In the 2011 edition of the Australian Wine Companion, James Halliday argues that more Australian wine producers need to focus on single-vineyard and single-region wines if  “we are to fundamentally change the negative perceptions of domestic and (most significantly) export markets about the diversity, the quality and the style of our wines, and our aspirations for the future.”

Mornington Peninsula  is one region that has certainly made great strides over the past decade in establishing itself as synonymous with the single grape variety of pinot noir. That the region is now on the map as a focal point for pinot noir is being celebrated by the Mornington Peninula October Pinot Week from 2 to 10 October 2010. Through a range of events, including wine tastings, dinners and master classes on the Peninsula and in Melbourne, the event aims to showcase the area as a destination for world-class pinot noir.

Renowned wine critic Jancis Robinson likens the region to Burgundy, because most of the wineries are small scale and make hand-crafted wines whose style and character vary enormously due to differences in terroir and the winemaker’s skill and interpretation. Of the 50 or so wineries with cellar doors in the Mornington Peninsula, stand-out wineries include Stonier Wines, Paringa Estate, Montalto, Moorooduc Estate, Hurley Estate,  Eldridge Estate, Willow Creek Vineyard and Ten Minutes by Tractor.

Most of these wineries produce award winning single-vineyard pinot noir, as well as equally outstanding estate or reserve wines. Paringa Estate’s current 2008 Estate Pinot Noir, for example, was recently named Champion Dry Red in the Winewise Championship 2010. The Moorooduc Estate Pinot Noir 2008 and the Moorooduc Estate McIntyre Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 were rated 96 and 95 respectively in James Halliday’s Australian Wine Companion 2011 edition. From time to time Ten Minutes by Tractor releases single vineyard bottlings to best illustrate the unique character or terrior of their vineyards. The highly rated Wallis Vineyard Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2008, for example, was fermented by using the indigenous or “wild yeasts” that reside in the vineyard, on the skins of the grapes and the winery – a non- interventionist approach that insures that the unique character or terroir of the vineyard is fully expressed.

The programme for Mornington Peninsula October Pinot Week is novel and varied. If you’re interested in drilling down to discover the secrets of pinot noir, you may want to sign up for the NMIT Masterclass in Melbourne, “The Clonal Life of Pinot Noir on the Mornington Peninsula”, Thursday 7 October 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm. Through barrel samples and finished wines, participants will be able to taste the staggering variation between the different clones of pinot noir found on the Mornington Peninsula, and gain a behind-the-scenes look at one of the world’s most treasured and enigmatic varieties.

For more information, visit Mornington Peninsula Vignerons October Pinot Week.

Photo: Willow Creek Vineyard