Cool Climate, Cool Wines
It’s an exciting time for Australian wine in the United States. With such a diverse offering, now is the time to explore all the fine wine Australia has to offer.
From wine regions, to varieties and winemaking practices, there is so much to discover. While some producers continue to experiment with modern winemaking techniques and innovative varieties, others have decided to focus on what they believe is best for their land and climate. Such is the story in Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula where Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are claiming their rightful place on the international stage.
What makes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from these regions so successful is the cool climate, and what we’re also hearing more and more from the artisans behind them are words like; ‘single vineyard’, ‘wild ferment’, ‘whole bunch’, ‘unfiltered’. These techniques are producing Pinot Noirs with bright acidity and deft restraint, and Chardonnays that are lean and elegantly structured.
Yarra Valley’s rolling hills, cool temperatures, altitudes up to 1300 feet and pockets of different climates leads to wines with varying layers and textures. At Giant Steps, Phil Sexton and Steve Flamsheed use vineyards at different altitudes to create their strikingly flinty and spiced 2015 Yarra Valley Chardonnay. Mac Forbes, known as one of the most exciting winemakers in Australia, travels all over Victoria matching soil and elevation with variety and clone – his 2015 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir is linear and focused, backed with nervy tannins. Similarly, Timo Mayer has created a masterpiece in his savory Dr. Mayer Pinot Noir made from 100% whole cluster grapes from vines planted 75cm apart. All of these wines are strikingly pale, and this is intentional, these winemakers are not looking for extraction or weight, but rather backbone and a dialogue between the wine and the vineyard.
Just 55 miles south of Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula juts into Port Philip Bay, and is only 12.5 miles wide. The temperature here is moderated by the Bay winds and the Bass Strait, creating low vine stress, sunshine throughout the summer, and a soft autumn. The result is wines with perfectly ripe fruit balanced with naturally high acidity. This is exhibited beautifully in the stunning 2015 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay, tart and minerally with glowing citrus and a delightfully long finish. The 2015 Kooyong Estate Chardonnay follows suit with more weight on the palate but the same hint of tension that rings throughout. Meanwhile, Moorooduc Estate’s emphasis is on gentle fruit handling and natural wine making methods, leading to wines such as the stunning 2013 Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir.
These wines from Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are just a small taste of the exciting offerings coming to the US from Australia. As the category grows, so too does the opportunity to discover the wines, regions and styles of Australia’s fine wines. Taste them, buy them, share them, and explore the modern face of Australian wine today.