I was prepared for anything. Dressed as Reese Witherspoon from Wild, it was time to experience the Mornington Peninsula. Of all Australian wine regions, the Mornington Peninsula is home to one of the most important maritime climates. It is fully exposed to the elements, surrounded on three sides by the sea. An emphatically cool climate wine region, its harsh environment for grape growing is notorious amongst winemakers.
Warwick Ross may be a well-known film producer with a degree in mechanical engineering, yet his bravery in winemaking is just as impressive. His winery, Portsea Estate, lies at the furthermost point of the peninsula. Initially, he was startled upon discovering the wind-whipped site, but his commitment to the local Portsea community and love of Burgundy made him determined to produce premium wines in the area. In 2000 he created the Portsea Estate winery with his sister Caron and now produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that wine critics compare to top Burgundian wines.
Walking around his vast estate, flanked by his five Labradors, I could see for myself how much these vines fight to hold their own. As Ross tells me, ‘grapes are best when they have to struggle’. This struggle is made all the more tangible when one tastes the taut, cutting-edge precision in Ross’ wines. Margaret River, another wine region known for stunning Chardonnay and Pinot, tends to reveal much more overt fruit in its wines. But these grapes from the Peninsula evoke a lifted freshness, perfume and verve that many would never guess could come from an Aussie Chardonnay. I was so impressed I actually smuggled a bottle back home in my suitcase. Sorry to the Matthews and Joe – this wine is not going to be enjoyed ‘back in the studio’!