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Celebrating Vintage Harvest 2019 at Merricks Creek Winery

Merricks Creek Winery is a family run boutique winery and at Vintage time it's super busy with "all hands on deck". Merricks Creek is a bespoke winery where the winemaking is mostly done by hand and there's a heavy influence of Burgundy wine processes in producing standout Merricks Creek Pinot Noir. Merricks Creek is a great winery to visit when travelling to the Mornington Peninsula, with its standout wines, gourmet share plates and stunning views; and is a gem of Victoria.

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Merricks Creek Winery is a boutique winery on the Mornington Peninsula only an hour from Melbourne. Their wines are only available at their modern cellar door.

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Vintage is a key time for every Australian winery as summer finishes and we move into March. Weather conditions, soil, climate and viticulture all play a role, as well as the skill of the winemaker Dr Peter Parker (pictured). Merricks Creek employs minimal irrigation preferring nature to take its course.

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We were excited by the first buds of the season back in September.

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A modern cellar door featuring Pinot Noir and Estate Chardonnay.

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Ripe but are they ready? Assessing the grapes for harvest. 

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By vintage we refer to the harvesting of the grapes and the preparation processes to make the wine. One moment you cast your eye across the vineyards and the vines are laden with grapes. Then when the time is judged right (requires much experience) the harvesting begins, and pretty quickly the panorama of the vineyards looks completely different. Timing is everything when it comes to harvesting grapes. You simply can't book pickers to come in at some predicted date well into the future - you need to strike while the iron is hot!

Dr Peter Parker is adept at measuring sugar and acid levels each day. Pick too early and the grapes will be overly acidic and tannic. Pick too late and the sugars will be heightened to bring an over sweetness. Science is employed as well as intuition and a lifetime of experience.

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Says Peter, "We are looking for around 13.3 sugar level. Anything above 13.5 can bring an element of "jamminess" and make the wines not so elegant. So this is an exacting process. You don't want the grapes to be too ripe!"

Grapes are needed to be picked in a day and brought into the shade, mindful of the heat! Dr Peter Parker emulates the winemaking conditions of Burgundy in France is making sure the grapes are harvested quickly and kept at an optimum temperature.

It's a challenge to replicate Burgundy conditions, where the temperature is around 12 degrees Celcius. In Burgundy the grapes warm up to start fermenting at 15 degrees Celcius. On the Mornington the grapes are say around 22 degrees Celcius so fermenting can start straight away.

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With grapes picked and gathered, Dr Peter Parker plunges a stainless steel plate on a pole  to give optimum result; it's not about jumping into the tank with bare feet. Plunging the steel plate is used to get the right balance of tannins in the wine. Peter plunges twice a day morning and evening; to produce an elegant wine with nuances and not heavy tannins. He also keeps the winery super clean so there's no vinegar flies around, which can destroy the flavour of the wine if they get into the "must" (young wine).

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Merricks Creek uses local ice (Sam Parker pictured above with ice) to help keep the temperatures down. Super effective and adds a dash of romance to the process.

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After primary fermentation, where yeasts turn sugar to alcohol, a second fermentation takes place where the wine becomes more finessed. Eventually the wine is ready to be bottled and labelled. It looks like another great vintage in 2019. A true labour of love.