Wine column for week of 16 December 2013

Australia produces a wide range of styles of wines made from pinot noir. Most of the best pinots are grown in a u-shaped arc in Victoria on the mainland and the island of Tasmania.

The right-hand side of this u-shape runs through Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. The base of the “u” covers much of Tasmania and the Geelong region of Victoria represents the left-hand side of the “u”. This week we look at a range of fine pinots from Geelong.

Mt Moriac Wines, established in 1987, focuses on pinot noir grapes. The cool and dry climate is ideal for this variety. Sandy loam soils offer good drainage and also limit excessive vigour in the vines. Yields are limited to 7 tons to the hectare and estate wines are only produced if winemakers believe the grapes are of sufficient quality.

The 2011 Mt Moriac Estate pinot noir is from 25-year-old vines. These give the wine abundant flavours of raspberry and cherries, with a touch of spice, and a sense of elegance. Cherries grow well in the Geelong region.

The wine exhibits an elegant structure from restrained use of a mix of old and new oak. If it were likened to a bowler in the game of cricket, I would argue the wine shows great control of line and length. It has a delightfully floral nose of violets with a touch of aniseed.

Winemaker Lee Evans has been doing vintages at Mt Moriac since 2002. She studied viticulture initially before becoming a winemaker. Evans adopts innovative approaches and believes in a light touch when it comes to oak treatment. This is understandable given that oak barriques are expensive in Australia, starting at about $US 1200 for lesser–known brands and fetching more than $1500 for known names.

Evans said the 2011 pinot had more fruit than the 2008, which we also tasted in her cellar/work area. The latter was restrained but still offered wondrous flavours of cherry and raspberry on a backbone of silky tannins plus a slight touch of acidity. It was like tasting unripe cherries straight from the tree on a sunny day.

The extra years meant the 2008 wine felt more refined. This is a wine that should be served with something regal like classic French cuisine to display its elegance.

The 2010 Mt Moriac pinot noir, made from fruit from around the Geelong region, represents a bargain at about $20. So much so that the Vintage Cellars chain of wine stores has bought as much as the vineyard can produce in recent years.

The nose is more open than the estate version, and redolent of violets on a sunny day. Like the estate wine, it tastes of cherries picked slightly under-ripe from the tree. Soft tannins and subtle acidity give the wine a balanced texture.

Other fine pinots tasted in Australia included the 2012 Scotchman’s Hill pinot and the 2008 Cornelius, both from the Bellarine Peninsula in Geelong.

The former has ripe tannins and firm acid that give the wine fine structure. In the mouth it tastes of cherries and plums, balanced against a savoury mid palate that is like tasting borscht, that creamy soup made from beetroot.

The latter has a deep red-purple colour suggesting a ripe vintage. It smells of cherries and plums, with a hint of strawberries plus spice and earth undertones. This is a quality wine with excellent balance and length, and a silky palate. In the mouth it feels full and elegant.

This article is about pinot but one must mention some fine whites. Aromas of stone fruit and melons cascade from the 2011 Mt Moriac Geelong chardonnay, combined with a touch of spice from the 5 per cent of new oak used in the ageing process.

The 2011 Mt Moriac Estate chardonnay is even more elegant with aromas of grapefruit, melon and white peach, plus touches of spice. It is beautifully balanced with impressive texture and acidity, framed around a structure built on ageing in new and old oak.

Finally a special mention for Rippon’s 2012 sauvignon blanc. Most New Zealand sauvignon blanc is boring in its sameness but this wine is exceptional. It begins with a nose redolent of ripe tropical fruits but then opens to display a lot more character.

Winemaker Nick Mills fermented 40 per cent of the wine in old French barrels. That oak plus high levels of lees-to-wine contact has imparted a funky element to the nose and gives the wine a rich and unusual texture. Add zingy acidity and a long finish and you get a wine to savour. A most memorable sauvignon blanc.

Words: 764

About squinn33

Writer and wine lover
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