Port Phillip Estate Quartier Mornington Peninsula Arneis 2006

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Port Phillip Estate Quartier Mornington Peninsula Arneis 2006

Port Phillip Estate Quartier Mornington Peninsula Arneis 2006

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.

Willow Creek Vineyard Tulum Pinot Noir 2008

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Willow Creek Vineyard Tulum Pinot Noir 2008

Willow Creek Vineyard Tulum Pinot Noir 2008

I’m feeling pretty miserable at the moment, with a head cold that’s gone south into my throat, so really everything above my shoulders is a serious biohazard zone.  Tasting wine in this state would be miserable, both for me and for anyone who had to read my notes.  Fortunately though, when I’m not sick, I drink faster than I write, so I have a backlog of photos and notes that just need the research and writing to make up my normal format.  So here’s one that I tasted earlier, when I wasn’t completely miserable, the Willow Creek Vineyard Tulum Pinot Noir 2008.

I’m getting to the point that I think my posts are becoming half and half new material and ground that I’ve already covered.  For every Nielluccio from Patrimonio where it’s a new grape and a new region, I write about a Syrah from San Antonio Valley.  I certainly enjoyed both wines, but given a choice between the familliar and the unfamiliar, I’m always keen to try something new.  However, to only write about the obscure gives a very skewed picture of the world of wine, and so while I’ve written about a Gamay and a Lagrein from the Mornington Peninsula, the region is best known for Pinot Noir, both of which are worth a quick recap.

The Mornington Peninsula is the arm of land that extends south from east of Melbourne, curving westward toward Geelong to almost enclose Port Phillip, the large natural harbour immediately south of Melbourne.  I wrote briefly about the region when I covered the Point Leo Road Lagrein, but really only spoke about how it’s a cool(ish) climate, at least when compared with most wine producing regions of Australia.  I wrote that soil types vary, which is certainly true, but I think I can do a bit better, particularly as there’s a fair amount of detail available.

There are three areas of exposed granite along the north and north western edge of the region, extruded volcanic basaltic rocks, quartz stones and pebbles, and various sediments.  These give four distinct soil types, with a two layer yellow soil over clay found near Dromana in the north, red soil from the eroding basalt in the centre around Red Hill and Main Ridge, brown duplex soil near Merricks in the south east, and sandy soils in the central north at Moorooduc.  Where Willow Creek is based is in the middle of a triangle formed by Moorooduc, Red Hill and Merricks, and their soils vary from the volcanic red soils associated with Red Hill to the grey sandy loams of Moorooduc.

As I mentioned, Mornington Peninsula is best know for Pinot Noir.  Chardonnay and Pinot Gris/Grigio are widely planted as well, though with over 200 producers based in the region, there’s a growing collection of alternative varieties as well.  Of those producers, the vast majority are small.  Between the boutique nature of most of the production and the close proximity to Melbourne, the region as a whole does well out of tourism, and is cultivating a fine food culture as well.

I want to write something more about the wine style of the Mornington Peninsula, but beyond small scale, cool climate, and New World, the only thing I can think to add is relatively young.  While there are records of very small scale viticulture going back (on and off) to the 19th century, the industry as it stands today was only founded in the 1970s and is not as yet as well known internationally as many other Australian wine regions.  I put that down in part to the small quantities of wine produced across many producers, and also that the selling point of an Australian cool climate perhaps doesn’t resonate as well on the world stage when globally it’s not difficult to find wine regions that are in fact much cooler.  Still, I think it has a well established reputation within Australia and some key players, such as Ten Minutes by Tractor, Port Phillip Estate and Kooyong (and certainly others) are making waves internationally.

Willow Creek Vineyard is based on a property that was first settled as a farm in 1876, but vines weren’t planted until 1988 when it was acquired by three families who planted Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.  At close to 25 years old, their vines are apparently among the oldest in the region, which just goes to underscore how young the region is as a whole.  The first vintage was in 1991 and a winery was constructed on the site in 1998, as well as a cellar door and restaurant.  Winemaking it broadly described as non-interventionist, which is one of those terms which I’m sure everyone means when they say it, but what the term itself means can vary a great deal.  In addition to varietal wines of the original varieties planted, they produce a Shiraz, a Sauvignon Blanc, a Pinot Noir rosé, and a sparkling wine from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

In the glass, this wine is clear and bright, medium garnet, with slow thick legs.  On the nose it’s clean and developing, with medium intensity notes of strawberry, sweet spice, sour cherry, and dried herbs.  On the palate it’s dry, (though somewhat fruit sweet – not residual sugar), with medium plus acidity, medium body, medium plus flavour, medium plus fine tannins, medium plus alcohol, and medium length.  There are notes of sour cherry, some herbs, a bit of oak, some pencil shavings, and black pepper on the finish.

I’ll rate this wine as good, but not without some reservations.  It was very big for a Pinot Noir, even from the New World, both in terms of intensity and alcohol.  I think some of the sweetness I put down to fruit may have also been alcohol.  The bottle says 14% ABV which is on the high side for this grape, particularly from a cool climate.  Then again, compared to a Shiraz from Barossa it’s almost delicate.  The flavours and complexity certainly said Pinot Noir, so it might just have been that 2008 was a hot vintage.  I look forward to trying some other Mornington Peninsula vintages to compare and contrast.

Eldridge Estate Gamay 2010

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Eldridge Estate Gamay 2010

Eldridge Estate Gamay 2010

Back in February I wrote about the Sorrenberg Gamay, which I enjoyed greatly.  However, it let me down in my quest to post about 100 varietal wines in that it’s made with a small percentage of Pinot Noir.  It’s less than 15% so it need not be mentioned on the label, but enough that I cannot in good faith tick the box for having written up a varietal Gamay.  However, today I intend to do just that with the Eldrige Estate Gamay 2010.

First off, I’m not having this wine just to tick a box.  As I’ve said before, Gamay is one of my favourite grape varieties, but suffers from a trio of disadvantages in terms of popularity – being a light red, inevitable comparisons with Pinot Noir, and Beaujolais Nouveau.  None of these are actual disadvantages in terms of the quality of wines produced, and Eldridge Estate, like Sorrenberg, is another Victorian winery that takes the grape seriously.

It is based on the Mornington Peninsula, which I described to some extent when I covered the Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein, and I had the pleasure of a brief visit to the Eldridge Estate cellar door back in September.  Unfortunately, they were sold out of their normal Gamay, but I didn’t leave empty handed as they had a special trio of wines in 500ml bottles that were Gamays with different treatments in the winery.  Those three are in the cellar (along with the note detailing how they differ) for a later date, but I was pleased to find that a local merchant still had a bottle of their Gamay for sale even if none was on hand at cellar door.

Eldridge Estate has been owned and run by Wendy and David Lloyd since 1995, and  exclusively produces estate wines, that is wine made from grapes that they themselves grow.  Their property is near the town of Red Hill, and has nearly 3 HA under vines.  Situated on a north-facing slope (this is the Southern Hemisphere), their soils are a red earth volcanic loam (sand, silt and clay) and their vines are dry grown, though there is a dam at the bottom of the hill in case of emergencies.

Most of their plantings are a mix of a half dozen Pinot Noir clones and five Chardonnay clones, with a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc and this Gamay.  They produce varietals (some from single clones), a Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (which I assume they also grow) sparkler, and a Passetoutgrain, which translate to something along the lines of “pass all grapes” and in Burgundy is a co-fermented blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir.  Their Sauvignon Blanc is sold as Fume Blanc, with a 50/50 blend of barrel and steel fermentation, and then ageing in a 50/50 mix of new barriques and older, larger format barrels.  This Gamay is gently destemmed and fermented by wild yeasts with 90% whole grapes, preceded by five days of cold soak and followed by another four days of the same.

This wine is a bright and clear with a medium minus ruby colour – dark for a Gamay.  Very slow legs when swirled in the glass.  The nose is clean with medium plus intensity, and a developing character.  Aromas range from ripe red berries to pencil lead and a bit of black pepper.  It’s not quite perfume on the nose, but certainly some lifted fragrances are there.  The palate is dry, with medium to medium plus acidity, a medium body, medium alcohol, and a medium plus flavour intensity.  I get plum, black fruit (berries, cherries) pencil shavings and a small bit of liquorice.  There is not much in terms of tannins – certainly some from the skins, but there were no stalks in the ferment, and if there’s any oak, I can’t detect it.    It has a medium plus length with more pencil shavings/lead on the finish.

This is an interesting Gamay, and certainly a very good quality wine.  It was all fruit when I first tasted it, but I revisited my notes and the glass a couple of hours later and it was better than just that, with more of the developed characters being evident, especially the liquorice which wasn’t there at all on first taste.  Also, it’s darker and has a fuller body than most other Gamays I’ve had, which is a pleasant surprise.  I like this wine quite a bit (though I thought I might from the outset, so no great surprise).  Served blind, I think I would have guessed Pinot Noir in terms of the variety.  I will have to try the other, better known, Eldridge Estate wines at some point, the Pinot Noir especially, but I’m both thrilled in general that they’re making a Gamay and pleased specifically with the one I have in my glass.

Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein 2006

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Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein 2006

Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein 2006

I’m back in Victoria, Australia, having not only largely neglected it for my first few months of writing, but having added insult to injury by having the pin in the map for the Hunter Semillon turn up near Adelaide because that’s where the producer is based.  I did try to make sure I wouldn’t get stopped in the airport the next time I fly to Melbourne by covering the Sorrenberg Gamay and today I head south from Melbourne itself to the Mornington Peninsula.

The wine in question is the Point Leo Road Vineyard Lagrein 2006, a new producer for me, but a grape I’ve had in its New World form at least once before.  First though, the Mornington Peninsula.  Melbourne sits on  the Port Phillip Bay, and there are two wine regions that separate the Bay from the sea, Geelong to the west of the inlet, or The Rip as it’s called, and the Mornington Peninsula to the east.  It’s known within Australia for being a cool climate, with influences both from the Southern Ocean and the Bay.  It is as far from the equator as the very south of Italy or the lower half of Spain, not exactly Europe’s coolest regions, so everything is relative.  That said, it actually is fairly cool – summer average temperatures are just under roughly 20C/68F with high humidity and some rain, with lots of rain in the winter and spring.  Soils vary widely across the region.

The region as a whole is dominated by Pinot Noir, which makes up nearly half of the plantings, but a much bigger mindshare as the next biggest contender is Chardonnay at only 25%.  In terms of region/grape association, Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir ranks up with Barossa Shiraz or Hunter Semillon.  And while I’ll certainly write about a Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir at some point, today I’m drinking a Lagrein.

Lagrein is an ancient red grape that survives in its Northern Italian homeland on just a few hundred hectares in Alto Adige.  It’s used to make tannic wines on it’s own, as well as a fragrant rosé,  It’s also used to add colour and tannins to blends, including Pinot Nero (Noir).  Plums are a common aroma/taste associated with the variety, as are more savoury notes of tobacco and chocolate.  Before doing some research, I assumed that like many interesting varietals, it arrived in Australia with immigrants from its region of origin.  However, it has a much more specific Australian genesis, having been cultivated by Dr Peter May of the University of Melbourne, Burnley Campus, in 1988 as outlined in an article he wrote, available at Vinodiversity.  At present, there are just two dozen Australian wineries working with Lagrein, and there are apparently plantings in California as well.  I first came into contact with the variety through Domain Day, who produce the Garganega I tasted some months ago.

Point Leo Road Vineyard is a small winery, with the founding family, the Mays Laws,  having started out as contract grape growers in 1996 with plantings of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Their range of wines includes reds, whites, rosé and sparkling from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and this Lagrein.

This wine is a very deep colour in the glass – still ruby even at six years old.  There was fair amount of accumulated sediment when I decanted the bottle, which had been stood up for a few days.  The nose is clean and of medium intensity, showing some development, and notes of black cherry and dark chocolate.  On the palate, the acidity is the first thing that hits you – very tart, with the plums that I was looking for but didn’t find on the nose, as well as some tobacco. It has a fairly light body, and while there are some green tannins evident, they’re well integrated.  It’s a good wine though the tart fruit is somewhat jarring on the first sip.  I can’t say it’s out of balance though, certainly not without having a better idea as to the varietal typicity that comes with more experience.  I’ll have to see about tracking down an Italian Lagrein to see how the Old and New compare.

[This post originally listed the family who founded the label as the Mays.  In fact it was founded by John and Ruth Law and their family.  My apologies for the error.  The post has also been updated with an accurate pin in the map for their address.]