Handpicked Wines from the ‘Pinot Coast’

Handpicked Wines from the ‘Pinot Coast’

Whether we care to admit it or not, the Australian mainland doesn’t have too many wine-producing regions that are ideally suited to making the Burgundian classic Pinot Noir. After all, it’s a finicky grape that is highly susceptible to rot and disease and doesn’t do well in warm or wet climates. For this reason, many of the Australasian examples, which excite critics and consumers alike, come from Tasmania or across the ditch in Central Otago. Most mainland sites that do manage to make quality are high altitude. But there is a notable exception making a Pinot Noir that the French would be proud of, Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula.

Situated about an hour’s drive to the south of Melbourne, the “Pinot Coast” – as it sometimes gets called due to the large number of vineyards, cellar doors and farm gates producing the style – has seen tremendous growth in the volume and quality of Pinot Noir made in the region since the industry emerged in the 1980s. Plantings had been made on the Peninsula in the late 1800s, but by the turn of the century, the industry ran out of steam and the vineyards were abandoned. Contemporary vignerons have realised that despite having an altitude of only 25 – 250m above sea level, the cooling breezes from the southern maritime environment not only ensure a cool climate but also dramatically reduce the risk of frost damage. An interesting fact from Wine Australia is that all of Mornington Peninsula’s vineyards are located within 7 km of the coastline!

Geologically, the soils across the region vary greatly – from tertiary basalt near Red Hill, to alluvial soils near Dromana – meaning that Pinot from the district can present very differently from one sub-region to another. Aromatic, floral and oozing ripe red berries, the Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir has built a reputation for quality and reliability. I find it impossible to have a favourite Pinot from the region, and the nuances and character of the various sub-regions are just the icings on the cake. I do love those from Polperro, Ten Minutes by Tractor, Yabby Lake, Kooyong and Paringa, but one that is rising in my estimation, is Handpicked Wines.

The Handpicked Wines Pinot Noir caught my attention when James Halliday’s 2022 Companion awarded 95 points to the Handpicked Wines Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir – a great score by any measure! Made from fruit sourced from multiple vineyards on the Peninsula, the fruit was (as the name would suggest) harvested by hand and matured in a mix of new and seasoned oak barrique’s for 11 months. A small amount of the fruit was whole-bunch fermented to add character, charm and complexity.

And it’s not your typical Mornington Pinot. While there is a brightness in the glass and a highly perfumed nose and oodles of juicy ripe cherries and spice on the palate, there’s a savoury layer of mushroom and herbaceous leafiness hidden beneath the waves of red plums, redcurrant and strawberries. It’s lively – possibly even fresher than the Antarctic breeze that blows through the region in winter! It’s the intricacy and structure that piques interest, but the persistence of fine tannins on the finish that makes another glass of velvet bliss an inevitability. The savoury charm captivates in a way that suggests that it’s a great wine to put with food – like a beef and mushroom pie!

At an RRP of $59.99 it’s a mid-range price point by local standards, but I reckon it’s better than many sold at the $100 mark. It might seem steep, but good Pinot is never cheap, and cheap Pinot is never good!

As published in the Courier Mail.


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