“While there wasn’t a lot of wine made in the Yarra Valley in ‘14,” writes James Halliday, “some wine of very high quality was made – witness this.” The lawyer-turned-critic’s Exhibit ‘A’ is the Mount Mary Quintet. But he could equally have made his case with the Triolet or Chardonnay, both of which notched up 97 points. Or indeed the Pinot Noir, whose balance and length are “nigh-on perfect”. In short, Sam Middleton has turned out another suite of sensational wines.
To recap, this season started with a troubled spring. In November 2013 Mount Mary experienced cold, wet and windy conditions during the crucial period of flowering and fruit set. The consequences were seen most severely in the Pinot and Chardonnay, where cropping levels were generally a third lower than average. The later-ripening varieties were affected too, though not as drastically. After fruit set, the 2014 season turned warm and dry.
Those conditions led to minuscule amounts of beautifully concentrated, structured wines. The reds are built on ripe flavours and a core of fine-grained tannin, while maintaining varietal expression and purity. “What a wine,” as Gary Walsh says of the Quintet. The whites, meanwhile, have a generous line of natural acid thanks to early picking, but their tremendous mid-palate weight lends them balance. “Great Yarra Valley Chardonnay, great length,” comments Halliday, while the Triolet is “Without question, the best white Bordeaux blend in Australia, combining richness with finesse and length.” They’ll keep, for sure, but with such high quality and low quantity, these aren’t wines to waver over.
2014 Mount Mary Triolet RRP $100
The Triolet, first produced at this vineyard in 1987, was inspired by the whites of Graves, Bordeaux. The vineyard is planted to 65% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle. Each variety is picked at optimum ripeness, and is usually fermented separately. The characteristics of optimum ripeness are different for each variety. We pick the Sauvignon Blanc after the strong herbaceous flavours have gone; the Semillon when the acid is not too harsh; and the Muscadelle when the flavour intensity peaks. In the winery we use mostly older barrels for this wine, with the entire production being barrel fermented. We use grape solids to give the wine texture, and lees stirring to add complexity and body. The Triolet is typically aged for 11 months, by which time the overt fruity flavours have diminished, and complex aromas start to develop.
The aromas of the 2014 Triolet seem more dominated by the Semillon rather than the Sauvignon Blanc which is considered more typical of the Triolet on release. There is a customary hint of reduction given by the barrel fermentation and lees stirring, and this is strongly backed by blossom, lemon, grass and herbs. The palate is more citrus-dominated along with some passion fruit pith and nougat/nuttiness adding complexity. The combination of acid and phenolics gives this wine a textural edge that is stylistically very important for this blend. We believe these elements in combination have allowed this wine to develop such a reputation for ageability. – Sam Middleton
A 65/25/10% blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle; hand-picked, destemmed, lightly crushed, different cultured yeast strains for each parcel, 100% barrel-fermented, matured for 11 months in oak on partial solids with some stirring. Without question, the best white Bordeaux blend in Australia, combining richness with finesse and length – and above all else – dazzling complexity. 97 points. James Halliday
I described last year’s release as “quality with a charming face”. This release is in the same mould. It oozes drinkability and yet it doesn’t leave sophistication behind. It’s textural too: it’s one of those whites that just feels good as it rolls through your mouth. Grapefruit is to the fore, some lemongrass too, a slip of smokiness, minor florals/rosewater, a bit of grip. It’s pristine but not clinical; it’s firm and yet it gives up plenty of flavour. It’s hard not to be both delighted and impressed. 93+ points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
2014 Mount Mary Chardonnay RRP $105
We aim to make a Chardonnay with great length, which reaches a balance between richness and elegance. While some techniques are borrowed from the Burgundians, there are some departures from traditional practice in response to local factors, which ensure a unique wine. The most notable of these is that our Chardonnay does not undergo malolactic fermentation, as our local climate leaves the fruit with ideal acidity when it is picked. The entire production is barrel fermented. Grape solids are included to give the wine texture, and lees stirring is conducted to add complexity and body. The Chardonnay is matured in barrel for 11 months prior to bottling. 30% goes into new French oak barriques with the remainder in older barrels and large casks (1500L).
There are few words to describe this 2014 other than quintessential Mount Mary Chardonnay. The nose shows some toast from French oak, a slight hint of reduction, grapefruit, nectarine and an array of spices. The palate is well balanced, with the various parts of this wine seemingly already well integrated. There is an underlying intensity and power to the palate. A fresh line of acidity helps to give tremendous length and will indeed hold it in good stead in the cellar for many years to come.– Sam Middleton
Gleaming straw-green; a patrician of barrel fermented Chardonnays that has long since stood proud in the Mount Mary pantheon; fruit, oak and acidity are fused so tightly together deconstruction isn’t possible and, in any event, would be irrelevant. Great Yarra Valley Chardonnay, great length. 97 points. James Halliday
The style hasn’t changed much over the years, outside of the odd tweak, and nor has the quality.
First sip, glass down, brilliant. Dive in for a second look and it’s all confirmed. This is another stellar chardonnay release from Mount Mary. It’s neither new nor old school: it just is what it is. It tastes of grapefruit and spice, white peach and chalk, toasty oak and spent matchsticks. But mostly it just presents as one; as an elegant, persistent expression of ripe, zippy fruit. Everything here is in glorious shape. 96 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
2014 Mount Mary Pinot Noir RRP $140
The Pinot Noir vines were sourced from Western Victoria in 1971. This material was acquired before individual clonal selections were considered, and as such, our older Pinot blocks are a mix of many clones. A visiting French ampelographer once told John Middleton that there were in the order of 30+ clones in our original Pinot block. Subsequent plantings of Pinot on this site have been selections from the original block, and the clonal selection has been somewhat refined. There are also some newer blocks of Pinot planted (as of 2008) to American rootstocks and are of specific clonal material, namely MV6 and 777. In the winery the emphasis is on simplicity. The Pinot typically spends 10-12 days on skins, in open-top fermenters, with short cold soaks and no post-ferment maceration. This is followed by 16 months of barrel maturation consisting of 25% new oak barriques. Minimal, if any, filtration is carried out prior to bottling.
The 2014 Pinot Noir seems to burst from the glass, atypically for young Mount Mary Pinot. The aromas are of a darker fruit spectrum with plums and cherries leading the way. There are hints of spice gained from the 25% new oak portion. The palate again shows a core of dark fruits, quince and cherries. Once the initial burst of primary fruits has subsided, there is an unmistakable earthy/savouriness to this wine adding great complexity. There is a string of fine-boned tannin providing structure and length to the finish. – Sam Middleton
Deep colour by any pinot standards, especially those of Mount Mary. Shows the small berry, small bunch genesis of this low-yielding year; plum leads, with black cherry close behind, the balance and length nigh-on perfect. If ever a Mount Mary Pinot was built for the cellar, this is it. 95 points. James Halliday
It’s 12.8% alcohol and yet it has excellent colour and quite a lot of fruit/flavour depth. That’s just one aspect of its magnetism. The flavours have that water-based feel; there’s nothing oily or alcohol-dissolved in the way the flavours juice through the mouth, the wine’s notes of cranberry and tangerine as important as the mainstay of ripe plum and black cherry. It’s complex too, with these twigs and those herbs, complemented by a firm mesh of dry, fine-grained tannin. A beautiful pinot noir, it most certainly is. 95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
2014 Mount Mary Quintet RRP $155
The vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (25%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Malbec (5%) and Petit Verdot (5%). The percentage of each variety that goes into the final blend changes with the season as factors such as fruitfulness and fruit set vary. The greatest influence we have over the quality of this wine is deciding when to pick each variety. This determines not only the flavours but the quality of tannins, and the acid and alcohol levels. The Quintet is largely fermented in static tanks, where it spends around 12-14 days on skins. This is followed by 22 months of barrel maturation, with 25% of the blend in large format oak (1500L or larger), and 30% in new barriques (225L).
Like the Chardonnay, the 2014 Quintet shows all the attributes of quintessential Mount Mary Quintet. This release seems slightly more dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon characters rather than Merlot, as was the case with the 2013 vintage. As Dr John would often remark, “Good Cabernet should smell like Cabernet, let’s not over-complicate things,” and this wine does just that. The aromas are dominated by violets, cherries, cassis and spice. There is a level of vibrancy to this wine, only seen at such a young age in the very best vintages. The palate is built around beautifully ripe, ultra-fine grained tannin. The mid-palate is rich, long and expansive and shows all five varieties quite clearly playing their role and adding complexity. – Sam Middleton
“While there wasn’t a lot of wine made in the Yarra Valley in ‘14 (wind and rain during flowering), some wine of very high quality was made – witness this. Mount Mary has shown over the decades that Quintet develops superbly, and this complex dark berry-flavoured Bordeaux blend will do just that. 97 points.” James Halliday
Perfumed and pretty with almost succulent small black and red berries, a little vanilla and violet, cedar, tobacco and pencil cases. Medium bodied, delicious boysenberry/blackcurrant flavour, cool minerally acidity, mouth-filling but ultra fine gravelly tannin, that superb Cabernet perfume again, and extreme length closing with an array of red and black berries and refreshingly pure rain-washed acidity. What a wine. As a frame of reference, perhaps Ginger Rogers – can do anything Fred can do, but backwards while wearing heels – and a fraction better it is than either 2012 or 2013, I’d suggest. 96+ points. Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
MUSEUM RELEASES – Chardonnay & Quintet
2010 Mount Mary Chardonnay RRP $120
Bright green-quartz; has the same varietal precision as that of the Pinot Noir; there isn’t a hair out of place, yet this is in some ways a challenging wine with its grapefruit zest/grapefruit juice/white peach flavours anchored on its minerally acidity, oak merely a vehicle. 95 points. James Halliday
Glowing yellow green. Taut, spicy, powerful and long. Melon and nuts, woodspice and grapefruit. Dry pears too. Built to age and, uncompromisingly, not for early consumption. Gentle brineyness just adds to the show. 95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
2012 Mount Mary Chardonnay RRP $120
“Pale, brilliant quartz-green; the bouquet and palate reveal a wine of ultimate refinement, with laser-like clarity and precision of its flavours; while barrel-fermented, it is the fruit that drives the very long palate; the flavours span white-fleshed stone fruits, a touch of cashew, finishing with grapefruity acidity. 96 points.” James Halliday Australian Wine Companion
“Light struck match complexity, honeyed, white flowers, white fruit, gentle nougat oak. Medium bodied, very composed, a little gloss to the texture mixing it up with some flint and stuck match. Excellent length. Beautiful wine. So classy. Picture perfect Yarra Chardonnay. 95 points.” Gary Walsh, The Wine Front
2010 Mount Mary Quintet RRP $165
“Whoowee, dig this perfume. Really complex aroma spectrum – immediately engaging too. Cassis, dark fruits, touch of briar herbal lift, flash of mint, chocolatey and stubbed out cigar embers. At once cool and rich. Slender ribbons of fruit, acid and fine bony tannin across the palate. Has that succulent but strict feel, like sucking on a hard lolly as it diminishes. Beautiful, medium-bodied feel too – the wine finishes long and pure, eddying with the linger of tannin and powdered slate-like minerality. It’s in that zone of refreshment and elegance, where a repeat visit to the glass is effortless but there’s lots to explore in texture and flavour. Could be a contender for best cabernet (and cabernet blend) for me for the year (2012 releases). 95 points.” Mike Bennie, The Wine Front
“Spicy, briary, raspberry and blackberry aromas with a striking overtone of violets. Medium-bodied and intensely flavoured. Soft, balanced and superbly drinkable with gentle tannins and easygoing texture. Complex bouquet and flavour. A graceful wine whose elegance and harmony is at the opposite extreme from the more full-bodied Australian cabernet style. Great charm and food-friendliness. A top vintage of Quintet. 96 points.” Huon Hooke
2012 Mount Mary Quintet RRP $165
“A 45/30/15/5/5% blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Bright crimson; the bouquet swarms with red and black fruits and quality oak; the medium-bodied palate is supremely elegant yet intense, with cassis and redcurrant fruit; of course there is tannin and French oak, but these are largely passive observers. 97 points.” James Halliday Australian Wine Companion
“Essence of blackcurrant. Bay leaves, licorice, tobacco and musky oak. One of those wines that seems to cascade through the mouth. Tremendous purity, freshness, elegance. Great release. Not much need be said. Pure velvet. Pure length. 96 points.” Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front