Mornington Peninsula is an exciting, young and emerging region on the doorstep of Australia’s second largest city Melbourne. It is the farthest south wine region on the Australian mainland and is surrounded by water on all three sides. The Aylward family has been dedicated to quality wine growing of Burgundian varieties here since 1997, establishing and selling Kooyong Estate in 2004, before turning their attention to a couple of vineyards on either side (bay and ocean) of the Peninsula for Ocean Eight.
They developed a purpose built, gravity fed winery with an underground barrel room into old horse stables in the back roads of Upper Shoreham. Mike Aylward farms the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyard over the hill in the Dromana area, which provides fertile slopes looking out over Port Phillip Bay, off which it enjoys gentle, cooling breezes during the growing season. The vines were planted in 1999 on well draining sandy, loam soils.
Mike is inspired by Burgundian ideals of minimal intervention, natural winemaking techniques and preference for reductive handling, gravity movement and old barrels in the cellar. The winemaking is very simple, with the intent of expressing the site coming at any cost, and this is seen through the Grand Cru type yields of between 1 and 2.2 tonne to the acre. All fruit is hand harvested and kept very cool during the natural ferments. The cool, wild yeast ferment on the Pinot Noir builds enticing aromatics, whilst constant plunging helps extract colour and flavor from this powerful fruit. It is all about expressing varietal character and regional influence of Mornington, seeing only 10% new oak during its 12 month elevage.
Chardonnay on the Mornington is always characterized by high-pitched acidity, and Mike takes advantage of this style, regularly being amongst the first to harvest his Chardonnay fruit. By harvesting earlier in the ripening period Mike’s Chardonnay maintain Riesling-like acidity and hit on an array of citrus tones. There is a reductive, flint, matchstick like influence through Mikes Chardonnay, the oak is always old French and the wines are tightly wound.