Exploring Australia's premier Pinot Noir region, part 3
Montalto is a boutique producer established in 1998 by John and
Wendy Mitchell. John studied viticulture when he returned to
Australia from the UK in 1990, and ended up buying this property in
Red Hill South which had 30 acres of vines planted back in 1985. The
current range draws from six vineyards across the Peninsula:
Montalto, Main Ridge, Merricks, Tuerong, Pennon Hill and North Face.
They also have olive groves, a high end restaurant and a sculpture
I met with winemaker Simon Black (above). He's a thoughtful
winemaker, and has been working hard with Pinot Noir, favouring
early picking and playing creatively with stems. 'For me it is
always about balance,' says Black. 'A large part of that balance is
having alcohol in check.'
For Chardonnay, he likes to use 100% whole bunch and then go to
barrels with high solids, and doesn't add SO2 until blending. 'I'm
doing a lot of work with yeast lees: these wines have lees going
back to five years.' He started keeping lees in barrel but now he
keeps yeast cells from the previous harvest and then adds them back
to current harvest, keeping them in stainless steel. 'The extra
volume of lees helps keep the wine in a reductive state.' He's also
been doing some whole bunch with Chardonnay, where he loads it into
a red fermenter, covers it up for 2 weeks, and then presses it whole
For Pinot, when he does bunch, it isn’t just throwing in a bit of
whole bunch. 'It’s 100%. You get different outcomes,' he states.
'You can get stemmy character from layering. But if you are doing
whole bunch it’s more about controlling the length of the ferment.
I’ve struggled here with whole bunch because if you don’t get the
physiology right in the vines then you get green characters.'
Black has a new technique, which is a bit more like carbonic
maceration. He puts whole bunches into the fermenter for 14 days,
then he destems and ferments traditionally. 'You get the carbonic
character,' he says. 'You still get a bit of fermentation with the
stems, but you get the incredible savoury characters in the wine
without greenness. You get the best of both worlds. I then blend to
the finished wine.'
Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay 2016 Mornington Peninsula,
Rich, vivid, intense and spicy with lively
citrus and stone fruits. Primary, taut and mineral with a citrus
kick at the end. Nice intensity here. Lovely vigour and purity with
good acidity. 92/100
Montalto Estate Chardonnay 2015 Mornington Peninsula,
This has both texture and freshness with a
delicacy to the lemony fruit. Fine nuts and spice in the background
as well as a bit of white peach richness and some poached pears.
Lovely lemony finish. 94/100
Montalto The Eleven Chardonnay 2012 Mornington Peninsula,
Named after the 11 rows it comes from. Complex
creamy, nutty, bready wine with some fine toastiness. A strong crème
brulee character with lovely intense citrussy fruit and great
precision. Intriguing and more-ish. Lovely fresh finish. 94/100
Montalto Pennon Hill Pinot Grigio 2016 Mornington Peninsula,
A lovely pretty, fruity wine. Lemony with some grapey notes and a
bit of detail filling in from the 30% wild-ferment barrel fermented
component. There’s nice depth and texture here. Lovely wine with
some personality as well as an intrinsic prettiness. 90/100
Montalto Estate Pinot Gris 2016 Mornington Peninsula,
100% wild fermented in old French oak barrels, with some old lees
added. Has a bit of the whole bunch added too. Complex, spicy,
grapey and textured yet still very fresh and fruit driven. Nice pear
and some ripe apple, even. Some lychee, too. Very impressive. 92/100
Montalto Whole Bunch Gris 2016 (trial wine)
50 cases. Orange, copper colour. This has some herb, rhubarb and red
cherry as well as pear and apple fruit. Green tea complexity, too.
Very savoury with a bit of grip but also some sweet grapey notes.
Lots of interest here. 93/100
Montalto Tuerong Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Down the hill. Brown clay loam, with MV6 clone. 20 year old vines.
Lovely texture and spiciness with leather, liquorice and dried
herbs. There’s a depth on the palate with some spicy tannins adding
grip. Savoury and substantial with warmth and also definition. Very
Montalto Main Ridge Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014
Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Up the hill. Really bright and floral with raspberries and cherries,
wild strawberries and herbs. Quite powerful with good structure and
fresh, sappy fruit. Very pretty, but also detailed and structured
with potential for development. Concentrated and fruit driven.
Montalto Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Mornington Peninsula,
Supple, fine and spicy with a hint of meatiness. Quite structured
and vivid with some peppery notes. Has concentration and structure.
Primary and needs time: has a combination of the structure of the
warmer lower sites but also the floral interest of the hill. Faintly
sappy too. 93/100
Montalto Pennon Hill Shiraz 2015 Mornington Peninsula,
Lovely floral red cherry and raspberry fruit with lovely fine
peppery notes, together with clove and cinnamon spiciness. Fragrant,
detailed and delicious. Lovely prettiness and savoury edginess here.
Montalto Estate Shiraz 2014 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Has density and structure here with real presence under the brighter
peppery notes. Clove and dried herbs, with sleek black cherry and
plum fruit. Lovely wine showing real depth and focus. 93/100
6 Ten Minutes
8 Willow Creek
9 Crittenden Estate
10 Yabby Lake
13 Eldridge Estate of
wines of Jamsheed
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