|The wines of Dromana Estate,
Mornington Peninsula, Australia, with Gary Crittenden
note: a more recent review of these wines can be found
Dromana estate is probably the best-known producer from the Mornington Peninsula
in Victoria (near Melbourne), run by Gary Crittenden. He makes three different ranges. The
second label is Schinus Molle, made with grapes bought in from all over the place. These
represent excellent value for money and are consistently well made, tasty wines. Then
there is the Dromana Estate range, made with estate-grown fruit with a no-holds barred
quality approach. Finally, there is a range of Italian-style varietals from fruit grown in
the cool King Valley region of Victoria. Gary was friendly and spent a good deal of time
explaining his wines, and overall I was extremely impressed. In particular, I loved the
Cabernet Merlot and the Reserve Chardonnay (I'm a bit of a sucker for big, complex
Chardonnays, and this one was delicious). The Pinot Noirs were interesting rather than
spectacular, and of the Italian varietals, I was won over by the Barbera and Sangiovese,
but remained unmoved by the tough, fruitless Nebbiolo. Having said this, young Nebbiolo is
tough and fruitless in Piedmont too, so maybe this will evolve into something interesting
with some bottle age.
Schinus Sauvignon Blanc 1999
Made from grapes grown in the Goulbourn Valley and Swan Hill regions. This is richly
aromatic and is a lovely bright fruity wine; very moreish.
Schinus Chardonnay 1998
Lovely soft fresh wine with bright fruit and a bit of toasty oak. Good to very good.
Dromana Estate Chardonnay 1998
Tried side-by-side with the 1999 version. Nice toasty nose: rich, complex and nutty. Ripe
with some tropical fruit, with really nice character. Very good.
Dromana Estate Chardonnay 1999
Less oaky on the nose than the 1998, this is quite closed. Bright and spicy fruit on the
palate but nicely integrated oak and fruit. Less showy than the 1998, but still good. Gary
prefers this to the 1998; for current drinking I'd choose the 1998, although in the long
run the 1999 will be superb.
Dromana Estate Reserve Chardonnay 1998
Matured in 100% new French oak. Big nose! Huge, lifted aromas, smoky and complex. On the
palate there is rich, spicy ripe fruit and complex barrel ferment character. Spicy and
Dromana Estate Pinot Noir 1998
Tasted alongside the Reserve Pinot Noir. Wonderful light cherry/orange colour, a little
bit murky (it is unfiltered). Sweet strawberry-scented nose. On the palate it has soft,
earthy, cherry, spicy, strawberry flavours. There is just enough structure to stop it
being simply glorified, alcoholic fruit juice, but it's a close call. Interesting, but I'm
not sure about it.
Dromana Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 1998
Slightly darker colour than the regular Pinot, and also a bit murky. Quite subdued caramel
nose. Soft on the palate with more tannins, but these are hidden by sweet fruit. Complex
and spicy, with quite high acid, this is tasty stuff. A thought-provoking wine.
Schinus Merlot 1998
The first bottle of this was badly corked. Remarkably, about a third of it had already
been poured, almost exclusively to wine trade pros, who hadnt spotted it (or rather
strangely had not bothered to mention it to Gary). This is a successful wine with bright
fruit, rich texture and some real character. Very good.
Dromana Estate Cabernet Merlot 1998
Intense cassis-laden and herby nose. There's lots of rich, concentrated character here.
Big, ripe, sweet cassis flavours on the palate with some menthol-like richness. Lovely
Barbera King Valley 1999
Barbera is a versatile variety from Piedmont that has been quite successful in Australia.
Youthful and intense, with a spicy medicinal edge and cherry fruit. Tasty wine. Very good.
Sangiovese King Valley 1998
The red grape of Chianti, from Tuscany. Herby nose. Rich, acid-laden palate with spicy
cherry fruit. A good food wine. Very good.
Nebbiolo King Valley 1998
tasted May 2000
This is the noble grape from Piedmont, responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco. But it
doesn't travel well. Lighter colour with a browning rim. Tannic; not fruit driven. Plenty
of Italian character and good acidity, but it is missing something. OK.