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Kate McIntyre

Master of Wine

Kate McIntyre: natural is best for Mornington’s Moorooduc Estate

For over the last 30 years the McIntyre family have been making their version of Mornington Peninsula wines from this Australian wine region where their emphasis is on natural winemaking, including wild yeast ferments, natural malolactic fermentation in French oak, and minimal intervention, to allow the character of the fruit and the vineyard to shine through in the wine.


Up to 90% of the wines made at Moorooduc Estate never leave the shores of Australia, but the wines that do will be on show at next week’s Mornington Peninsula tasting in London on September 6.


Next week sees 10 of the leading wineries and producers from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula region make the trip to a series of events including its key London trade tasting on September 6. As well as Kate McIntyre at Moorooduc Estate  will be founders and winemakers from Polperro, Kooyong, Ocean Eight, Paringa Estate, Polperro, Port Phillip Estate, Stonier, Ten Minutes by Tractor and Yabby Lake Vineyard. All showing their styles of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Shiraz that are synonymous with the peninsula.


Over the last few weeks leading up to the tasting we have been featuring each of the producers involved. Here’s Kate McIntyre MW of Moorooduc Estate on why it believes so strongly in natural winemaking.


Tell us about your winery, it’s history and where you are now? 

My parents, Richard and Jill McIntyre bought the 20-acre, north-facing property at Moorooduc, at the northern end of the Mornington Peninsula, in 1982 with the intention of planting vines and producing wine. Richard was a young surgeon, recently returned from four years study and work in the UK, with a passion for wine so strong that he felt the need to produce some of his own.  The Mornington Peninsula, with its cool maritime climate was, at that time, a new wine region, and there was little known about which varieties would do well.


We produced the first commercial release of Moorooduc Estate Cabernet and Chardonnay in 1986. The first vineyard plantings in 1983 included only two rows of Pinot Noir, a variety Richard had fallen in love with during his time in the UK but one that was not widely planted or even popular in Australia at the time.  It was discovered early on that this site’s true talent is for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and the property is now planted to capacity – 12 acres of vineyard in all.


Our philosophy is to produce top quality fruit that reflects the site’s terroir, and to use simple, natural winemaking, including wild yeast ferments, natural malolactic fermentation in French oak, and minimal intervention, to allow the character of the fruit and the vineyard to shine through in the wine.


The winery now leases four other vineyards (within 5 km of the original McIntyre Vineyard) that contribute to the Devil Bend Creek and Estate wines and add Pinot Gris to the mix.  The best fruit from the best sites is allocated to the small batch, single vineyard wines.  These wines tell the story of variety as it relates to the site – a vinous translation of the concept of ‘terroir’, as expressed in this special part of Victoria, Australia.


I have worked in the wine industry since 1996, attained my Master of Wine in 2010, and returned to work, full time for the family business as marketing manager.  Today, I am involved in all parts of the business, including the winemaking. I also run wine education from the winery, including WSET courses, and I love to put the Moorooduc Estate wines into a world-wine context!  Since 2016, winemaker Jeremy Magyar has joined me and my father in the wine business: a formidable team.


What types of wine are you making for export and why? 

We do not produce anything especially for export – we produce 6,000 cases of wine a year, and we export about 10% of that production.  It is important to us that our wines take our little piece of the Mornington Peninsula to the drinker, wherever they may be.  Our Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – Estate and Single Vineyard level wines are the most successful export wines, while our Pinot Gris and Shiraz are made in small quantities and remain curios, both at home and abroad. 


Often wines from cooler vintages, such as 2008, 2012 and the extreme 2011 have done better for us abroad than at home, as the elegance of these wines are pleasantly surprising to UK and US trade who still expect all Australian wine to be super ripe, fruity and alcoholic!


What do you think makes the Mornington Peninsula unique and worth telling the world about?

The Mornington Peninsula is a young wine region in global terms but we do have over 40 years of experience to draw on. We believe the region is particularly suited to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The cool maritime climate of the Mornington Peninsula is unique in Australia – the cooling and humidifying effects of winds from the South, East and West, that all travel across water are essential to the special character of Mornington Peninsula wines.


Within the Mornington Peninsula there is considerable diversity of climate, soil types, rainfall and altitude as well as the usual variations in topography, which give each vineyard site its unique characteristics.  Despite this, one can see some regional characters in the grapes and the wines. The effects of site and winemaking are superimposed on these more general characteristics. We now have enough mature vineyards in the region to attempt to define some of these characters.


Probably the clearest and most important feature of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay is the high level of natural acid in the grapes when fully ripe in terms of sugar and flavour. Malolactic fermentation is an option to add complexity without excessive reduction of acidity that some chose to make use of and others eschew.


Another characteristic of Chardonnay fruit from the Mornington Peninsula is in the fruit flavours, both in intensity and in type. The spectrum of flavours is from citrus (lemon and grapefruit) through white stone fruit, reflecting the cool nature of the region. Flavour intensity in fruit from the best sites is great. This allows winemakers the option to use techniques such as wild yeast fermentation, including solids in the ferments, warm fermentation temperatures and malolactic fermentation which add complexity and texture but diminish primary fruit flavours and aromas.   


Pinot Noir is a variety that is fastidious. It will declare loudly that something is wrong when it is not planted in the right place, is not looked after properly, is over cropped or not pampered in the winery.


It is now clear that there are regions all over the world in which Pinot Noir can produce wines of great quality. (In the 1980s we were advised by viticulturists and other experts that planting Pinot Noir outside the Côte d’Or in Burgundy was a waste of time). The areas around the city of Melbourne, known as the “dress circle”, are in this category. These include the Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Macedon and Geelong.


Of these, the Mornington Peninsula is the most southerly, and has the greatest maritime influence. It is, as mentioned above, quite a diverse region. The more northerly part, which includes Moorooduc, is warmer and drier with poorer sandy loam and clay soils than the more southerly part around Main Ridge and Red Hill, with volcanic soils and at a higher altitude.


The best wines from Mornington Peninsula pinot noir show complexity of primary fruit aromas and flavours in the spectrum of cherries and raspberries, with the “up the hill” wines tending to the red fruits and the “down the hill” wines to the darker fruits. Savoury complexity is common and, as vine age is increasing, we are seeing more tannic structure in the wines, to an unusual degree for new world Pinot Noir.  In general, the best wines have fine, complex aromatics, good mid palate weight and length and fine tannins.


What makes it different to other Australian wine regions? 

We are a region that is close to Melbourne, compact and boutique – quality cool climate wines abound in this region and the majority of wine businesses are small and family owned.  Increasing vine age and the introduction of clones (especially of Pinot Noir) that used not to be available here, promise an increase in wine quality everywhere these varieties are grown in Australia. One of the greatest concerns for the viability of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Australia is climate change. Our climate in recent years has been warmer than, say, ten to fifteen years ago. This has been associated with improved wine quality, but clearly, the further significant warming that has bee predicted would not be welcome. We believe our maritime situation should mitigate some of the changes. We remain cautiously optimistic and believe that we can expect to continue to grow and make wine of exceptional quality from these varieties for many years.


What perception do you think UK buyers have about Mornington Peninsula? 

Those who know us, see us as something special.  Not run of the mill but unique and boutique – not inexpensive but offering excellent quality for the price.  The wines have a quality, elegance and restraint that is not generally associated with traditional beliefs about Australian wines. There are still many people who have not yet experienced a comprehensive line up of wines from our region and who are surprised and delighted when they try our wines, as they offer something delicious and special. 


What do you hope to achieve by the tasting and events in London and UK in September? 

I think that joining the MP Roadshow is a great way to show the overall consistent quality and style of the wines form our region.  I want buyers and consumers to be able to appreciate our wines in the context of the region.  Hopefully also, I will have the opportunity to show my wines to some people who have not yet experienced them – thus raising the profile and awareness of both the Mornington Peninsula and Moorooduc Estate in the UK.


Which types of importers/ restaurant/ channels in the UK do you think your wines are best suited to and why? 

We are working with the wonderful Vindependents Group in the UK which puts our wines into independent retailers around the UK – I think this is a great opportunity for Moorooduc Estate as we are too small for the Groups and Chains and many of these local wine retailers also have a wholesale arm, thus giving us access to their restaurant customers.  Our wines do best with a bit of a hand sell – they are not famous movie stars – but they are the sort of wines that engender loyalty – they make drinkers come back for more!


Why should a UK buyer come and visit your stand? 

Because I am lovely and so are my wines!!  I am showing our very rare and special Pinot Gris and our Shiraz – both of which surprise Australian wine drinkers and I think these, alongside our Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tell a lovely story of our special piece of Cool Maritime Australia!


What sort of export prices do you have? 

RRP in UK 24.95-40.00


What other markets do you export your wine too?

New York, California, Hong Kong and China (Shanghai) And why? We are small so we can’t be everywhere.  My rule of thumb is to try to export wines to places I want to go and visit – also we always need to find the right people to sell our wine.  They are a handsel here and abroad, so passion and knowledge of why they are special is really important.


What opportunities do you think there still are for premium wines from Australia? 

I think we are living in interesting times.  There is a continued growth of awareness and appreciation of premium wines in all sorts of styles from different regions in Australia.  We still have some hidden treasures – cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Australia are getting better and better and the awareness of the depth of choice is growing in the UK market.


What are you most looking forward to in your forthcoming trip to the UK?

From a business point of view – meeting new people, sharing our wines and stories, and selling more wine in the UK so I can come back more! And from a personal point of view – a pint of bitter and a pork pie, catching up with old friends and making new ones.


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