If you are in Melbourne and would like to explore a wine region, I recommend visiting Mornington Peninsula, which is approximately one hour south of Melbourne’s CBD. Talking with a lot of international visitors makes me think this region is still a largely unknown region for a lot of wine lovers, a secret you only find out about when you arrive in Australia! Mornington Peninsula is a hilly region, situated between Port Phillip Bay and Western Port Bay, and I have to say that it was there that I saw one of the best sunsets since arriving in Australia.
The climate here is cooler, influenced by the two bays, and the typical Aussie rich and full-bodied Shiraz is not the aim here. Wineries in Mornington Peninsula are generally looking to make more delicate Shiraz, with violet notes, blueberry and peppery flavours, smooth tannins, medium body and fresh acidity. Pinot Grigio is one grape you should definitely try here, and of course the typical cooler climate grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are the superstars of the region.
Avani Winery - Mornington Peninsula
I visited three wineries in the region, the first one was Avani, a name that means ‘the Earth’ in Sanskrit. The winery has the concept of making very small batches of low-intervention wines. If you are a fan of this style, I highly recommend you visit them; they make wines using low sulphites, barrel fermentation with indigenous yeasts, no fining and no filtration. The most premium wine they make is their Syrah, which comes from grapes planted on the property, and grown using no chemical products on their vineyards.
Trofeo Estate - Mornington Peninsula
The second winery was Trofeo Estate and I was able to speak with Kathy Manolios, the director and owner. She told the story of her husband, Jim Manolios, who never liked ageing wines in oak. So when he heard about the ancient practice of ageing wines in amphoras, which he found much more interesting and unique, he decided to try it. He concluded that wines made using amphoras were smoother and more expressive, and decided to convert the whole production to amphoras. They bought the winery in 2012 and Jim imported his hand-crafted amphoras from Italy to Australia. Trofeo Estate claims to be the largest producer of terracotta amphora wine in the southern hemisphere. They manage their vineyards with organic and biodynamic techniques, and are making very interesting Chardonnay and Pinot Gris wines with skin contact - the famous orange wines - plus incredible Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon - all fermented and aged, of course, in amphoras.
Crittenden Wines - Mornington Peninsula
The third winery was Crittenden Estate, a modern cellar door with a beautiful view over their man-made lake. Our host explained that founder, Garry Crittenden, was the first vintner to see the potential for growing grapes in Mornington Peninsula and the first winemaker in Australia to commercialise Italian wine varieties, introducing varieties such as Barbera, Nebbiolo, Dolcetto and Sangiovese to Australia. Crittenden Estate uses sustainable practices for better results for their vines and the environment. My “must-try” wines here are the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, the Italian grapes, plus a unique fortified wine from the Savagnin grape.
Have you been to Mornington Peninsula?