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Chardonnay is Mornington’s ‘unsung hero’

Chardonnay is the “unsung hero” of Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, according to Stonier’s chief winemaker.

Vineyards in the Mornington Peninsula (Photo: Wiki)

Speaking to the drinks business, Mike Symons said the Australian region’s leading white variety is overlooked despite also being the “most consistent” from year to year.

He pointed to the age of the vines as well as the variety of styles the grape produces across the peninsula – riper in the north, leaner in the south – as major contributing factors in the increasing complexity of Mornington Chardonnays.

“Aussie Chardonnay has really taken a leap in the last six or seven years,” he continued, “and people are rediscovering Chardonnay which is great.”

There are around 250 hectares of Chardonnay planted in Mornington, compared to 450ha of Pinot Noir and some eight clones are used.

One of the country’s original Chardonnay clones, ‘P58’, is particularly widely planted, alongside clones from California and Mendoza (the latter usually called ‘Gin Gin’ in Australia and it makes up the backbone of clonal stock planted in Margaret River).

However, many clones for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were originally planted for their high cropping characteristics rather than quality.

The problem is more acute for the Pinot plantings but across the region the focus is on better clonal selection and planted in the right place to help find the “inherent character of a vineyard,” according to Yabby Lake’s chief winemaker, Tom Carson.

Despite being a comparatively small region, Mornington enjoys a number of diverse micro-climates created by competing influences from large bodies of nearby water. Soils tend to be sedimentary in the south and more volcanic-basalt in the north, while vineyards can sit anywhere between 40-300 metres above sea level.

The (very) deep Port Philip bay on the north-western side of the peninsula brings cool afternoon winds but, thanks to a low range of hills, areas such as Dromana and Moorooduc are more sheltered and therefore warmer than Red Hill and Main Ridge in the south, which is exposed to Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean.

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