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If you like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, head to these regions in Victoria for wines boasting remarkable detail and complexity.

Brian Freedman
August 21, 2018

An easy flight to Melbourne from Adelaide and then a quick drive south, the Mornington Peninsula, in Victoria, is astounding for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Chardonnays vary in style yet seem to excel in all of them, from crisper and more mineral to those with greater density and lushness. The Ocean Eight “Verve” Chardonnay 2015 was brilliantly structured, with herb and white tea complicating Granny Smith apple notes, and was a handy counterpoint to, for example, the majestic Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Chardonnay 2015, with exotic papaya and guava, butterscotch, white tea, seashells, and wonderful acidity. Lunch on the property, incidentally, at the remarkable Petit Tracteur bistro, is a must if you’re anywhere near here.

The Pinots in the Mornington Peninsula are every bit as attention-grabbing. The Moorooduc Estate “Robinson” Pinot Noir 2016 was a lifted, floral beauty that is already showing stunning detail and elegance. Paringa’s 2016 Pinot Noir finds an impeccable balance with its dominant notes of sweet and more tart cherries and an almost sappy mouthfeel. These, along with so many others, convinced me of the world-class potential of Pinot Noir in this part of Australia. Since coming home, anytime I’ve seen Mornington Pinot on a wine list, I’ve ordered it, just on the strength of everything I tasted while there.

Heading east from Melbourne, Yarra Valley, like Mornington Peninsula, also boasts remarkable wines of detail and complexity, particularly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Seville Estate’s savory Chardonnay 2016, for example, balanced green olives, seashell minerality, and other saline notes with appealing flashes of lemon pith and zest. Game changers like Giant Steps and Mac Forbes are names to look for, as well. The former, with its Lusatia Park Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, has crafted a brightly spiced and beautifully citric wine that would be perfect at the table; the latter, with the single-vineyard Woori Yallock 2016, has produced an almost Chablis-like wine with briny hints to the lemon, white tea, and tarragon notes.

With Pinot Noir, Rob Dolan’s “True Colours” Pinot Noir 2016 expressed the wild side of the variety, with a lifted nose of clove, cardamom, cherries, and tamarind paste. Giant Steps and Mac Forbes also craft standout Pinots, as well. If you see any of their various bottlings on a wine list or retail shelves, they’re more than worth considering. (Incidentally, make sure to save enough time for lunch at the restaurant at Giant Steps—it’s a supremely cool space, almost loft-like and comfortingly industrial, with great wine and a menu of food that will pretty much guarantee you’ll over-eat…in the best possible way.)

Great wines are being made from other varieties, too. Yarra Yering, for example, hit a home run with their Dry Red Wine No. 1 2015, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot that that sings an aria of cigar humidor, graphite, persimmon, sasparilla, and Middle Eastern spices. It’s a blockbuster.

Bottles to Try

Ocean Eight “Verve” Chardonnay 2015 ($55)
Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($44)
Moorooduc Estate “Robinson” Pinot Noir 2016 ($60)
Seville Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($36)
Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Chardonnay 2016 ($32)
Rob Dolan “True Colors” Pinot Noir 2016 ($20)
Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 ($60)
Yarra Yering “Underhill” Shiraz 2012 ($90)
Giant Steps Pinot Noir 2015 ($35)

See here for more on Australia's wine regions.