Merricks Creek and The Art of Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir would have to be one of the joys of life. Australians have been in a Pinot Noir love affair in recent years. From the big bold smash your face Cabernets and Shiraz wines of the 80s and 90s there's a new appreciation for food friendly wines for which Pinot Noir is a great example. Deep cherry and plum nuances with a touch of sweetness, Pinot Noir is alluring. Check out our Best Mornington Peninsula Wineries.
The World Loves Melbourne spoke with Peter Parker from Merricks Creek Winery about all things Pinot Noir. As a James Halliday 5 star winery, Merricks Creek is one of the finest Pinot Noir wines on the Mornington Peninsula and Australia. Arriving at Merricks Creek Winery down the gravel road offf the highway, you immediately engage with the vines as you pull in. From the car park the cellar door beckons, with a raised deck the perfect place to dine and take in the stunning views.
The World Loves Melbourne always asks the question of wineries, "Are the wines any good?" That's because you can visit some multi million dollar winery and have an experience where the wines are mediocre. And it leaves you a little disappointed. Not so at Merricks Creek Winery; the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are of the highest quality.
Living the dream. Peter Parker pictured here with the large winery shed behind him (where the wine is made), as well as backdrop of Pinot Noir vineyards.
As Peter Parker told The World Loves Melbourne, "I am obsessed with Pinot Noir." This Clinical Psychologist has swapped the books at his bedside table on Psychoanalysis with books on Viticulture and Winemaking.
A success story of the Mornington Peninsula for the last 18 years, Merricks Creek Winery has recently launches a stylish new Cellar Door and serves up superb Mediterranean influenced shared dishes to go with its stunning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Pinot Noir is known to be a difficult grape to cultivate in the world of wine, but Victoria's Mornington Peninsula is perfectly conducive to making great Pinot. The Pinot Noir in Mornington Peninsula is world class. The skins on the Pinot Noir are lighter in colour than say a Cabernet, and also the skins are thin, making it tougher to work with.
Merricks Creek started out with the intention of being grape growers to the big wineries. They suddenly went from grape growers to wine makers almost overnight when a contract fell through in 2001 and they decided (out of necessity) to make their own wine. The rest is history as Merricks Creek have made stunning wines at every vintage.
Georgia-May getting around the vineyards on her bike in the early days.
Merricks Creek is a perfect site for excellent Pinot Noir with:
- Cool climate with few temperature extremes
- Volcanic soil unlike other parts of the Peninsula
- Ability for clones from around the world to thrive
- Gentle slope
- Excellent rainfall - no need to keep watering the vines
Peter Parker takes it to another level, taking advantage of natural conditions but also putting his stamp on innovative viticulture. Peter is known for his close planting method for some of his Pinot Noir vineyards. Close planting is rare in Australia but has been the practice in Burgundy for 700 years; Peter Parker has been a pioneer on the Mornington Peninsula with this European style of planting. There is some debate on this but close planting has produced vigorous vines and intense flavour of the Pinot Noir.
The 2 hectare vineyard is planted to a sophisticated and rare collection of highly regarded Pinot Noir clones, and the close planting is at the ultra-high density of 500mm spacing on one-metre high trellising. When it comes to clones Peter Parker has sourced the best from around the world; a bold move that has paid off. Clones from Europe, America and New Zealand can be found at Merricks Creek Winery.
The story goes that Peter Parker was captivated (and still is) by the iconic Domaine de la Romanée-Conti vineyard in France as the best Pinot vineyard in the world. These wines are the most famous and legendary in Burgundy and can fetch up to $7,000 a bottle. Peter followed the story as clones from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti were rumoured to be taken by Josh Jenson back to California (neither confirmed or denied).
Josh Jensen has developed a famous winery Calera in California with sensational vines and has been Winemaker of the Year with stunning Pinot Noir. A turning point was that Peter Parker was able to get some of the clones from this Calara vineyard in California and put them in quarantine for 2 years in Australia (each clone $1,000 a year in quarantine); eventually being able to propagate these amazing clones on Mornington Peninsula. All which adds to the complexity of his wines!
Merricks Creek Pinot Noir is exceptional. The first vintage of Pinot Noir attracted a score of 96 from James Halliday in 2001 - the equal top score in Australia at the time. Merricks Creek has scored consistently between 94 and 96 over the years and is a James Halliday 5 star rating winery.
Peter and Georgina Parker pictured above with a young Sam Parker at work during an early vintage.
In the formation of the Pinot Noir vineyard Peter and Georgina Parker enlisted the services of Pinot Noir legend Gary Farr (ex Bannockburn) as a viticultural consultant. Peter speaks of those days where Gary Farr was exacting and highly skilled, to produce a vineyard of the highest quality. Son Nick Farr was also involved in winemaking.
Praise from James Halliday for consistency and quality is a great acknowledgment for hard work over decades, "The pinot noir vineyard established by Peter and Georgina Parker has consistently produced grapes of exceptional quality. It is planted to a sophisticated collection of clones, and includes a small planting at an ultra-high density of 0.5m spacing, which produces the Close Planted Pinot Noir."
Peter Parker relishes his dual vocation; spent in clinical psychology in South Yarra followed by a drive to Mornington Peninsula in time for a 9pm spray of the vineyard on the tractor (pulling the sprayer behind him) as the light fades.
The Winemaking process at Merricks Creek is bespoke. Peter Parker and son Sam Parker are hands on all the way. Peter knows each French oak barrel intimately; its nuances and characteristics. Sam Parker is adept in climbing in the stainless steel barrels.
Sam Parker has grown up learning an extraordinary amount about viticulture and winemaking; with Peter Parker imparting his skill and knowledge.
The characteristics of the wine?
The Merricks Creek Close Planted Pinot Noir has a greater intensity than the Merricks Creek Pinot Noir. This wine has an elegance across the palate with dark cherry characteristics and a sweetness across the mid palate. The Merricks Creek Pinot Noir boasts red cherry and plum characteristics with spice nuances from the French Oak. The Merricks Creek Chardonnay is crisp with peach and pear nuances. Each wine is a standout, with 5 Pinot Noir selections available for tasting (at the time of this article).
Images above: Jamie Durrant. Wine lovers are visiting the stylish new Cellar Door where Peter and Sam Parker engage for tasting the fabulous wine; Georgina Parker is cooking up a storm in the kitchen; and Georgia-May Parker is running kitchen administration and marketing.
Peter Parker would be the first to say this is not Burgundy; however Merricks Creek has Burgundy influences in its vineyard and winemaking that are part of a unique Pinot Noir expression.
Merricks Creek is the perfect winery destination; in terms of high quality wine, ambience, modern food and being a family run winery. Plan your weekend visit!