After somewhat getting back on track last week, I hope to be firing on all cylinders this week. I have three new varietal wines lined up for the century, some more tips for those headed into the Unit 3 exam in January, and I’m hoping to be adding a few more bits and bobs to the site beyond just the wine reviews. But I’m going to start with our A, B, C varietals, this being the A for Arneis, in the form of Port Phillip Estate Quartier Mornington Peninsula Arneis 2006.
Arneis is a white grape from the northwest of Italy, specifically Roero in the north of Alba. There is not only the sole grape for the DOC white and sparkling wines Roero Arneis and Roere Arneis Spumante, but it also is a small component (2%-5%) in the red wine, which is predominantly Nebbiolo. It had been used in a similar method to soften the wines of Barolo until that region shifted to varietal Nebbiolo in the 20th century, when plantings of the grape in Italy went into a steep decline. The grape was near extinction when it saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s, and now plantings may be found in California, New Zealand, and of course Australia with nearly 50 producers.
The fall in popularity may have been due to the difficult nature of the grape, evidenced by it’s name which means little rascal in the regional language of Piedmont. (I do love how grape names can be so evocative.) In the vineyard it produces low yields of grapes with low acidity, is susceptible to powdery mildew, and can over ripen. Modern viticulture has been able to address some of those issues, with some success in clonal selection for resistance to powdery mildew and the mapping of clay soil types of clay or chalk to heighten perfume or acidity respectively. Common descriptors of varietal Arneis include citrus, floral, pear and apricots.
Port Phillip Estate was established in 1987 and covers roughly 10HA on the Mornington Peninsula, but the most recent chapter started in 1999 when it was purchased by Giorgio Gjergja. An successful businessman in electrical engineering, he set about constructing an impressive rammed-earth building to house the winery, cellar door and a restaurant, half of which is concealed within the hill overlooking vines and the bay. Then in 2004 he acquired both Kooyong Estate and its winemaker, Sandro Mosele, who now oversees both operations. Both are known for their boutique single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and the operations are intermingled, with fermentation and maceration taking place at Kooyong and the bottling and further maturation at Port Phillip Estate.
Port Phillip Estate has several ranges of wines, including the aforementioned single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, and estate grown Sauvignon Blanc and a Shiraz rosé, through to a Quartier range, which is made from grapes produced in surrounding vineyard and includes Pinot Gris, Barbera, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and this Arneis.
While I’ve written about the Mornington Peninsula a couple of times, most recently with the Willow Creek Vineyard, the short of it is that it’s a cool (for Australia) climate region with maritime influences from the Port Phillip Bay to the north and west and the Bass Straight to the south. There are a number of distinct soil types in the region, with those of Port Phillip Estate being red, crumbly, volcanic soil.
I don’t have access to their technical sheet for this vintage, but it appears it is generally made from whole bunch pressings, wild yeast fermentation mostly in stainless steel with some small percentage in French barriques, and then further maturation on lees of four months before bottling. Also, it’s apparently meant to be drunk within two years, which obviously I failed to do. However,
In the glass this wine is clear and bright, with a pale lemon green colour, and thin quick legs when swirled. On the nose it’s clean with medium plus intensity, a developing character and notes of lemon, honeydew melon, some sandalwood, and vanilla custard. On the palate it’s dry, with medium plus body, medium plus acidity, medium plus flavour intensity, medium plus alcohol, with notes of lime, melon, pear, green pea, and custard. It has long length and a bitter lemon finish.
This is an interesting wine. It does not lack for complexity on the nose or palate, and while there is some overlap, the two are not mirror images of one another. It’s a very full wine with medium plus ticks across the board on the palate. I’ll call it very good, but I’m going out on a limb to some extent as I can’t vouch for its typicity – I have only had a few Arneis varietals before, none since I started this blog, and so while I like how it tastes, I can’t say if it’s how it’s meant to taste. Still, at six years of age it’s still very bright, and the fruit is holding up well, now supplemented by some secondary characters.