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Tucked away about an hour's drive south of Melbourne sits one of Australia's most prized wine regions - the Mornington Peninsula. It's surrounded by water on three sides - Port Phillip to the west, Western Port to the east and Bass Strait to the south - and is connected to the mainland in the north. It's a beautiful region in terms of landscape, with coastal views popping up amongst the gently undulating hills. The Mornington Peninsula has no official sub regions, however there are numerous distinctions between sites in both soils and elevation - something that many of the local vignerons seek to express in their wines.
With the large amount of water surrounding the Peninsula, Mornington's climate can easily be classified as cool maritime. Vineyards in maritime climates tend to enjoy long growing seasons thanks to the moderating influence of the nearby water, with warm summers and cool winters. During the growing season, the cooling breezes from the ocean help to keep the vines from getting too hot, whilst in the spring, the natural warmth from the large bodies of water helps to prevent frost setting amongst the vines.
The altitudes across the Mornington are relatively flat, ranging from about 25m to around 250m above sea level. But even this range gives plenty of variation for each vineyard site, with the altitude, aspect and exposure to prevailing breezes creating an array of mesoclimates and microclimates.
Soil types play an incredibly important role in distinguishing the different sites throughout the Mornington Peninsula. There are three main soils - ranging from sandy flatlands around Moorooduc and Tuerong, pale brown alluvial soils at Dromana on the northern coastline to the deep russet volcanic soils between Merricks and Balnarring and the south coast.
It's hard to think of the Mornington Peninsula without thinking of Pinot Noir. This fickle variety absolutely thrives in the cool maritime climate, producing wines that range from light and delicate, right through to some of the darkest and fullest expressions. One thing's for sure, though - the Mornington Peninsula is one of the best regions in Australia for Pinot Noir.
The next most important variety for the region is Chardonnay. Thanks to the cooler climate and long growing season, Chardonnay from the Mornington has wonderful concentration, whilst still retaining fresh acidity. Many winemakers employ a judicious use of oak in their Chardonnays, adding to the richness and body of the wines, but there are plenty of wines raised in neutral oak too, that showcase the purity of fruit from the region.
Behind these two varietal heavyweights come Pinot Gris and Shiraz as the next most planted varieties. Pinot Gris is made as both a fuller-bodied expression with concentration and intensity, as well as a lighter, fresher, more Grigio-style. Both are excellent styles for the region, and have quite a following among Gris/Grigio lovers.
The small amount of Shiraz produced in Mornington is typical of the cool-climate styles of the region, showing wonderful elegance and finesse. Not your heavy-hitting Barossa reds, Mornington Shiraz tends to be spicier and more floral, with fine-grained tannins and very light use of oak.
Eldridge Estate, Paradigm Hill, Onannon, Main Ridge Estate, Garagiste, Allies, Moorooduc Estate, Polperro, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Quealy, Avani, Dexter, Ocean Eight, Principia, Scorpo, Hurley Vineyard