All the wineries of Margaret River and Yarra Valley were established by families over a similar timeframe. The first 10 wineries ran from 1967 to 1975 in Margaret River, and 1962 to 1972 in the Yarra Valley. These dates come from the Halliday Wine Companion database, which runs to the establishment year of 2019 for each region, with moving totals of 169 wineries for the Yarra, and 171 for Margaret River. What I call ‘births, deaths and marriages’ are part of the vinous landscape for all regions, hence moving totals. Cullen Wines and Mount Mary both have 1971 as their establishment date, and both continue to be family-owned and run with very similar views and practices, acutely aware of their environment and the need for sustainability.
Today I look at Mount Mary, and one major point of difference. Western Australia and South Australia have remained free of the destructive root-feeding phylloxera, whereas Victoria has a number of infected regions. The Yarra Valley is such a region, but was free of phylloxera until September 2006. The similarities with cancer are that there is no cure, that it progresses slowly, but may have been active longer and not diagnosed, and minor or massive surgery may remove it.
The viticultural answer first used in France in the late 1880s, after the vineyards of France and Europe were ravaged, was grafting each vine onto American rootstock immune to phylloxera. Mount Mary was one of the quickest Yarra Valley wineries to move, its first grafted block planted in 2003. It now has 50% of the vineyard so planted, with an average age of 10-15 years, taking the opportunity to introduce grenache, shiraz and mourvedre (for a red blend), and marsanne, roussanne and clairette (for a white blend).
Third generation Sam Middleton carries on the work commenced by revered Dr John Middleton, taking the winery self-sufficient for electricity, eliminating herbicides, moving to the elimination of synthetic fungicides, and towards carbon neutral across the business. He’s turning challenges into opportunities, taking nothing for granted.
2020 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Chardonnay
Four clones, hand-picked, fermented and matured in French oak (30% new) for 11 months. Typically refined and elegant, but isn’t stand-offish, the length built around natural acidity and citrus zest. Oak is part of the upbringing, but discreet, and the wine has a very long plateau ahead.
97 points, drink to 2040, 13.3% alc, Screwcap, $120
2020 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Triolet
A 62/28/10% blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle. Barrel fermented and matured for 11 months in used barriques. Its length of the palate is akin to that of the chardonnay, and the wine’s balance guarantees complexity. Green apple, pear and lemon citrus intermingle on an already generous palate.
95 points, drink to 2035, 13% alc, Screwcap, $105
2020 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Pinot Noir
Intense optical scanning of every berry by sorting tables and Oscillys; matured in French oak (25% new) for 16 months. Radiant clear crimson. All the red berries of forest and field fill the bouquet and the strikingly fresh palate, which expands on the finish with the proverbial peacock’s tail.
97 points, drink to 2035, 13.3% alc, Cork, $165