I can easily see why you’d want to make wines on the Mornington Peninsula.
Close enough to Melbourne but still far enough away. Great beaches. A healthy local wine community. Distinctive terroir. In fact, the only downside is the Peninsula is becoming an expensive place to buy vineyards (especially with Melbourne suburbia encroaching). Otherwise, it’s perfect.
And Sam Coverdale has one of the best spots in the region.
I’ve written before about Sam’s Polperro & Even Keel Wines, but it wasn’t until I visited a few weeks back that I realised just how much he’d landed on his feet. Heck, the impressive cellar door and vineyard at Red Hill on the Peninsula (not far from Eldridge Estate) even has a yoga studio.
But this isn’t just a tourism operation. Originally a cellar hand at Tyrrell’s and then winemaker at Hardy’s seminal Kamberra winery in Canberra (which blooded a whole generation of ‘berran producers), Sam is a clever businessman, leasing vineyards and renting space in an old apple shed (they make the best wineries) in a bid to cut down on costs.
What’s more, the Polperro wines are genuinely interesting too. Lo-fi Mornington Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, all built on acidity, the ferments wild and slow, the barrels older, the emphasis on complexity. Perhaps the only thing that works against these wines is variability, as they can vary quite a bit from year to year. They’re living, breathing, real wines in that manner.
Sam opened up all the 2016 Polperro single vineyard releases when I was down there, largely because he was writing tasting notes and wanted inspiration. Again, these are intriguing wines are intriguing for the region.
I find (caution, wild generalisation) many ’16 Mornington Peninsula wines tend towards heaviness, with volume but less delineation (particularly the whites). Yet much of these ’16 Polperro releases (and particularly the spectacular Mill Hill Chardonay) are models of restraint and perfect balance, even while others (ie Talland Hill PInot) are just brutes.
As ever with top Mornington makers, the bugbear here is quantity. As I write half these wines are selling out, so if they sound like your bag, then it’s all about diving in now.
I’m in research mode this week, gathering information about the 2018 vintage in the Hunter (which looks pretty promising based on early accounts).
The bad news, however, is that I still can’t drink – wisdom tooth extraction on Wednesday has my jaw still looking like a football. Luckily I tucked into a few Sems last week as even water seems to hurt today.
Here then is a Semillon collection from the ’17 harvest, plus a few other tidbits.
The 2017 Hunter Valley vintage was warm, dry and early – much like 2018 for that matter. I still think that its more of a red vintage than white, and the Sems can look a little forward. But the best wines are still glorious.
On that note, there isn’t as direct a correlation between warm/cool vintage and great wines with Hunter Semillon. Indeed some of the finest Sem come from the riper vintages – like the 2005 Vat 1 for example – and you just can’t write off a year at any point. Even some of the 2008 vintage (which was effectively a washout) Sems can look pretty good now.
Here are a few wines that almost made it in February (and a day late I know).
A few serious disappointments here, and a few solid, simple wines. That Ferngrove was notably unbalanced – what’s happening at Ferngrove? Latest releases seem well off the mark. Anyone know what is happening?
Irrewarra. Mark that name down under your watch list.
Irrewarra is the new winemaking project of Nick Farr (yes, son of Gary) focused on a vineyard near the town of Irrewarra in western Victoria. Planted in 2001 on own roots, this plot lies in not-quite wine country. It’s a part of Victoria that I’ve driven through and just remember the marshy water everywhere. As if its swamp land, but with cows no mangroves. There’s more vineyards further south near the Otways, east near Geelong and north near Ballarat. But otherwise Irrewarra stands somewhat alone (if my mental geography is correct).
In turn, the Irrewarra Vineyard was run down when Nick started first taking fruit from it. Owned by The Calvert family (of Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery), Nick has been taking grapes since 2012, but this is the first commercial release. Slowly slowly.
While it’s not strictly wine country, there’s nothing wrong with the dirt (clay loam) or the climate (cool but with warm summers and relatively wet). But it’s wine region is just Victoria – a situation which would be a dampener for most producers.
Nick, however, isn’t just any old winemaker. And these aren’t any old wines. Instead, these are carefully made, super-premium releases that hint at greatness. There’s definitely lots of Farr DNA in the style, packaging and winemaking, but these have a different shape to the Geelong wines, with the cooler, wetter conditions delivering a subtly different expression. This duo may be indicative of how this vineyard always tastes, but I’d like to see more vintages before deciding that.
What’s not up for discussion is how impressive this pair of wines are. If you like the classic Farr winemaking modus operandi, you’re going to like these wines. I can almost guarantee it…
Following the Pommery I wrote about last week, this 2012 Piuze is the latest wine to escape from the Graham cellar.
I bought this bottle back in 2013 when I visited Patrick in Chablis itself. He was bottling and knee deep in labels, but opened loads of wine anyway. He’s great value! More interesting is his perspective as a French Canadian outsider, working in what seems to be a tightly held, somewhat insular (but worthy) region.
The wines of Vaulorent have always intrigued too. According to local folklore, Vaulorent was always meant to be classified as Grand Cru but local politics got in the way, ever getting there. Right alongside Les Preuses, it’s prime vineyard land and produces top wines. Wish more Vaulorent ended up here in Australia.
(A version of this rosé article appeared in a National Liquor News edition last year. It’s a very different tone to my usual posts, so tune out now if you prefer my usual grumpiness. But it covers off a few great producers and wines that I like, and rosé really is massive right now. Let me know what you think. Oh and images taken by Nic Duncan care of the Brave New Wine legends).
Rosé is the new Sauvignon Blanc
It has been almost eight years since the famous ‘Savalanche’ really hit our shores, the tidal wave of wine that saw Sauvignon Blanc overtake Chardonnay as the number one white wine in the country.
But there is suddenly a new wine in Australian fridges – rosé.
According to IRI MarketEdge data, Rosé grew a massive 59.8% in value and 49.5% in volume over the 12 months to September 2017, making it one of the strongest growing categories in the whole liquor industry.
More interestingly, it is premium products that have driven the value increase (which is unusual for pink wine), with IRI Aztec data showing that the super premium ($15-$20) rosé category doubled over the past year, an indication that the rosé driving force is not cheap wine (or a three day growth)…
Admittedly I’ve not had the greatest luck with goodies from the cellar lately, with more misses than hits. Maybe I’m cursed.
Regardless, today I’m kicking off a little series of posts featuring wines from my own cellar (or friends cellars). Wines that I would want to cellar (or someone else would want too).
What’s always interesting to me about aged wines like these is the little value surprises. Like mega dollar reds that fail to live up to expectations. Or budget drinks that far outshine their price point, both of which prove that the relationship between price and quality is definitely not linear.
If there is one wine style that is rarely seen in Australia – or even outside of Italy – it is Montefalco Sagrantino.
Sure, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG is tiny (304ha) so it is self limiting. But still, you never see it. Anywhere. Even within the historic walls of Montefalco itself, genuine DOCG wines are uncommon.
You can understand why too. Sagrantino, when it’s good, is a paradoxical wine> Think almost limitless dark black fruit, massive walls of tannins and huge impact, all with an acidity and life that is unexpected. The concentration of Puglian Primitivo, but from the cooler hills of Umbria.
I ended up in Montefalco last year following the cycling, the wine a second priority. But after a few days in Sagrantino city, it’s hard not to want more. I’m still kicking myself I never bought anything in town…