular pinot noir.

The Mornington Peninsula is arguably the Napa Valley of Australia, albeit with exceptional taste. This is evident in fine architecture, food and exquisite coastal scenery, except with pinot noir rather than stolid cabernet.

One cannot escape the ubiquitous lifestyle stores and their chutneys, yet it is churlish to dwell on these, as the region is a paradise. 

Paradise comes with a cost, of course, as land prices are now beyond the reach of many young innovators. In spite of that, the Mornington Peninsula is a multi-faceted region boasting a plethora of attractive wines across a polyglot of textures.

The region, or at least the part dedicated to wine, consists of warmer, denser soils in the north, red volcanic soils across its mid-drift, and granite, sand and gravel screes in the cooler south. There are notes of darker fruit in the former, and a red-fruited skein of energy across wines from farther south. This is a generalisation, to be sure, but a useful one.

As a guest of the Pinot Celebration Australia, it was the more innovative wines as much as the established that I sought.

I was also intrigued by the 2017 vintage, or what winemaker James Sexton of Main Ridge Estate called ‘possibly our last true cool-climate year’. A vintage of indelible freshness, detail and real tannic twine in the better wines, helping to mitigate the sweet fruit that, for those seeking savoury complexities, can be the bane of much New World pinot noir. The 2017 vintage was a challenge, but a resounding success for those who extracted confidently and with a sensitive hand.

Indeed, better extraction (a longer, gentler massage of grape skins and the fermenting juice) was a palpable point of difference between the better wines of today and the softer, sweeter expressions of yore. A growing appreciation of domestic stalwart the MV-6 clone was another. The sturdy, later ripening physiognomy of this clone is better suited to many Australian regions, and it facilitates more savoury wines than, say, the earlier ripening Dijon clones 114 and 115.

Across a large regional tasting, forums and a fascinating experience at Paradigm Hill, where I co-hosted an event focusing on organoleptic synergies between the estate’s wines and aromatic compounds and foods that included oak, raspberry chocolate, mushroom soup and duck with hoisin sauce, I discovered some great pinot noirs. They all, incidentally, went with the duck.

My Mornington Peninsula pinot noir picks, in no hierarchical order:

Principia Altior 2016
Crittenden Cri de Coeur 2016
Main Ridge Estate The Acre 2017 (view the previous vintage)
Hurley Hommage 2017 (view the previous vintage)
Hurley Garamond 2017 (view the previous vintage)
Kooyong Ferrous 2016
Paradigm Hills l’Ami Sage 2015 (view the next vintage
Willow Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017 (view the previous vintage
Ten Minutes by Tractor McCutcheon 2017 (view the previous vintage)
Montalto Tuerong Block Pinot Noir 2017 (view the 2015 vintage)
Kerri Greens Foothills 2017