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2013 Circe Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Circe is a boutique label from Dan Buckle (who is also winemaker at Mount Langi Ghiran) and Aaron Drummond (Mount Langi’s marketing manager). The fruit is drawn from the Hillcrest Road single vineyard, in Red Hill in the Mornington Peninsula. The vineyard covers Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, on deep red volcanic basalt soils.
With Port Phillip Bay to the west, Western Port Bay to the east and Bass Straight to the south, it’s impossible to miss the predominant influence on viticulture in the Mornington Peninsula. As such, this cool location is proving its worth as one of the quality New World Pinot Noir regions.
The Hillcrest Pinot Noir by Circe has very rapidly stridden to the front and is now leading quality wine production in the area. It is sourced from a 1.2 ha site about 2.5 miles from the coast, planted in 1993 in a cool North East facing site. With only just over 20 hl/ha making it to fermentation, low yield is the main weapon in the quality arsenal. In the good years the team use whole bunch fermentation with week-long maceration and carefully implemented foot treading over a further six days. This considered winemaking delivers a wine of standout sophistication.
Pinot Noir is probably the most frustrating, and at times infuriating, wine grape in the world. However when it is successful, it can produce some of the most sublime wines known to man. This thin-skinned grape which grows in small, tight bunches performs well on well-drained, deepish limestone based subsoils as are found on Burgundy's Côte d'Or.
Pinot Noir is more susceptible than other varieties to over cropping - concentration and varietal character disappear rapidly if yields are excessive and yields as little as 25hl/ha are the norm for some climats of the Côte d`Or.
Because of the thinness of the skins, Pinot Noir wines are lighter in colour, body and tannins. However the best wines have grip, complexity and an intensity of fruit seldom found in wine from other grapes. Young Pinot Noir can smell almost sweet, redolent with freshly crushed raspberries, cherries and redcurrants. When mature, the best wines develop a sensuous, silky mouth feel with the fruit flavours deepening and gamey "sous-bois" nuances emerging.
The best examples are still found in Burgundy, although Pinot Noir`s key role in Champagne should not be forgotten. It is grown throughout the world with notable success in the Carneros and Russian River Valley districts of California, and the Martinborough and Central Otago regions of New Zealand.
Mornington Peninsula is one of Victoria's key wine regions, located to the South of the Melbourne metropolis and is the Eastern arm, along with the Bellarine Peninsula to the West, that creates Port Phillip Bay. On the Eastern side of the Peninsula you find another body of water, Western Port Bay, meaning that the vineyards of the peninsula are surrounded by water on three sides when you also consider Bass Straight to the South.
Since the latest wave of commercial wine production began in 1978, this cooler maritime environment has very quickly become an important wine-making area with a keen focus on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Aromatic varieties such as Pinot Gris, Riesling and Viognier are also planted here.
Soils vary from sands and alluvial clays though to volcanic soils on Red Hill these locations between 25 and 250 meters above sea level are generally well drained but hold enough of the 350mm of rain that falls during the growing season.
Now with over 60 producers the style of wines is now becoming recognisable. Chardonnays with purity and leanness not found on many other places in Victoria and Pinot Noirs with intense fruit character, spice and smoke, free of too much weight.
With the centre of Melbourne only an hour on the motorway, this region has long housed Melbournians in the second homes over long hot Summers, therefore offering some of the most expensive real estate in the state. No surprise then that typically Mornington Peninsula wines tend not to be inexpensive. That's not to say they don't offer value, with high standards of viticulture and very good growing conditions ensuring there is a lot of fascination to be discovered.
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