Are the Middletons on a roll? That’s one way to look at it. After all, this Yarra Valley estate was named Winery of the Year 2018 by James Halliday, and has just had its Quintet anointed with Heritage Five status in the Langton’s Classification of Fine Wine VII –cementing the Bordeaux blend’s position as one of Australia’s five greatest wines.
But conceiving this as a winning streak is misleading; both of those accolades recognise constant devotion to site and standards, plus accumulated wisdom – not to mention the collective benefit of this passion and application for the vineyard itself. Mature vines are an asset, as are the lessons of three generations of experience. Sensitive tinkering in the field and cellar enables tiny but telling improvements. So it’s not a roll; it’s the rare class that champions possess.
2016 was a unique season in the Yarra Valley. Like others, Mount Mary has generally seen the date of their first pick creep forward, making for more compressed harvests. The 2016 season was one of the shortest vintages the Middletons have experienced, with 90% of the fruit coming off the vine in the space of just 10 days. Typically, this would take more like four to six weeks.
“In such a season, the advantages of being small and having absolute control over the vineyard is critical in the pursuit of producing the highest quality of wine possible,” says Sam Middleton. “Compromising picking dates in seasons where ripening occurs extremely quickly can have devastating effects on quality and drastically change the wine stylistically.”
This is, above all, one of the most significant advantages of a small, family-run domaine. “Here at Mount Mary, without fail, each and every variety we grow is picked at optimum ripeness, regardless of seasonal differences,” Sam continues. “We believe this is the key to making highly consistent wines from year to year.”
Yes, praise be for consistency, in a fickle world with capricious seasons. But it’s even better to be able to count on something with such a capacity to evolve and surprise. And these 2016s have developed into something quite exceptional.
The Triolet and Chardonnay are extremely fruit expressive, showing great energy, intensity and finesse. Despite the warm season we were still able to harvest all white varieties with exceptional natural acid levels. This is the cornerstone for us in the pursuit of the quality and style we endeavour to produce every year. – Sam Middleton
2016 Mount Mary Triolet RRP $100
67% Sauvignon Blanc, 23% Semillon, 10% Muscadelle. The 2016 Triolet is an extremely expressive example of this blend on release. The aromas show more stone fruit and a slightly riper flavour spectrum than perhaps other years, where citrus characters seem to dominate. There is pear, lychee, lime and a touch of apricot. The palate has generous flavour and richness with stone fruits again dominating ahead of citrus flavours. Matched to this fruit presence are characters of grilled nuts, toast and nougat, adding complexity. It’s the mouthfeel and length of flavour of this blend that sets it apart from many other examples. We continue to drink these wines dating back to ’87, such is the ageability of these varieties when blended together. – Sam Middleton
65% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon, 10% muscadelle. Gleaming straw-green; the combination of finesse and intensity is of the highest scale, as is the purity of the fruit expression. This is the vineyard speaking, shaping a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon (leaving the muscadelle to one side) into a wine like no other. This is all about doing less, the hardest task for a winemaker. 97 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2019
This is very composed and compressed. The austerity is the hallmark of this style. It has mouthwatering acidity, which makes it very drinkable. It has texture, as well as apples, pears and a sweetly herbal edge such as basil. A chalky palate that is restrained, elegant and powerful. A blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle. Drink or hold. Screw cap. 94 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com
2016 Mount Mary Chardonnay RRP $120
The 2016 Chardonnay is showing tremendously well on release, a slightly more obvious wine than the subtle, restrained 2015. Although not any less acidic than previous vintages, it’s the intensity of flavour that gives balance and drinkability for such a young wine. The nose is perfectly reminiscent of a Mount Mary Chardonnay, another reminder of how strongly our vineyard exhibits a consistent flavour profile from vintage to vintage. There are grapefruit and citrus characters on the nose, with some riper pear and stone fruits playing a supporting role. There’s a hint of flint and struck match imparted by the barrel ferment, along with some honey and nut nuances. The French oak used in this wine gives toasty, spice complexity. The palate is rich and creamy with perfectly balanced phenolics, giving the wine structure and adding length. – Sam Middleton
Gold in colour, it’s not a shy Chardonnay by half: welcome to Flavour Country. Nectarine, white flowers, fresh mint, honey and pecans, and just a pleasant amount of struck match complexity. Glossy and glycerol, sizzled butter and nuts, yet fresh and floral, flinty elements at play, grapefruity acidity, long, rich and nutty to close, yet curiously fine throughout. Love this. Real Chardonnay. I reckon it’s pretty good drinking ’round about now, too. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
The Quintet and Pinot Noir have incredible power and intensity but not to the detriment of elegance and finesse. Both the Pinot Noir and Quintet have a beautiful tannic backbone ensuring both will age gracefully for many years to come. Significantly, the 2016 Quintet is our first wine bottled with natural corks guaranteed to be free of TCA. These corks have been tested using a technology known as NDTech (indicated on the side of the cork) where any corks containing TCA are rejected. – Sam Middleton
2016 Mount Mary Pinot Noir RRP $160
We often find our Pinots made in the warmer vintages surprise us the most when tasted in vertical line-ups. We believe this speaks to the uniqueness of our site, in particular the cold nights we experience during the growing season here at Mount Mary. The nose of the 2016 Pinot noir shows all the hallmarks of what we have come to expect from Mount Mary Pinot. Stewed strawberries, plums and the very familiar quince character are here, so often present in our Pinots. There is earthiness and spice on the nose adding complexity. The palate is firm with ripe tannin but complemented with juicy, rich dark fruits, perfectly matched with high-quality French oak. This wine is built for the dinner table, to be enjoyed with great food and excellent company. It will continue to develop beautifully for another decade and beyond. – Sam Middleton
Hand-picked, sorted via vibrating sorting tables, part crushed, part whole berry, 10-14 days on skins, matured for 11 months in French oak (27% new). Upper Yarra Valley complex texture, flavour and structure; dark berries/plums with pinot tannins woven through the fabric of the palate, length and balance up to the usual standards. A great achievement for the vintage. 97 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2019
There are deeply fragrant cherries and plums, as well as fresh undergrowth, blueberries, violets and alluring baking spices. The tannins are an important part of the wine. Savoury and firm but silky. There’s a strong character and style present here. Good depth and drive. Give this time. Try from 2022. 94 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com
None of your sweet and sour fruit profile here, that I see in many a local Pinot Noir. Raspberry, cherry, strawberry, cedar and spice, fennel and mushrooms, roses too. Medium-bodied, at best, fresh red fruits, bright acidity, plenty of flavour, with graphite tannin keeping it long, firm and tense. Finish is perfumed, kind of autumnal, and very long with that beautiful tannin cleaning it up so nicely. It has reach, and personality. In short, it’s very good. I really like it. A lot. 96 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
2016 Mount Mary Quintet RRP $165
46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot. 2016 saw a very even spread of quality and consistency across all five Quintet varieties. This has resulted in an extremely complex and compelling wine which shows brilliant purity of fruit. On the nose there is the perfect balance of red and dark fruits. Cherries and cranberries along with plums, blackcurrant, violets and cedar all contribute to this wine’s attractive aroma. There is spice and toasty characters contributed by French oak. The palate is filled with rich, perfectly ripe fruit, chocolate, liquorice and backed by grainy, firm tannin adding to the wine’s exceptional length and age-worthiness. This is the fifth consecutive vintage where we have experienced near perfect conditions for these Quintet varieties. The 2016 Quintet is drinking superbly now and will be even more impressive with time. – Sam Middleton, Mount Mary
45% cabernet sauvignon, 25% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, 6% malbec, 4% petit verdot, separately vinified and matured in French oak (35% new) for 18-22 months before blending and bottling. The ultimate Bordeaux blend, both in theory and reality. Almost butterfly wing transparency, yet compelling intensity and length, the flavours spanning cassis to blueberry to plum and blackcurrant, all with a textured backing. 97 points. James Halliday, Halliday Wine Companion 2019
Such perfume. Such finesse. It’s a flat out joy to smell, and to taste. Violets, cedar, red and black fruits, tobacco, pencils, marzipan and aniseed. Just into medium-bodied, well-etched and sure-footed, much like the kitten, who’s tongue the tannin sports. Delightful flavour of small red (mainly) and black berries, deft and precise, with a finish that’s long and crisp, which leaves no doubt about the quality of this wine. Line and length. Fragrance and poise. Subtle, yet thoroughly persuasive. Gentle rasp of tannin cleans the mouth. It’s a rare bird, this Cabernet. 97 points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
There are mulberries, raspberries, red plums, cassis and blueberries, as well as nice, spicy and cedary oak, fresh leaves and foresty notes. Youthful and very assertive. The DNA is all here. The cabernet is leading the wine here. There’s a powerful and uncompromising tannin core that bodes well for the future. Powerful and still deliciously elegant. Give this time to arrive and settle. It’s all here. Try from 2024. 96 points. Nick Stock, jamessuckling.com