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A Hail (Mount) Mary from James Halliday

Hail Mount Mary, Full of Grace

Australian Wine Companion
June 30, 2014
by James Halliday

I’ve taken passion/passionate out of my lexicon because the words have been terminally debased. I’d like to do the same with icon/iconic, but have to use them when writing about a winery such as the Yarra Valley’s Mount Mary, it has to be the most iconic winery in the region.

Founded by the late Dr John Middleton (and wife Marli), it now embraces second generation David, and third generation Sam, Claire and Hugh, all direct descendants, and all involved in one way or another in running the business.

It’s axiomatic that generational change can be good or bad, obvious or discreet. The changes at Mount Mary have been unambiguously good, but fittingly discreet. Fittingly, because this is the way Mount Mary has always gone about its business, even with the deep-seated changes that are underway. They cover the vineyard, the winery, marketing (unthinkable 20 years ago, a website anathema) and business administration.

All of which reflects the challenges a small, family run winery with an unrelenting focus on quality faces today. To stand still is not an option, but cosmetic change will do more harm than good, and real change is very expensive. The words may not mean much to many readers, but peristaltic must pumps, vibrating sorting tables, wine barrel rotary piston pumps, and a new state of the art bottling line capable of handling both corks and screwcaps, represents seriously large expenditure.

Passing by a new underground barrel storage area (more money) and going to the estate vineyard, Mount Mary eschews organic and/or biodynamic certification, but incorporates many of the practices they (certifications) involve: mulching, cover crops, reduction in the use of herbicides, elimination of pesticides, and increases in soil biological activity, but wait for it: a significant reduction in yields across all varieties.

These have not been overnight changes: they go back 10 years or more, and are ongoing. But the awesome quality of the 2012 vintage wines (a great vintage in the Yarra Valley, to be sure) is in part a dividend on the investment.

97 pts 2012 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Pinot Noir
Bright, clear crimson-purple; reflects the special qualities of the site, the age of the vines (40-plus years) and the great vintage; the flowery, red-berried bouquet leads into an exquisitely flavoured and structured palate. A great pinot noir. 13.1% alc; Diam.

97 pts 2012 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Quintet
A 45/30/15/5/5% blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec. Bright crimson; the bouquet swarms with red and black fruits and quality oak; the medium-bodied palate is supremely elegant yet intense, with cassis and redcurrant fruit; of course there is tannin and French oak, but these are largely passive observers. 12.9% alc; cork.

96 pts 2012 Mount Mary Yarra Valley Chardonnay
Pale, brilliant quartz-green; the bouquet and palate reveal a wine of ultimate refinement, with laser-like clarity and precision of its flavours; while barrel-fermented, it is the fruit that drives the very long palate; the flavours span white- fleshed stone fruits, a touch of cashew, finishing with grapefruity acidity. 13.5% alc; Diam.

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