Nestled on an east-west peninsula somewhat along the lines of Shek-O, Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is a popular summer playground for visitors and residents of Australia’s state Victoria. The peninsula as much beloved by families for its bay beaches as it is for its wines. The brisk ocean air draws lively holiday-makers, but it is also a factor in the district’s vineyard success. Due to the cool ocean breezes, Mornington’s grapes ripen more slowly than other Victorian wine districts, often several weeks later than the Yarra Valley, which is positioned on warmer inland slopes. Slower growing seasons allow a grape’s more delicate and subtle fruit aromas to evolve.
There are about 200 wineries in Mornington Peninsula (with 50 cellar doors among them), but most are small because land costs are high. Suitable vineyard sites are scarce as the Peninsula’s bracing ocean temperatures can wreak havoc with a vine’s effort to ripen grapes. Also, many properties are hobby-wineries, small boutique estates established not so long ago by successful business and medical professionals in nearby Melbourne. You will not find the large land-holding of popular pioneer regions, such as South Australia’s Barossa Valley or New South Wales’ Hunter Valley. Only Stonier has a sizeable holding of some 100 hectares.
Not surprisingly, this region excels at cool climate grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. Though Shiraz typically performs better in warmer sites, a few producers manage to coax some arresting Shiraz from the soil – when the weather cooperates. In years such as 2008, where most of Australia faced a hot and early vintage, cooler southern Victorian districts, such as Mornington Peninsula thrived, yielding restrained, well-structured wines.
Like many successful Mornington Peninsula producers, Kooyong Winery’s vineyards are all planted facing north so as to capture as much sunlight as possible. The property is about 80 kilometres south of Melbourne and is positioned next to the Devilbend nature reserve, which is home to many wild water fowl. In fact, the name Kooyong means, ‘’where wild fowl gather’’. The Kooyong, Mornington Peninsula, Estate Chardonnay proffers restrained elegant fruit with subtle balance and a creamy palate. Citrus-accented fruit finishes with a hint of lightly roasted nuts and vanilla; an attractive wine that is easy to drink without overwhelming the palate.
Kooyong’s Mornington Peninsula, Estate Pinot Noir is laden with ripe, dense pinot noir fruit accented with savoury herbal hints. The wine’s juicy, dense fruit can be attributed to the winery’s relatively northern (and therefore warmer) position in this largely cool climate district. Dense ripe raspberry fruit is supported by velvety tannins, integrated oak spice and good length.