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For Australian collectors, Mount Mary stands shoulder-to-shoulder with such Down Under icons as Penfolds, Henschke and Wendouree.
And just as Penfolds’ Grange was born after Max Schubert visited Bordeaux in the early 1950s, Mount Mary was created after John and Marli Middleton made several trips to France in the 1960s. They returned home determined to create Australia's first great Bordeaux- and Burgundy-styled wines.
The challenge for them was finding the right terroir. But in 1971, they found what they were looking for on a north-facing slope at Lilydale, in the heart of the Yarra Valley in southeastern Australia’s Victoria state.
The Yarra’s proximity to the bay of Port Phillip and the Bass Strait beyond made its climate ideal, cooled regularly by sea breezes. And its well-drained, grey-brown sandy loam soils over rocky clay are ideal for the production of harmonious, refined wines of fine structure.
In 1972, the Middletons finished planting their site to create four different styles of wine: a red and white “Bordeaux” and a red and white “Burgundy,” each of which would go on to rank among Australia’s most sought-after wines.
While each of Mount Mary’s wines stands among the Australian elite, its red Bordeaux-inspired wine Quintet is easily its most famous wine.
Indeed, at the top of Langton’s Classification—the equivalent of Bordeaux’s 1855 Classification and Australia's most influential guide for collectability—only three reds date back to the ranking's birth in the 1990s: Grange, Hill of Grace and Mount Mary Quintet. They are its First Growths, and the wines are considered Australian blue bloods.
The Quintet vineyard is planted to 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 5% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot, and today, the dry-farmed vines produce low yields of concentrated fruit of great complexity and fine structure at remarkably low alcohol levels.
Third-generation winemaker Sam Middleton continues the legacy of his grandfather John, using the same traditional techniques. After a two-week maceration, Quintet is aged 22 months 30% in new barrique, 25% in foudre, and the rest in older, small oak barrels.
Mount Mary’s white Bordeaux-styled wine, Triolet, has been named by Australian Master of Wine Ned Goodwin “Australia’s most understated white and likely its greatest, particularly with age.”
The wine takes its inspiration from the long-lived white wines of Graves, with its vineyard planted to the traditional 75% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon, and 5% Muscadelle.
Hard pressed, barrel fermented in neutral wood and aged for 11 months with regular lees stirring, Triolet possesses all of the density and structure that Graves’ finest white wines have and can age for just as long.
Inspired by the greatest red wines of Burgundy, Mount Mary produces one of the most refined and delicate Pinot Noirs in all of Australia.
The original vines panted in 1971 were planted to over 30 different clones, and in 2008, the Middletons added other Australian heritage clones, each chosen to give greater nuance of aromatics and texture to the wine.
Together, these two blocks produce fruit of astonishing complexity and texture at low alcohol levels, giving Mount Mary Pinot Noir its characteristic Burgundian-perfumed refinement and weightless intensity.
To preserve the wine's delicacy and incredible perfume, the destemmed fruit sees a short 10- to 14-day maceration, followed by 16 months’ aging in small French oak barrels, of which only 25% were new. To quote Sam Middleton, “Mount Mary Pinot Noir has always walked a fine line between bright, fresh primary fruit and darker, earthy secondary complexities.”
Finally, Mount Mary’s Chardonnay ranks among Australia’s very finest, and as Jancis Robinson has said, “Blind, you might easily take it for a white burgundy.”
The original 1971 plantings were made to a variety of Chardonnay clones, which, in 2008, were complemented with new blocks of different material for even greater complexity. Today, the combined fruit from the two plantings produces a Chardonnay of fabulous citrus-tinged elegance and purity, with great focus and length on the palate, all in perfect balance.
In the cellar, the Chardonnay is barrel-fermented with no malolactic, followed by 11 months aging on the lees, with regular battonage, in 30% new French oak barrique with the balance in older small barrels and puncheons. The result is a Chardonnay that bears a striking resemblance to the finest white wines of Burgundy with all the same chalky texture and leesy complexity.
Sadly, because Mount Mary is so hotly collected in Australia, its wines have rarely been found in the United States. But that changed when The Rare Wine Co. established its current relationship, which allows us to offer all four of its iconic wines not only with superlative provenance, but at prices that belie their blue chip status.
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