The Mornington Peninsula makes some of the most beautiful cool-climate wines in the country. And the Peninsula Picnic, which returns to Melbourne Racing Club’s Mornington Racecourse on March 17, is the perfect opportunity to sample the best wine the region has to offer.
You may not know your Pinot Noir from your Shiraz, but that doesn’t mean you can’t savour some refined examples. We asked two local winemakers for tasting tips that you can take to the picnic.
Learn local flavours
Many wines have regional characteristics, so it helps to talk to the person pouring the wine about how they would describe the varieties made in the area.
Kathleen Quealy, of Quealy Winemakers in Balnarring, says white wines made on the Mornington Peninsula have a particular aroma, which she describes as honeysuckle or white blossom.
A classic Pinot Gris from the area might smell like wood smoke, fresh bread or honey, while a local Chardonnay might have characteristics of lemon, creme brulee and oak.
The Peninsula is also famous for its Pinot Noir, an easy-to-drink red that is usually light in colour.
“If you’re trying red wine down here, you’re probably trying Pinot Noir,” Quealy says. “Look for cherry, chocolate, star anise and maybe a bit of plum.”
Keep it slow and simple
Taking the time to appreciate all aspects of the wine – its colour, smell and taste – will help you understand and appreciate it. “Tasting wine and thinking about wine slows down the drinking process,” Quealy says. “I think it’s a great thing to drink wine slowly and enjoy the complexity of it.”
Don’t worry about impressing your friends or the vendor, says winemaker Sam Coverdale of Polperro Wines in Red Hill. Wine tasting is subjective, so you can just ask yourself if you like it.
“I try and not get too carried away with fruit descriptors and bergamot and all those sort of slightly wanky terms,” Coverdale says. “Some people might smell blueberries, but others will say it’s violets. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about how it feels in your mouth and whether you enjoy it or not.”
Don’t be afraid to ask
Learning more about the wine, winemaker or winery will help you understand the flavours and increase your enjoyment of it. “It can be a super-enjoyable experience,” Coverdale says. “Just knowing the story behind the wine – how it’s grown and where it’s from and what happened in that particular year: I think that’s the most exciting thing.”
The Peninsula Picnic is on Saturday March 17 at Mornington Racecourse, 320 Racecourse Road, Mornington.