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The wines of Dromana Estate, Mornington Peninsula, Australia, with Gary Crittenden

Editor's note: a more recent review of these wines can be found here

Dromana estate is probably the best-known producer from the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria (near Melbourne), run by Gary Crittenden. He makes three different ranges. The second label is Schinus Molle, made with grapes bought in from all over the place. These represent excellent value for money and are consistently well made, tasty wines. Then there is the Dromana Estate range, made with estate-grown fruit with a no-holds barred quality approach. Finally, there is a range of Italian-style varietals from fruit grown in the cool King Valley region of Victoria. Gary was friendly and spent a good deal of time explaining his wines, and overall I was extremely impressed. In particular, I loved the Cabernet Merlot and the Reserve Chardonnay (I'm a bit of a sucker for big, complex Chardonnays, and this one was delicious). The Pinot Noirs were interesting rather than spectacular, and of the Italian varietals, I was won over by the Barbera and Sangiovese, but remained unmoved by the tough, fruitless Nebbiolo. Having said this, young Nebbiolo is tough and fruitless in Piedmont too, so maybe this will evolve into something interesting with some bottle age.

Schinus Sauvignon Blanc 1999
Made from grapes grown in the Goulbourn Valley and Swan Hill regions. This is richly aromatic and is a lovely bright fruity wine; very moreish.

Schinus Chardonnay 1998
Lovely soft fresh wine with bright fruit and a bit of toasty oak. Good to very good.

Dromana Estate Chardonnay 1998
Tried side-by-side with the 1999 version. Nice toasty nose: rich, complex and nutty. Ripe with some tropical fruit, with really nice character. Very good.

Dromana Estate Chardonnay 1999
Less oaky on the nose than the 1998, this is quite closed. Bright and spicy fruit on the palate but nicely integrated oak and fruit. Less showy than the 1998, but still good. Gary prefers this to the 1998; for current drinking I'd choose the 1998, although in the long run the 1999 will be superb.

Dromana Estate Reserve Chardonnay 1998
Matured in 100% new French oak. Big nose! Huge, lifted aromas, smoky and complex. On the palate there is rich, spicy ripe fruit and complex barrel ferment character. Spicy and delicious. Excellent.

Dromana Estate Pinot Noir 1998
Tasted alongside the Reserve Pinot Noir. Wonderful light cherry/orange colour, a little bit murky (it is unfiltered). Sweet strawberry-scented nose. On the palate it has soft, earthy, cherry, spicy, strawberry flavours. There is just enough structure to stop it being simply glorified, alcoholic fruit juice, but it's a close call. Interesting, but I'm not sure about it.

Dromana Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 1998
Slightly darker colour than the regular Pinot, and also a bit murky. Quite subdued caramel nose. Soft on the palate with more tannins, but these are hidden by sweet fruit. Complex and spicy, with quite high acid, this is tasty stuff. A thought-provoking wine.

Schinus Merlot 1998
The first bottle of this was badly corked. Remarkably, about a third of it had already been poured, almost exclusively to wine trade pros, who hadn’t spotted it (or rather strangely had not bothered to mention it to Gary). This is a successful wine with bright fruit, rich texture and some real character. Very good.

Dromana Estate Cabernet Merlot 1998
Intense cassis-laden and herby nose. There's lots of rich, concentrated character here. Big, ripe, sweet cassis flavours on the palate with some menthol-like richness. Lovely wine; excellent.

Barbera King Valley 1999
Barbera is a versatile variety from Piedmont that has been quite successful in Australia. Youthful and intense, with a spicy medicinal edge and cherry fruit. Tasty wine. Very good.

Sangiovese King Valley 1998
The red grape of Chianti, from Tuscany. Herby nose. Rich, acid-laden palate with spicy cherry fruit. A good food wine. Very good.

Nebbiolo King Valley 1998
This is the noble grape from Piedmont, responsible for Barolo and Barbaresco. But it doesn't travel well. Lighter colour with a browning rim. Tannic; not fruit driven. Plenty of Italian character and good acidity, but it is missing something. OK.

 Wines tasted May 2000