2019 Circe, Hillcrest Road Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula, Australia
This has some very attractive lemon, grapefruit and peach aromas with a flinty undertone, too. The palate has a taut, flavorful delivery of lemon, peach and grapefruit, with some vivid acidity pinning the finish into place.
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James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (December 2020)
About this WINE
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.
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.
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
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Exceptionally elegant and pure, the nose of the 2019 Hillcrest Road Chardonnay is all about fresh lemons and river stones with a fine, mineral, savoury top note.
The palate is so fresh and cleansing with that pebble stone minerality and a delicate framework of racy acidity coming through. The wine is perfectly balanced yet also so vibrant and full of energy. This has a lovely, lipsmacking finish which leave the palate humming. Absolutely delicious now but could also be enjoyed until 2026.
Catriona Felstead MW, Senior Buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd (November 2022)
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