The cool climate Mornington Peninsula is now internationally recognised for producing much of Australia’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Australian Geographical Indication “Mornington Peninsula” was entered in the Register of Protected Names on 18 March 1997.
John Gladstones, in his definitive book ‘Viticulture and Environment’ says the region…
“…has arguably the best ripening climate in Victoria for light to medium bodied table wines…this would appear to be one of the few regions of Australia where the precise characteristics of the great Burgundy wines (both red and white) might reasonably be aspired to.”
Almost half the vines planted on the Mornington Peninsula are Pinot Noir, followed closely by Chardonnay. A smaller amount of Shiraz and other cool climate varieties are planted, but it is the more recently introduced Pinot Gris which is fast creating an exciting reputation for fine quality and regional distinctiveness.
There are now more than 200 vineyards, 60 wineries and at least 50 cellar doors on the Mornington Peninsula. Most are concentrated around Red Hill, Red Hill South and Main Ridge, with clusters at Moorooduc and Tuerong in the north, and Balnarring and Merricks towards Western Port Bay.
The very early signs that the Mornington Peninsula held distinct promise as a winemaking region came in 1886, when the first commercial winery established in Dromana won an honourable mention in the Intercontinental Exhibition in 1886.
Vines had been planted on the Mornington Peninsula since the 1850s, when the Balcombe family produced wine from their small vineyard at The Briars in Mount Martha (one of the original vines still exists on the estate, which is managed by the National Trust and Mornington Peninsula Shire and is open to the public).
However, while patriarch William Balcombe had gained fame both for hosting Napoleon Bonaparte at his family home on the island of St Helena and later as the Treasurer of the colony of NSW, his achievements did not extend to wine, which was dubbed ‘Briars Vinegar’ by the locals.
In the 1870s and 80s, Simon ‘the Frenchman’, who lived in the hollow of a tree on Arthur’s Seat and was the first European to settle for any length of time on the Mornington Peninsula’s highest hill (305m), also dabbled in winemaking.