Main Ridge Pinot Meunier 2012

This proved a bright spark in amongst a line-up of significantly more assertive wines, including some impressive Chardonnays and a full-throttle Barbaresco. In its own way, it provided just as much pleasure.

To be sure, this lacks the immediate distinctiveness of Pinot Noir from the same region, and as a consequence comes across with less panache. The aroma is full of spice, squashed red fruit and more savoury components, and shows good articulation and clarity. There’s a transparency without simplicity that I like about how this smells, and the aromas are clearly apart from many other wines, even if they don’t take an especially eccentric route.

The palate is light and delicious. As with the nose, spice takes centre stage and thickly overlays bright red fruit and some sappy notes. I like how this sits in the mouth; there’s good fullness of flavour through the mid-palate, even as the wine struggles to achieve anything beyond moderate weight. If there’s a flaw in its construction, it’s length; this is fairly short in terms of fruit, though I note spice does provide an echo of continuity through the finish.

Within Main Ridge Estate’s portfolio, this is clearly the odd one out varietally, but I’m grateful to Nat White for continuing to produce one of the few straight Pinot Meuniers in Australia. This quiet wine is a refreshing pause in amongst so many Mornington Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays vying for one’s attention.

Main Ridge Estate
Price: $A65
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Retail

Eldridge Estate Estate Pinot Noir 2009

It was on a recent visit to David Lloyd of Eldridge Estate that I was gifted a half bottle of this wine, to help warm one of the many lonely motel evenings ahead of me. I’m finally tackling it, somewhat later than I thought I would, though the delay accounts for no loss of pleasure, as this is drinking really well.

Heady, obvious pinosity leaps from the glass along with a good deal of sweet, red fruit. There are sappy edges to the aroma profile too, all underlined by well controlled oak. Although this isn’t a wild, heady style, varietal definition is crystal clear and it presents as very well balanced on opening. Savouriness does creep in with some air, and this tempers the fruit’s sweeter tendencies, which is to my taste.

Mouthfeel is voluptuous and slippery, with edges of acid and tannin texture giving way to a rather buxom impression on the tongue. Flavours are fresh in the mouth and not outsize or exaggerated. As with the nose, the palate strikes me as balanced and refined; it’s an engaging wine that also values quiet moments, those pauses that make sense of sound. The after palate is sappy and refreshingly sour, acid tightening but never quite swamping a core of red fruit.

Not a blockbuster, just a delicious Pinot.

Eldridge Estate
Price: $A35 (375mL)
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Gift

Eldridge Estate PTG 2012

Language is rarely as tortured as it can be in the hands of wine enthusiasts. I suppose this happens in any field, but one of the more interesting features of language in wine appreciation is the evolution of subtext. Drinkability is a particularly interesting word in this regard; for me, to describe a wine as highly drinkable is an entirely positive thing. And yet drinkability is often code for a simple quaffer, something not worth much thought or respect. As if good wines are somehow above being drunk.

So when I suggest Eldridge Estate’s latest PTG is outrageously drinkable, please take a moment to erase all subtextual baggage. I mean drinkable in the most positive, forthright way — this is a wine that fairly leaps down the throat.

And not because it’s simple or dumbed down, either. Here, drinkability is a matter of style. As you can probably infer from the age of it, this is released as a young wine and, to my palate, is designed to be drunk fresh. There’s an acid sourness to the wine that may sound like a negative but which, in fact, is the key to its moreishness. Flavours are bold, with prickly herbs and spice, bright red fruit, some meaty depth. Tannins are loose knit and well managed. So it’s not subtle, but who wants subtlety in a wine like this? No, this is about vitality and verve and, most of all, food.

Quite a brilliant early drinking red style and, on the strength of this, something other Mornington makers may well wish to consider.

Eldridge Estate
Price: $A25
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

Ocean Eight Aylward Pinot Noir 2010

When attending a residential school for the course I’m doing, many wines are inevitably dragged out for tasting, some more interesting than others. Last night, they ranged from blandly commercial to full-throttle odd. This Pinot was the undoubted highlight of the evening’s selection, so I will write it up in full, noting that it’s not yet released and in fact has only been bottled for a month.

Cloudy in appearance, this is immediately savoury and dark on the nose, with stalk, edges of oak, bubblegum and marzipan, pinosity leaking from every pore. It’s complex and moody, and what I like most is the way the aroma profile draws you in despite what are some challenging and offbeat aroma components.

The palate is all over the place, which is understandable, but shows the hallmarks of a wine that will sing with time: power, intensity, drive and, most of all, length. The flavours balance a swell of sweet red berry fruit with a range of more savoury fruit notes and vegetal influences. It’s a very textural wine, partly due to some short-term CO2 and more interestingly through a good deal of acid, a big whack of slightly green tannins on the middle palate (stalk?) and a decent layer of puckery sweet fruit tannins on the finish. There’s minerality here too, just one of the many flavour components this wine throws into the mix.

This is exactly what I look for in Mornington Pinot — a broody, structured wine whose fruit shows an inherent complexity of flavour, and whose winemaking isn’t afraid to push the boundaries. Look out for this one.

Update: check out Andrew’s review over at the Australian Wine Review.

Ocean Eight
Price: $NA
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Other

Ten Minutes by Tractor 2008 single vineyard wines

Recently, the very straightforward General Manager of Mornington Peninsula-based producer Ten Minutes by Tractor, Chris Hamilton, asked me to write some tasting notes for the winery’s use. I mention this both by way of disclosure and to make a particular observation. When I talked with Chris about the brief, I assumed he wanted the typically concise, descriptive notes one often sees attached to wine marketing material. Instead, he asked me to write in the style of my notes on this site. 

When I write for Full Pour, my intent is far from commercial and so, I believe, are the resultant notes. So it fascinated me that a producer might want to commission similar material, complete with the extravagances of length and style in which I often indulge. 
It pleases me to note all the wines tasted were good. The single vineyard labels, however, stand out as the most authentic representation of what Ten Minutes by Tractor is doing. I tasted two Chardonnays (Wallis and McCutcheon) and three Pinot Noirs (Wallis, McCutcheon and Judd). All vineyards are in the Main Ridge sub-region of the Mornington Peninsula, just ten minutes away from each other as the tractor flies. The material provided to me included copious information about vineyard elevations, clones, viticulture and winemaking. The approach strikes me in general as somewhat obsessive, and in particular as striving towards an understanding of differences between wines wrought by specific variables between vineyards. This is the mad scientist approach to the aesthetics of wine, and I love it.
These notes are my own personal write-ups, different from those provided to the winery for is use.
Wallis Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

Instant cool climate Chardonnay with a fireside warmth twist. The aroma shows crushed rocks, lean oak, oatmeal and predominantly grapefruit-like citrus. It’s quite savoury and austere in a way, but there’s a glimmer of enticing warmth at its core, like a candle shining in the midst of a winter snowstorm. I think this flows from a real funkiness to the aroma, something slightly off-center and quirky, that adds humanity to what can sometimes be a rather robotic Chardonnay style. 
The palate trades on this tension between cool collectedness and a flavour profile that teases with its darting cuddliness. It’s all fine and poised, with a pleasingly slippery mouthfeel and the sort of detail that rewards slow drinking. Overall, this is a really subtle wine, low-key and humble, but full of interest too. Quietly seductive.
McCutcheon Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 
Both different from and strikingly similar to the Wallis wine. This is altogether more powerful and direct, with an aroma full of thrust and parry, pure citrus fruit, spice and mealiness. Its power is well controlled, and if I were to characterise the aroma profile to set it apart from the Wallis, I’d say this is cooler, more chiselled, perhaps more detailed, certainly more masculine. Fascinating that viticulture and winemaking were essentially identical for both wines.
The entry shows a nice cut of minerality alongside more citrus and vanilla spice. There’s a soothing caress of viscosity on the palate which balances out robust acidity and makes way for fruit flavours to express themselves. The after palate is full of pithy grapefruit and the finish shows really refreshing bitterness, in the most positive sense. I reckon this will get better over the medium term (5 years or so). 
McCutcheon Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

One thing I noticed across all the single vineyard Pinots was their lack of colour density. The hues themselves are most attractive and fresh, but each wine is quite see-through, which I feel is one of the pleasures of this variety. I love how something so insubstantial-looking can be so powerful.
The nose here seems ideally balanced between varietal sour cherry and a catalogue of spices, damp earth and the sweetness of char siu. It’s all quite seamless, moving through its modes with no bumpiness or pause. On entry, good intensity without heaviness. It’s immediately complex, with seemingly all parts of the cherry (pulp, skin, pips) included in the lovely flavour profile. The middle palate introduces some sticky caramel before nicely textured acidity sweeps in to move one through the after palate. Grainy tannins adds to the mouthfeel and help with persistence through the finish. 
For drinking now, my favourite of the three single vineyard Pinots, thanks to its beautiful balance.
Wallis Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 
If the McCutcheon is a dilettante, spreading itself across all its elements equally, the Wallis Vineyard Pinot is the specialist, diving deep into a particular expression of Pinot that is more mysterious and difficult to unravel.
The aroma’s first impression is of thick impenetrability. There are layers of spiced wood, sour cherries, vanilla and undergrowth, all swirling to form a dense fabric of smells that is quite hard to tease apart. There’s a lovely sappiness that arcs over the aroma too, which tends to unify the elements and provide some light. 
There’s slightly more fruit emphasis in the mouth, though it remains a seriously dark expression of cherry. It’s concentrated and savoury, no one aspect dominating yet with the whole existing in a subterranean place, compact and firm. Texture is wonderful, with plenty of tannins emerging on the middle palate and continuing down the line, and a subdued acid line running the whole length. There’s a dip in intensity as the wine progresses down its line and this, combined with the tightly held flavour profile, suggests the Wallis more than the other two Pinots will benefit from bottle age. 
Judd Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008
This wine is tangibly different again from the Wallis and McCutcheon. One obvious difference from a viticultural perspective is this vineyard is planted to the 115 Pinot clone, as opposed to the others which carry MV6. 115 is known for its more straightforwardly fruity flavour profile, and this comes through into the finished wine. 
A deeply spiced aroma profile that is nonetheless dominated by heady, ripe cherries and fresh plum pulp. More in-your-face than the other two wines, this is openly seductive in character. It’s all curves and femininity, quite voluptuous really.
The way it enters the mouth is wild: an initial pause followed by a dramatic enlargement of  scale that is quite surprising. After wedging your palate open, it supplies gobs of sweet fruit onto the tongue. The fruit character is very pretty, all maraschino cherries framed by attractive tartness. Some oak is present in support, and is well matched to the fruit. I just can’t get over the physical aspects of this wine’s feel in the mouth, though; this alone makes it worth experiencing, for its sensuality but also its sophistication. A very long finish.

Ten Minutes by Tractor
Price: $55-70
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

William Downie Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2006

What a handsome package. It’s almost too pretty to open, this bottle, capped as it is with a thick glob of wax and decorated with minimal yet humanist labels/artwork. But wine’s there to be drunk, so after admiring it for a moment, I attacked it with a waiter’s friend, revealing a lovely Diam seal. Mere moments with the pump action corkscrew and here we are, ready to taste.The packaging is so seductive and promises such satisfaction, it comes as a (perhaps unreasonable) surprise to find the wine inside isn’t quite so easy. For starters, there’s a powerfully feral pong that emerges from the glass at first. It’s not quite stalk, and not quite oaked spice, but exists somewhere in between, sitting somewhat lumpily atop bright, fresh strawberry/cherry fruit. As someone who likes a bit of pong in his Pinot, I enjoy this flavour profile, but it’s an intellectual experience. With about half an hour of swirling, the feral-ness has integrated nicely into the underlying fruit, becoming an extra layer of complexity rather than a disjointed, if characterful, sore thumb. The palate confirms the light, bright nature of this wine’s flavour profile, and introduces the assertive acid that provides such restraint and definition. It’s all sunshine and light on entry, the acid creating a vivid, fresh impression and the fruit backing this up with bright red, high toned flavour. This wine is a lesson in how impact can be completely different from weight, how intensity is not the same as density. It’s so fleet on the palate, one is surprised any flavour registers at all, let alone the reasonably intense coating of savoury red fruit  and spicy oak this wine actually delivers. Things really start to get interesting through the after palate, where the wine’s structure opens out and promises even more flavoursome times ahead. It’s only getting better as the evening wears on, with additional, deeper registers starting to emerge. It’s not the most complex wine I’ve ever tasted, but the flavour profile is so characterful, you can forgive it for being a little straightforward.I’m betting some short to medium term cellaring (say, 2-5 years) will do some cool things to this wine. At the moment, it is drinking relatively well but its youthful restraint may prove a little frustrating too.Update: I gave this wine a night to think about what it had done. It’s quite transformed, with a lot less bright fruit and a lot more layered complexity. It is, dare I say it, becoming somewhat Burgundian in flavour profile. Nice drop.William DowniePrice: $A40Closure: DiamDate tasted: June 2008 

Kooyong Massale Pinot Noir 2006

Kooyong’s Massale Pinot has two things immediately going for it: it is reasonably priced and classily packaged (I do like the Kooyong label design, generally). I saw this on a restaurant wine list the other day and had to give it a go. A piercing nose of sappy red fruits, minerality and a touch of oak. The palate shows good intensity from entry onwards, although this intensity is counterbalanced by an overall delicacy and lightness of touch. The wine’s acid structure is quite prominent, and this adds zip to the wine’s middle palate of sour red fruits, hints of sous-bois, perhaps some sweet nutty spice and minerality. The fruit character is bright and clear, and elegantly savoury. Mouthfeel is very fresh indeed, thanks to that acid, and the finish shows slightly grainy tannins that are noticeable but well-balanced.This wine is elegant and “adult”, although not especially complex. I found that it responded extremely well to food (creamy pasta), so for full enjoyment, one is well advised to try this with, not as, a meal. KooyongPrice: $A28Closure: DiamDate tasted: April 2008

T'Gallant Juliet Pinot Noir 2006

Last night the Pinot Grigio, tonight the Pinot Noir. I was surprised by the drinkability, if not sophistication, of the Grigio, so was interested to see what the Noir is made of. As with the companion wine, this one is priced keenly at $A14.

Pretty, relatively dense ruby red, good clarity. Upon opening, the wine’s nose was almost entirely mute. Some time in glass has helped it to express itself a little, but it’s not exactly screaming out of the glass, even now. The aromas are of sweet Pinot fruit and a little spice, thankfully not confected but also quite simple. The palate is a lot more expressive than the nose. Entry is quite immediate and leads to a middle palate of light to medium weight, showing varietal fruit and some more spice. The fruit itself, though identifiably Pinot Noir in character, has an unattractively

T'Gallant Juliet Pinot Grigio 2007

Cheap Pinot Grigio — surely I’m tempting fate. Nevertheless, this wine is in a super pretty bottle with a label that exists without paper. How could I say no? I’ve not tried either wine from T’Gallant’s budget “Juliet” range, and it’s always nice to see well priced wine from the Mornington Peninsula, so let’s see how we go with this one.

A generous, clean aroma of non-specific fruit that hovers around pear and apple but, dare I say it, is mostly “grapey” in character. Hence, it has the (considerable) appeal of fresh juice rather than anything more challengingly vinous. Quite simple, though. The entry is easygoing and widens to a light/medium bodied palate that shows mostly more of the grapey fruit character seen on the nose. In terms of structure, the wine is quite light on acid, such that mouthfeel is fresh but lacking a little in “zing,” especially as the wine warms. Phenolics are a little more present as the wine progresses towards the after palate, but again these are subtle and contribute a slight savoury note (herbal, perhaps) and some roughening of mouthfeel. Quite a satisfying finish, with phenolics carrying some sweet fruit flavour through with good length.

A well judged wine that is terribly easy to drink. It’s almost entirely lacking in sophistication, but for its intended purpose, who cares? Serve well chilled with food.

Price: $A14
Closure: Stelvin
Date tasted: January 2008