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The Kooyong estate was established in 1995 on the cool, ocean-influenced Mornington Peninsula in Victoria. The vineyards were acquired by Giorgio and Dianne Gjergja in 2004 and all the wines are now made at their state of the art, eco-friendly winery, restaurant and hotel complex at Port Phillip Estate nearby.They are part of the new generation of winemakers shaking up the Australian wine industry by crafting wines from old vines in cool-climate sites with a focus on terroir, elegance and balance rather than exuberance or power for their own sake. Glen Hayley is winemaker here, having taken over from Sandro Mosele. The results are very fine indeed. Kooyong own three pinot noir vineyards (Haven, Meres and Ferrous), each with their own specific terroir. Haven Vineyard is surrounded by trees which protects the vines from the cold sea breezes and as such boasts the mildest climate. Great care is taken in the vineyard with canopy management to control vigour and crop thinning to increase fruit quality and concentration, and the grapes are hand harvested. Sustainability is a key objective and only natural fertilisers and ecologically acceptable pest and disease control practices are employed in the vineyards while water reclamation systems are in place to turn waste water into irrigation.All fermentations are spontaneous, using only ambient yeasts, and the reds are unfiltered before bottling. Some whites are also bottled unfiltered, but all are unfined.
Victoria is the southernmost state on the Australian mainland and contains within its borders a diverse collection of terroirs, perhaps the most varied within Australia. This diversity has helped the state to earn an enviable reputation for the quality of its wines, the areas that they hail from and its wineries.It has a long history since the first settlers in the region planted vines, but the catalyst for expansion was the gold rush of the mid-19th century which saw many a vineyard established. This promising start was stalled dramatically by the arrival of phylloxera in the 1870’s and to this day the Victoria produce less than half the amount produced in neighbouring South Australia despite having many more vineyards. Despite its small size (it is the smallest state other than Tasmania) it has an amazing diversity of terroirs, from the dry, torrid north-east where fortified wines are king, to the positively chilly by comparison Mornington Peninsula due south of Melbourne on the coast. It also embraces a fair chunk of the Murray Darling region where irrigation makes the vast expanses of vineyard a possibility and from where three quarters of the state’s grape yield derives.The Yarra Valley is a short car ride to the north of Melbourne, and has a wide selection of tourist diversions to prove it. It also has an array of excellent estates and vineyards at various elevations and in a variety of soils, from clay and sand to volcanic. Rediscovered in the 1960s and prized for its cool nights and warm, sunny days, it has become synonymous with excellent pinot noirs and elegant, intense chardonnays that are doing much to reclaim Australia’s reputation for the variety. Shiraz has also proved a success in a more restrained style.To the south of Melbourne, and benefiting fully from an unrelenting oceanic influence on its doorstep is the Mornington Peninsula. Surrounded by the Southern Ocean and Port Phillip Bay on three sides, and moderated by the breezes these expanses of water generate the summer climate on the peninsula is for the most part temperate. This is a region of small estates producing some of the most elegant and refined pinot noirs in the new world let alone Australia. The soils vary from volcanic deposits to sandy clay and after pinot noir there is fine chardonnay and an increasing volume of pinot gris. Close to Melbourne the area of Geelong enjoys a windy, maritime climate but is slightly warmer, making plump pinot and some delicious shiraz and chardonnay.In the north-east lies one of the great wine regions of Australia, though it is not shiraz, or chardonnay nor riesling for which it is famed, but rather the muscat grape, made into a fortified treasure that is unique to the area and which is one of Australia’s great vinous jewels. Rutherglen Liqueur Muscats, and Muscadelles, can hold their head up in the company of any great port, sherry or Madeira for their rich, complex, silky and concentrated character. The summers here are torrid, the landscape arid and the grapes full of sugar. And the red table wines made are dense, brooding examples that are improving all the time. But it is the joyous fortifieds that steal the show.
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