Exploring Australia's premier Pinot Noir region, part 3


Montalto is a boutique producer established in 1998 by John and Wendy Mitchell. John studied viticulture when he returned to Australia from the UK in 1990, and ended up buying this property in Red Hill South which had 30 acres of vines planted back in 1985. The current range draws from six vineyards across the Peninsula: Montalto, Main Ridge, Merricks, Tuerong, Pennon Hill and North Face. They also have olive groves, a high end restaurant and a sculpture park.

simon black montalto

I met with winemaker Simon Black (above). He's a thoughtful winemaker, and has been working hard with Pinot Noir, favouring early picking and playing creatively with stems. 'For me it is always about balance,' says Black. 'A large part of that balance is having alcohol in check.'


For Chardonnay, he likes to use 100% whole bunch and then go to barrels with high solids, and doesn't add SO2 until blending. 'I'm doing a lot of work with yeast lees: these wines have lees going back to five years.' He started keeping lees in barrel but now he keeps yeast cells from the previous harvest and then adds them back to current harvest, keeping them in stainless steel. 'The extra volume of lees helps keep the wine in a reductive state.' He's also been doing some whole bunch with Chardonnay, where he loads it into a red fermenter, covers it up for 2 weeks, and then presses it whole bunch.

sculpture park

For Pinot, when he does bunch, it isn’t just throwing in a bit of whole bunch. 'It’s 100%. You get different outcomes,' he states. 'You can get stemmy character from layering. But if you are doing whole bunch it’s more about controlling the length of the ferment. I’ve struggled here with whole bunch because if you don’t get the physiology right in the vines then you get green characters.'

Black has a new technique, which is a bit more like carbonic maceration. He puts whole bunches into the fermenter for 14 days, then he destems and ferments traditionally. 'You get the carbonic character,' he says. 'You still get a bit of fermentation with the stems, but you get the incredible savoury characters in the wine without greenness. You get the best of both worlds. I then blend to the finished wine.'


Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay 2016 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Rich, vivid, intense and spicy with lively citrus and stone fruits. Primary, taut and mineral with a citrus kick at the end. Nice intensity here. Lovely vigour and purity with good acidity. 92/100

Montalto Estate Chardonnay 2015 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
This has both texture and freshness with a delicacy to the lemony fruit. Fine nuts and spice in the background as well as a bit of white peach richness and some poached pears. Lovely lemony finish. 94/100

Montalto The Eleven Chardonnay 2012 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Named after the 11 rows it comes from. Complex creamy, nutty, bready wine with some fine toastiness. A strong crème brulee character with lovely intense citrussy fruit and great precision. Intriguing and more-ish. Lovely fresh finish. 94/100

Montalto Pennon Hill Pinot Grigio 2016 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
A lovely pretty, fruity wine. Lemony with some grapey notes and a bit of detail filling in from the 30% wild-ferment barrel fermented component. There’s nice depth and texture here. Lovely wine with some personality as well as an intrinsic prettiness. 90/100

Montalto Estate Pinot Gris 2016 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
100% wild fermented in old French oak barrels, with some old lees added. Has a bit of the whole bunch added too. Complex, spicy, grapey and textured yet still very fresh and fruit driven. Nice pear and some ripe apple, even. Some lychee, too. Very impressive. 92/100

Montalto Whole Bunch Gris 2016 (trial wine)
50 cases. Orange, copper colour. This has some herb, rhubarb and red cherry as well as pear and apple fruit. Green tea complexity, too. Very savoury with a bit of grip but also some sweet grapey notes. Lots of interest here. 93/100

Montalto Tuerong Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Down the hill. Brown clay loam, with MV6 clone. 20 year old vines. Lovely texture and spiciness with leather, liquorice and dried herbs. There’s a depth on the palate with some spicy tannins adding grip. Savoury and substantial with warmth and also definition. Very structural. 94/100

Montalto Main Ridge Block Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Up the hill. Really bright and floral with raspberries and cherries, wild strawberries and herbs. Quite powerful with good structure and fresh, sappy fruit. Very pretty, but also detailed and structured with potential for development. Concentrated and fruit driven. 94/100

Montalto Estate Pinot Noir 2015 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Supple, fine and spicy with a hint of meatiness. Quite structured and vivid with some peppery notes. Has concentration and structure. Primary and needs time: has a combination of the structure of the warmer lower sites but also the floral interest of the hill. Faintly sappy too. 93/100

Montalto Pennon Hill Shiraz 2015 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Lovely floral red cherry and raspberry fruit with lovely fine peppery notes, together with clove and cinnamon spiciness. Fragrant, detailed and delicious. Lovely prettiness and savoury edginess here. Super-smashable. 92/100

Montalto Estate Shiraz 2014 Mornington Peninsula, Australia
Has density and structure here with real presence under the brighter peppery notes. Clove and dried herbs, with sleek black cherry and plum fruit. Lovely wine showing real depth and focus. 93/100

1 Introduction
2 Paringa Estate
3 Montalto
4 Ocean Eight
5 Stonier
6 Ten Minutes By Tractor
7 Kooyong
8 Willow Creek
9 Crittenden Estate
10 Yabby Lake
11 Quealy
12 Mooroduc
13 Eldridge Estate of Red Hill 

See also:

The wines of Jamsheed

Wines tasted 02/17  
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