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: Mornington Peninsula region

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Mornington Peninsula Vignerons' Association: www.mpva.com.au

Mornington Peninsula region

The Mornington Peninsula is another new Melbourne 'dress circle' region that has exploded both in its reputation and in the number of growers over the last couple of decades.

There were some modest viticultural efforts here at the end of the 19th century (the original Dromona winery won praise at an intercontinental wine exhibition) and again in 1950s. The Seppelt family established a Riesling vineyard in 1948 but the vineyard was destroyed by a fire in 1967.

Darling Park, which lies in the heart of the Red Hill cluster of wineries, has a quality portfolio across a variety of styles.

However, it has only been since Baillieu Myer put in the first contemporary commercial vineyards in the early 1970s that it has taken off.

There are now 170 vineyards and over 50 cellar doors. Two thirds of the vineyards are less than 10 ha.

The region covers the whole peninsula south of Frankston although most of the wineries are clustered around the hilly section near Red Hill and Merrick.

Another cluster of wineries is developing a bit further to the north on a belt stretching from Mooruduc and Tyabb; and also near Mt. Eliza (a few km south of Frankston). Like the Margaret River and Geelong's Bellarine Peninsula the climate is profoundly maritime, with winds almost always coming either off Port Phillip Bay or the chilly Bass Strait.

The region is winning plaudits for three varieties. Firstly the Pinot Noirs which at their best are light-medium bodied with clear, vibrant varietal expression often showing spicy plum and black cherry flavours with gamy and forest floor or undergrowth features (rather than the Yarra Valley 'barnyard' aroma).

Second are the Chardonnays which show good cool climate grapefruit, stonefruit and melon expression and are often combined with funky wild yeast features, nuttiness and zippy acid. Thirdly there are the Pinot Gris/Grigios that were first popularised in Victoria by T'Gallant. The generally high quality of Mornington Peninsula's examples of this variety have gone along way towards establishing Pinot Gris/Grigio as a significant white wine rival in the Melbourne market to the dominance of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

The Cabernets and Shirazes are a different matter. In the 1990s at the height of the wine judges backlash against Australia's big, fruity reds a number of growers in the south of the region tried to make elegant, acidic cool climate reds. The problem was that in most vintages the fruit simply did not ripen fully. No amount of wine prose spin about 'elegant, refined' styles could mask the green, metallic tasting tannins. Even blending with Merlot or Viognier couldn't mask the faults. The region's vignerons now generally acknowledge the mistake but are still trying in the slightly warmer northern end of the region. The recent effort have been more more successful we at genxywines have been impressed with the elegant savoury and fennel Syrah from Darling Park and Box Stallion's lush clove-herbal Shiraz.

There are many, many high quality producers of Pinot Noir which is well suited to the Mornington Peninsula's terroir. GenXY's favourites of what we have tried so far include: Darling Park, Dexter, Kooyong Estate, Main Ridge, Mooruduc Estate, Paringa Estate, Port Phillip Estate, T'Gallant and Ten Minutes By Tractor.

About half a dozen tiny artisan producers collaborate to run 'The Local Collection' alongside a Redhill restaurant. The well made wines in the portfolio include a rather outstanding Barbera from Dunns Creek and a Lagrein from Point Leo Road.

The proximity of the region to Melbourne, the beaches and pockets of lush forest make this a prime tourist area. Most of the larger wineries have developed substantial restaurant facilities and there is a plethora of accommodation choices for those looking for a weekend away.

Big Shed Wines

Dexter is new solo project for former Stonier winemaker, Todd Dexter

Hanging Rock

Karina Vineyard, lies to the north of Redhill and is best known for its Swiss-style Riesling

Chanters Ridge

Moorooduc Estate barrels. The winery is one of Victoria's best exponents of richly textured, funky Chardonnay