Located in the Port Phillip Zone an hour's drive north of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula has a short, yet remarkable history of fine wine production. While there were a smattering of vineyards in the nineteenth century, modern viticulture on the Peninsula began when Ballieu Myer established a vineyard in 1972. This began an explosion of vineyards over the next thirty years with Main Ridge (1975) Stonier Wines (1978) Dromana Estate (1982) Moorooduc Estate (1983) Paringa Estate (1985) Port Phillip Estate (1987) Kooyong Estate (1996) Yabby Lake (1998), Ten Minutes by Tractor (1999) amongst those to become established during this time. Mornington Peninsula’s proximity to Melbourne and its underlying historical status as a holiday destination has strongly influenced the region's structure, influencing land prices resulting in a patchwork of small vineyards and producers spread across the area triangulated between popular weekend destination of Somerville, Flinders on Bass Straight and Rosebud on Port Phillip Bay. The result is a number of particularly accessible cellar door facilities and restaurants catering to tourists over weekends.
A maritime climate, the influence of Mornington’s proximity to the ocean, Bass Straight, and Port Philip Bay is the single most significant climatic factor affecting vineyards, followed by the diverse typography of terrain. Overall the climate is cool, the pervasive winds limiting issues with humidity and frost. The typography soil profile is diverse, impacting on viticulture, with the significantly cooler, elevated area surrounding Red Hill and Arthurs Seat (Main Ridge, Port Philip Estate) on fertile red volcanic soils, differing from the warmer low-lying areas of Moorooduc and Tuerong (Yabby Lake) which have well-draining sandy soils.
Mornington Peninsula is renowned for the production of high quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which are the most planted varieties, alongside Shiraz, Pinot Gris and very small quantities of Sauvignon Blanc. Mornington Pinot Noir is diverse, with many single vineyard bottlings ranging from light delicate expressions to more powerful styles with wines displaying flavours of bright cherry, strawberry and nuances of earth to powerful expressions with darker fruits and firmer tannins. Outstanding producers include Kooyong, Hurley Vineyards, Port Philip Estate, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Moorooduc Estate and Yabby Lake. Quality conscious producers follow the same model with Chardonnay bottling premium wines from site specific vineyards. On the whole these display delicate aromas of melon, citrus, with warmer sites display fig notes. Depending on winemaking styles they also may show notes of nutty characters of cashew and toasty oak or butter. Outstanding producers include Main Ridge, Kooyong, Yabby Lake, Moorooduc and Ten Minutes by Tractor.
While only planted in small quantities Shiraz from the Mornington Peninsula displays the classic cool climate characters including spice, black and white pepper, smoked meats and liquorice. Outstanding producers are limited, though the variety is starting to gain ground with both Paringa Estate and Foxy’s Hangout winning awards at major Australian wine shows in the last three years.
Pinot Gris is produced in small quantities and occasionally labelled as Pinot Grigio to indicate a dryer Italian style expression of the variety with T'Gallant and Quealy having had success with this variety.
James Halliday’s Wine Atlas of Australian, James Halliday
Victorian Department of Primary Industries