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You’ll often hear it said that single vineyard wines are all about site expression, a case of the winemaker just letting the fruit shine. At Montalto we approach our Single Vineyard Pinot Noir a little differently.

In the early stages we were about discovery of site expression and winemaking was basic and uniform. Understanding each site and their hallmark characteristics should clearly be the starting point for any producer. Now, with a good grounding on this the vinification programme is evolving and we’ve taken those unique site qualities and adjusted our winemaking to get what we think is the best expression of each site according to our style objectives. The Single Vineyard programme is 100% about getting the best expression of each site using techniques that we think will deliver our style objectives and the highest quality outcomes.

The Tuerong Block is by far the warmest, producing fruit of intense colour, dark fruit flavour and firm, strong tannins. It’s a reliable vineyard that always delivers clean fruit in small bunches. While the Tuerong fruit is never wanting for flavour, it does need careful handling to add that touch of finesse that Pinot drinkers expect. For our winemaker Simon Black, part of the answer is whole bunch fermentation; where the grapes are gently hand loaded from small buckets into a fermenter, care being taken to avoid berry damage. The fermenter is then closed and sealed under carbon dioxide to remove oxygen.

“Tuerong is a powerful block and I feel that the whole bunch technique (which in itself has been modified to suit our circumstance and style objectives) provides more perfume, fragrance, savouriness and structural benefits,” Simon says.

“The destemmed component always looks a little clunky, juicy and over the top, but a combination of the two gives a balance of power and finesse, which is a tricky thing to do.”

An often forgotten quality of great pinot noir is the sensation of the wine across the palate; the best wines have a silky or velvety feeling. We find whole bunch together with wild yeast fermentation helps with mouth feel and adds complexity, getting the best out of this powerful fruit to create an utterly distinctive wine that ticks all the Pinot boxes.

In contrast, the Main Ridge Block is further up the hill and considerably cooler. This vineyard backs onto the bush and is susceptible to shoot and fruit damage by birds, wallabies and foxes. We have to take great care at picking to select only perfectly ripe bunches and just as importantly, leave behind any fruit that is not quite at full maturity or damaged. This fruit has all the perfume and elegance of a great Pinot Noir. It’s refined and demands a light touch, a case of nurturing its red fruit character with some careful oak handling for a little extra complexity. So for the 2014 Main Ridge Pinot it is 100% destemmed, wild yeast fermented, bright acidity and fine tannins.

The Merricks Block is perhaps the most difficult of the three to define. One look at the wine and it is distinctly ‘up the hill’ when compared to Tuerong. Yet on the palate, just as it is geographically, it sits somewhere between Tuerong and Main Ridge in flavour profile. Neither as light-footed as the Main Ridge nor as brooding as the Tuerong. The strength of Merricks is its generous blend of red fruit, blue fruit and spice, and the consistency of wine quality produced from this vineyard.

“There’s a real earthiness and graphite quality to this vineyard and incredible evenness to the palate – the tannins are suede-like,” Simon says.

The Merricks block performs well in both the hot and cool years, a reflection its ‘in between’ location and ripening pattern. The 21014 wine is 100% destemmed and wild yeast fermented. The portion of new oak is scaled back compared to the Main Ridge Pinot.

The Montalto Single Vineyard programme is an evolving process, the winemaking changing slightly from year to year as our knowledge of each site develops and the seasons differ. In 2015, whole bunches were used in all the Single Vineyard Pinot’s with the exception of the new release Red Hill Block wine.