The 2018 vintage marked 10 years since the vines for Mount Mary’s “Rhône Project” – whence RP1 and 2 get their name – went into the hallowed turf of this Yarra Valley icon.
It was a relatively warm and dry vintage that provided the perfect endorsement of the Middleton family’s decision to embark on this endeavour in the first place. The seven Rhône varieties – Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette for the white, Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Cinsault for the red – were selected for their ability to thrive in warmer, drier conditions.
So, of course, this isn’t about merely coping. This project is geared towards Mount Mary continuing to pursue the elegant, sophisticated wine styles that have made them such a celebrated name. This is now the fifth commercial release of the Marli Russell wines, and Sam Middleton and the team have continued to fine-tune these. Look at the track record, and you’ll see the pedigree has been there from the outset. The progression can be measured in the fact that already we are seeing, in the texture, length and underlying complexity, that these wines already bear the distinct Mount Mary stamp of character and quality.
These ‘18s are the best yet, and we’re very pleased to commend them to you.
The 2018 season
The 2018 growing season was not without its challenges. We saw particularly high rainfall in November and December 2017, filling us with optimism for the months ahead. As it turned out, that rainfall preceded one of the driest spells recorded during a January to March period, with no significant rain falling before the end of March.
These particularly dry, warm seasons – the kind we seem to be experiencing on slightly more regular basis – are the inherent reason we chose to explore these varieties on our site back in 2008. It was extremely satisfying for us to see how well these varieties performed under such conditions. We believe the two ‘Marli Russell by Mount Mary’ wines from 2018 are the strongest we have made to date under this label. – Sam Middleton
2018 Mount Mary Marli Russell RP1 RRP $54
45% Marsanne, 45% Roussanne and 10% Clairette. This wine is very much set in a leaner, lighter framework than is typical of these varieties when grown in warmer regions. Stylistically it is of the same vein as other Mount Mary white wines. This wine should never be served too cold for fear of drastically muting the aromatic profile and killing the delicate array of flavours on the palate. Just below room temperature is ideal.
The fruit was destemmed and crushed to press. 100% barrel fermentation before 11 months ageing. No new oak but one second-fill barrel was used. Minimal lees stirring and no malolactic conversion. The wine was bottled unfined and lightly filtered.
This wine shows beautiful floral aromatics. It is dominated by crisp just ripe pear (thanks to the Roussanne) while the Marsanne brings in riper melon and honeyed aromatics. The palate is crisp and tight at this point but with more than adequate concentration and flavour. We anticipate this wine will develop more richness, spice and nuttiness with time in bottle, developing into something quite special for those with patience. – Sam Middleton
Quince, lime, almond, a slight flinty/smoky note, honey and flowers. It’s tight, and focused, the fine chalky texture very appealing, delivers crunch and lime/green apple flavour, and finishes long and firm, with an almost quinine bitterness (as a positive, of course) and melon rind. Feels like it will go very well with bottle age. 94+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front June 2020
2018 Mount Mary Marli Russell RP2 RRP $67
This wine includes all four red varieties from our Marli Russell plantings: 55% Grenache, 20% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault. It was always the intent for this blend to be Grenache dominant (at least 50%) and now having worked with these varieties in the vineyard for 10 years we are convinced more than ever that this is such an important aspect. We truly love the way Grenache grows on our site and it is this variety we hope dictates the wine’s style. A wine of elegance, with beautiful mid-palate fruit sweetness combined with savoury attributes and fine-grained tannin. It is matured in larger-format oak barrels to preserve freshness, fruit vibrancy and energy.
Destemmed, with 100% whole berries going into the open-top fermenter. Pumped over for the first four days, after which the wine was plunged three times a day. All up, the wine spent 10-14 days on skins. The Grenache was raised in seasoned large-format oak (1600L), while the Shiraz went into two- to four-year-old barriques. The Cinsault and Mourvèdre went into older barriques. The wines were aged for 14-16 months. They were bottled unfined after a coarse filtration.
This wine has a strikingly bright, vibrant hue when first poured into the glass. The nose is bursting with small red-berry aromas and spice. It quickly draws you back in for another look as it slowly reveals it’s many layers of complexity. On the palate there are raspberries, strawberries, cherries and spice. The palate is medium-bodied, elegant and refined but with great concentration and length of flavour. While not necessarily needing time to age, we suspect it will flesh out even further over the coming years. – Sam Middleton
Ripe strawberry, raspberry, dried roses and herbs, redcurrant and rosehip jelly. Medium-bodied, but has impact, the quality of the tannin moving up a notch this vintage, offset with cool limped acidity, succulent flavour, and a long finish shaped up with chalk dust tannin. A very strong release here. A pleasure to drink. 95 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front May 2020
ALSO AVAILABLE, IN LIMITED QUANTITIES…
2017 Marli Russell RP1 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, 20% Clairette RRP $54
An estate-grown hand-picked trio of 40% each Marsanne and Roussanne and 20% Clairette. Destemmed/crushed, a span of different yeasts used, 100% fermented in French barriques (5% new), matured for 11 months. Has considerable length and intensity, with complexity and depth certain to grow as the wine ages in bottle. 95 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion July 2019
2016 Marli Russell RP1 40% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, 20% Clairette RRP $54
Shows quince and lemon, lime leaf and blossom, puffs of fragrant talc too. It’s lean and focussed, trim and precise in the palate, drives with energy across a scintillating length. Compact wine of high refreshment factor but undoubted pedigree. This is a fantastic, understated yet elegant wine. And drinkability is through the roof. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front May 2018
2015 Marli Russell RP 1 60% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne RRP $63
A 60/40% blend. Diamond-bright straw-green; initially Marli keeps her skirt tucked tight around her ankles, then just when you think you’d better come back later, the wine soars on the back-palate and aftertaste. These are typically reticent varieties – they’re not aromatic, so there’s everything to look forward to. 95 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion August 2017
2017 Marli Russell RP2 55% Grenache, 20% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault RRP $67
55% Grenache, 20% each of Shiraz and Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault, each vinified separately. Hand-picked, bunch-sorted on vibrating tables, open-fermented, 10-14 days on skins, matured in large format French oak (1575-2500l). Tangy, zesty, supple red and black fruits, slinky tannins just so. 95 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2020
2016 Marli Russell RP2 50% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre, 20% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault RRP $67
Floral perfume, rose hip and strawberry scents, touches of green herbs and pepper. Lovely perfume. Has a softness to taste, supple, very long, very pretty in its just-ripe fruit characters and set on sheets of lively acidity and faint peppery spice. There’s touches of tomato leaf and rhubarb too, but well set into the wine, lending complexity and savoury touches. Lots of charm, sleekness, drinkability. 93 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front May 2018