Sure it's a region of spectacular views, luxury accommodation and a playground for some of Australia's most up-market, fancy individuals, but the Mornington Peninsula goes beyond skin deep. Picture postcard beaches and idyllic lifestyles aside, the region is home to some of Australia's premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines. And while European sports car yuppies are busy throwing their keys in the bowl as they sip at fancy cocktails, the region is laid bare for us regular folk to explore.
And a pleasure it is. With a temperate, maritime influenced climate, Mornington is truly one of Australia's most visually spectacular and lifestyle rich of wine regions. Grape growing and winemaking kicked off in earnest with plantings in the 1970s, with smaller producers capitalizing on the vitality of the existing orchards and vegetable fields that supported Melbourne's growing population. The proximity to Melbourne (one hour by car) and the superb setting encouraged further development of the wine scene, as weekend warriors took to the region full time.
Though the Burgundian varieties of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the uncontested champions of the region, other varieties are gaining ground. Premium Pinot Noir is silky, luscious and textured while Chardonnay finds a finesse and elegance; however varieties like Pinot Gris/Grigio, Riesling, Merlot and Shiraz have also achieved critical acclaim. The exciting thing is that nearly the entire region is small scale, allowing for not only greater control over fruit sources, but overall diversity and individuality.
The Mornington Peninsula has become an unashamedly successful region, which has at times been reflected in its premium price points. But as there is always a friendly motel to the regions mega-resorts, so too the mortal drinkers are finding more and more wines being offered at humane prices. The former aspirations of every grower, pricing as per their successful neighbour, has given way with vineyard expansion and sustainable increases in production. The premium mantle is still held aloft, but the region’s offerings have got broader. It’s all about more, better options. Just like when those keys are in the bowl…