Exploring Mornington Peninsula terroir with Montalto single vineyard 2013 pinot noir releases

The exploration of the terroirs of the Mornington Peninsula continues apace at Montalto.  The three wines before me here are all from the same year (the promising 2013 vintage), but sourced from three different vineyards in the Mornington Peninsula – in Merricks, Main Ridge and Tuerong.  Better yet, each of these wines are high quality expressions of pinot noir and have their own personalities.

For some context, although a relatively small area, the Mornington Peninsula in fact has quite varied soils, altitude and rainfall.  I think this is worth mentioning, as even in 2015, the exploration of the terroirs of many of Australia’s wine regions seems underdeveloped relative to the weighty discourses I read in relation to the wine regions of the old world.  So, in terms of providing some further context to these wines from the Mornington Peninsula, I thought it useful to provide some further detail about the physical attributes of the region with regard to rainfall, soils and altitude.

A bit about rainfall

While lacking a bit of granularity, I quite like the diagram below for its rather pithy and memorable format.  It shows rainfall on the Mornington Peninsula is concentrated in the middle upon Red Hill, and more or less confirms that Red Hill and Main Ridge are rather good places to grow plants that are thirsty.

Source: M Gordon, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula (Loch Haven Books, 1997)

A bit about soils

Verging sharply towards a mass of exquisite detail, the Department of Environment and Primary Industries provides a map (below) showing the Mornington Peninsula region’s soils.  The big red blob in the middle – the Red Hill and Main Ridge area – has dominant soils of red ferrosols and red dermosols, and its geology consists of tertiary basalts.  In English, this means that both of these soil types are very fertile and are of volcanic origins.  The abundant fertility will be no surprise to locals, given that the region has, and has had for years, hectares of strawberry and cherry farms.

The area around Merricks has soils consisting of yellow and grey dermosols with its geology consisting of alluvial sediments.  These seem a variation on the fertile theme.  Conversely, towards Tuerong, the soils change again, and here we have soils consisting of brown and yellow chromosols (not as fertile) and have geology of tertiary and Palaeozoic sediments.  This translates very broadly into less vigour for grape vines planted there.

As with all soil maps of this kind, these are just generalities that are superseded by what is in the ground below the vines.  Nonetheless, while the contribution of soil and geological formations to the flavours in the glass remains a subject of quite some topical debate, it would seem, as any gardener grappling with poor soils will attest, soils are not irrelevant.

Source: Department of Environment and Primary Industries http://vro.depi.vic.gov.au/dpi/vro/portregn.nsf/pages/port_soil_landforms_mornington_pen

And a bit about altitude

Continuing the terroir discussion for a brief moment longer, altitude on the Mornington Peninsula is also important.  The Mornington Peninsula climbs abruptly from Port Phillip Bay towards its highest point at Arthur’s Seat at 314 metres, and as a glance at any topographical map confirms, the undulating part of the region is more or less framed by Arthurs Seat, Merricks North, Shoreham and Main Ridge.  The climbs are modest by world standards, although altitude does seem to matter in terms of its impact on the styles of wine produced in the region.

Source: Google Maps

And finally the wines …

It is difficult to ignore the above factors when examining wine from this increasingly nuanced region, and frankly, I think the discussion of wine benefits from a full understanding of its context.  Happily, Montalto embrace such detail, providing very clear information as to where and on what its particular vineyards are located.  Which brings me to the wines.

The Montalto Main Ridge Block 2013 pinot noir is made using the D5V12 pinot noir clone and is grown on red clay loam at 156m of altitude on a north easterly slope.  So, it’s on fertile soil with plenty of sun, and up a bit.  Altitude is perhaps a key influence here, as this presents as the most restrained of the three wines.  It has aromatics of rhubarb, cherry and pinot spice.  There’s between medium and long length on the palate, and a good frame of acidity that ties the wine together.  This is a very balanced and enjoyable wine.  Good to Very Good

Abv: 13.7%, Price: $65, Source: sample, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.montalto.com.au, Tasted: 2015

The Montalto Merricks Block pinot noir 2013 is made from the MV6 pinot noir clone and is grown on grey loam over clay at 55m of altitude on an easterly slope.  So, this one is closer to the Western Port coast, and at a lower altitude.  This appears to translate into the glass, with rich and heady aromatics of dark cherry, sweet ripe raspberry, ripe strawberry and almost blackberry too.  The palate is finessed and detailed with lovely balance, and a depth of cherry flavours and touches of fruit cake through the middle.  This is easy to enjoy.  Good to Very Good

Abv: 13.7%, Price: $65, Source: sample, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.montalto.com.au, Tasted: 2015

The Montalto Teurong Block pinot noir 2013 is also made from the MV6 pinot noir clone and is grown on brown clay loam at 30m of altitude on a northerly slope.    This is almost Central Otago like, with aromatics of dark cherry, earth and cedar.  The palate has long length, and flavours reminding of earth and cherries.  Its impression is lingering, integrated and caressing, with cedar only at the edges.  Round and then powerful through the mid palate, this is a very good pinot noir and disappeared quickly.  Very Good

Abv: 13.8%, Price: $65, Source: sample, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.montalto.com.au, Tasted: 2015

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