Good things take time, we all know. It’s around 40 million years since Antarctica’s split from Australia exposed thevolcanic seams that deposited basalt flows around the more elevated parts of the Mornington Peninsula.
One of the beneficiaries of that rift is Paul Scorpo, whose Merricks North vineyard sits on the iron-rich red-brown clay-loam soils shaped by millions of years of weathering. It’s on this dirt that he grows his most singular, layered and inistent wines.
In keeping with the unhurried geological process, Paul hasn’t rushed to show these off.
It was with the outstanding 2010 vintage that the concept of his vineyard-selection wines was born. It began with the 2010 Eocene Chardonnay. That was followed by a ’13 and a ’15 Chardonnay before a lengthy hiatus ended with the ’19.
The first Pinot Noir in this range emerged in 2017, the fruit of Paul’s high-density initiative with the Abel clone, planted on the old cherry orchard. A second Pinot followed that in 2019, this time from the original MV6 vines that Paul and his family put in back in 1997.
From 2020, we have the pleasure of presenting all three of these at once. Lovers of the peninsula’s prettiness and generosity will recognise the pleasure and underlying power of these. More precisely, perhaps, these wines are for devotees of dénouement – the slow unfurling of buried nuance, dense structure and volcanic mineral stature.
Paul’s dedication to pushing boundaries with the peninsula’s signature grapes is to be applauded. But in fact the outcomes are more impressive even than the sense of endeavour.
Here, then, are three wines that raise the bar in a region you think you know.
2020 Scorpo Eocene Chardonnay $75
A blend of clones 95, I10 and P58 from mature vines on the north-/northeast-facing slope of Paul Scorpo’s original vineyard in Merricks North. The grapes were picked on 18th March 2020 at 12.1 Baumé. The fruit was pressed as whole bunches straight to barrel. The must was fermented with indigenous yeasts in 20% new French oak, the balance being 3- to 5-year-old barrels. No malolactic conversion and no lees stirring. Fined with bentonite prior to bottling on 22nd February 2021.
This wine encapsulates finesse and precision. The nose presents lemon and lime, supported by grapefruit and nashi pears. There is also brioche, flint, and florals such as lavender. The palate has a train line structure, long and direct, with fine chalky phenolics layered either side. Lemon pith sits front and foremost on the palate while an oyster shell saltiness brings it home with a refreshingly mineral finish.Paul Scorpo
2020 Scorpo Eocene Original Vineyard Pinot Noir $93
100% MV6 Pinot Noir from Paul Scorpo’s original (1997) plantings. The fruit was picked on 27th March 2020 at 12.7 Baumé. The fruit was given a seven-day cold soak before spontaneous fermentation in a concrete vat with 10% of whole clusters included. The wine spent 28 days on skins in total. It was matured in oak (20% new, the rest three- to five-year-old barrels) until bottling with no fining or filtration on 19th February 2021.
This wine is focused and precise. The nose opens up with a mix of fresh raspberries as well as raspberry coulis. There is depth to the nose that then presents fresh herbs and spices such as cardamom and nutmeg. The palate showcases great balance and poise with raspberry, blood orange and cranberries on display. The fine emery tannins sit comfortably alongside a firm acid backbone. Paul ScorpoPaul Scorpo
2020 Scorpo Old Cherry Orchard Pinot Noir $93
The fruit is grown on the iron-rich soils of Paul Scorpo’s high-density Pinot Noir block planted to Abel clone at a density of 10,000 vines per hectare. The fruit was picked on 24th March 2020 at 13.2 Baumé. The fruit was given a six-day cold soak before spontaneous fermentation in a concrete vat with 10% of whole clusters included. The wine spent 31 days on skins in total. It was matured in oak (20% new, the rest three- to five-year-old barrels) until bottling with no fining or filtration on 9th February 2021.
This wine has an elegance that belies its youthfulness, while also displaying great detail and complexity. The nose presents intense cherry lift associated with whole berry fermentation, along with porcini mushroom, dried herbs and hints of cedar. The palate is tight and delicate whilst also having great length. Again, cherries dominate the fruits while the tannins have a sinew chewiness and great balance.Paul Scorpo