From the tasting team

Jane Faulkner on Mornington Peninsula wineries

By Jane Faulkner

6 Feb, 2024

There is so much to love about Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where producers both new and established are making their mark with quality wines.

What’s the allure of the Mornington Peninsula? It’s a simple question with perhaps a long answer, as visitors will attest, given it is merely an hour away from Melbourne’s CBD yet offers so much. There’s its beauty, the gentle sloping hills and shimmering water of Port Phillip and Western Port Bays either side, with the wilds of Bass Strait in the distance. Importantly, there are great wineries with good food and wine in between. But ask a vigneron and they will have a different take. 

Portsea Beach, Mornington Peninsula
The beaches and surrounds of the Mornington Peninsula make it a beautiful region, as seen here at Portsea.   

“This is a diverse landscape from north to south with small pockets of vineyards, not great swathes of land, and mostly small acreages with different soils,” says Barnaby Flanders*, the talented winemaker behind the Garagiste label. “There are different orientations to the bodies of water around us, plus the effect they have on our sites from changing weather patterns, rain and humidity. Then there are the challenges arising from where you are in relation to all that.” 

Barnaby has been on the peninsula since 2003 and says two varieties have since risen to the top: pinot noir and chardonnay. “Having the microclimate for those varieties is very exciting, whereas if you love chardonnay and pinot noir, but you were in the Barossa, that would be pretty shit. Here, the place and those varieties are well-suited to each other.” 

Garagiste vines in the Mornington Peninsula
Some of the special vines Barnaby Flanders works with at Garagiste. 

Yes, they are almost creating a symbiotic relationship, and what’s pleasing is how there are a variety of styles depending on site and producer, from rich, fuller-bodied pinots to lighter framed, juicy options, plus tight, linear chardonnay to fleshier and more textural ones. 

Bear in mind that Mornington Peninsula is a young region. While there were vines originally planted in 1886, sadly there is no continuity: the first commercial winery was established only in 1978. Yet, the modern era is defined by the absence of large-scale viticulture and brands with the geography largely dictating that and putting it firmly into boutique territory. It’s also one of its strengths as most are family owned and run. 

Inside the restaurant at Crittenden Estate
Inside the restaurant at Crittenden Estate, which Jane names as a star second-generation Mornington Peninsula winery.

While largely a conservative region, many second-generation producers are continuing the tradition, yet adding to the diversity with the likes of Rollo Crittenden from Crittenden Estate, Kate McIntyre MW from Moorooduc Estate and Tom McCarthy from Quealy. In between, there are pockets of difference. 

It’s fair to say this is the Australian landscape excelling in pinot gris and grigio. We can thank Tom McCarthy’s parents for such a route. Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy basically introduced the variety to Australian drinkers at their former winery T’Gallant, and along the way, spearheaded a range of styles. Plus, Kevin later added Italian skin-contact whites and clay vessels into the winemaking equation. 

The duo behind Victoria's Kerri Greens
The duo behind Kerri Greens – Tom McCarthy (left) and Lucas Blanck – come from great wine lineages.  

While Kathleen and Kevin are very much involved in the family business, these days Tom is charged with the winemaking and Lucas Blanck with the viticulture of the certified organic site (he’s the son of renown Alsace producer, Frédéric Blanck of Domaine Paul Blanck). These two young friends and their wives also set up another label, Kerri Greens – shortlisted for Best New Winery in the 2022 Halliday Wine Companion Awards

Named after a much-loved local beach spot, Kerri Greens wines are some of the most wonderfully delicious, compelling yet well-crafted examples I have tasted from the region in quite some time. It’s refreshing that Tom respects the tradition of where he lives, grows grapes and makes wine. Equally so, he and Lucas are not bound by it either. 

*Have you heard our podcast episode with Barnaby Flanders on By the Glass? Listen now.   

Sign up to view these tasting notes and ratings

By becoming a member of Wine Companion, you'll have access to the largest database of wines in Australia.