“It’s complex in a casual, almost off-hand way,” writes Campbell Mattinson of the new-release Leongatha Pinot Noir. It’s a fair observation of the wine but perhaps it also touches on the appeal of Onannon.
Vintage 2008 saw the birth of this label. That’s some serious miles on the clock for an outfit that looks as fresh and purring as a brand-spanking sports car. The analogy ends there, though, because there’s never been a hint of flash about the way Will Byron, Kaspar Hermann and Sam Middleton go about their business.
It’s a complex crew, in terms of the experience they bring from working with some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in Burgundy, the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. But they wear their learning lightly – and it’s easy to believe that the subtleties inherent in these wines come as an afterthought even to their biggest fans, such is the upbeat demeanour of each bottling.
This is now the fourth release of the Onannon Single-Site Pinot Noir from both Gippsland and the Mornington Peninsula. Only a barrel of each was made in 2019, and they’re once again wildly different in character and equal in quality. Discreet detail and divine tannins are among the tell-tale signs of the Onannon touch.
The Chardonnay is a newer undertaking though there was never any doubt that fruit from this famous site in Tuerong was more than up to the task. The 2020 – “absolute top drawer”, according to Mattinson – is a very fine follow-up to the ’19 debut.
WHITE – REGIONAL
The fruit was handpicked and whole bunch-pressed, settled overnight, then racked with some solids into old puncheons. Half of the must was seeded immediately with the CY3079 yeast and the other half was left to ferment naturally. 100% malolactic conversion. The wine saw only minimal SO2 just prior to bottling in July. 12.7% alcohol.
Pear skin, quince and lemon verbena on the nose, and these carry onto the palate with a touch of wood spice. The wine finishes dry with some tonic water bitterness. – Will Byron, Onannon
2021 Onannon Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay is a blend of three vineyards; one in Tuerong, one in Flinders and the other in Red Hill. 15% of the wine was fermented and matured in new French oak. 50% was fermented in larger format puncheons. Plenty of lees stirring early in the piece. 100% malolactic fermentation. Mostly left unsulphured until just before bottling in December 2021. – Will Byron, Onannon
Pinot Gris grapes picked by hand from our home base in Red Hill. The fruit went straight into a three-tonne stainless-steel open fermenter. There it was saturated in CO2 and sealed up, away from the world for 14 days. The fruit was then pressed and sent straight to two old puncheons.
The wine finished its alcoholic fermentation and malolactic conversion over the next 10 weeks in oak. It was racked off lees into tank at the start of June, then racked again off the remaining lees again a week after and then bottled without fining. 12% alcohol.
This 2021 is very aromatic, with strawberry, guava, plenty of whole-bunch spice and fresh green herbs. The palate is dry with some nuttiness. – Will Byron, Onannon
RED – REGIONAL
The 2021 Onannon Pinot Noir is grown on three Mornington Peninsula vineyards. As with the 2019 and ‘20, the fruit comes from our Red Hill vineyard (25-year-old vines, MV6, 777) and a site in Flinders (15-year-old vines, MV6, 115, 114), plus this year another Red Hill vineyard comprising 20-year-old MV6 vines.
All the fruit is handpicked and destemmed, with a 10% portion of whole bunch-fermented wine (clones 777 and MV6) also including in the assemblage. The fruit is given a fairly long cold soak, as well as a relatively long post-ferment maceration. Half is aged in puncheon, the other half in barrique. The wine was blended and bottled unfined in December 2021. – Will Byron, Onannon
From a single site on the Mornington Peninsula, this wine is made using 30% whole bunches. 20 days in total on skins and matured in a stainless-steel egg we call the rocket.
Blue/black fruits, bunch spice and treacle on the nose. The palate has some density and tannin, and finishes brightly with sour red fruits. – Will Byron, Onannon
WHITE – SINGLE VINEYARD
The wine comprises Chardonnay clone 95. The handpicked fruit was pressed as whole bunches before fermentation with full solids in three French oak barrels, one of which was new. The lees were stirred a few months after primary fermentation had finished. The wine underwent full malolactic conversion. Left unsulphured on gross lees till November then racked, bentonite-fined and filtered.
It’s a ripper Chardonnay. Absolute top drawer. The length of it, wow. It tastes of white peach and nectarine, shells and lactose, hay and sweet cedar. But the tension here, the impression of power and the sheer length; this is quality with a hum to it. File this one under Excellent.95 points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
RED – SINGLE VINEYARD
The wine is a mix of several clones: D5, MV6 and 777. The grapes were destemmed into an open stainless-steel pot and fermented with indigenous yeasts. The fruit spent 10 days on skins. It underwent natural malolactic fermentation. Fermented in used oak barrels. Racked, filtered and put to bottle with no fining.
Sweet meats and sweet-sour cherries, earth, dust, garden herbs and smoked cedar. This is a light-but-insistent style, done well. It’s complex in a casual, almost off-hand way; its complexity feels inherent. It has excellent length. This ticks all the boxes, particularly if you’re prepared to stash it away for a few years.93+ points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front
This wine is from the Red Hill vineyard which the Onannon boys manage with the help of their trusty vineyard worker, Martin. The vines are 26 years old now. It’s a warm site, sitting at 90m with a northern exposure. In 2019 Onannon once again used only the MV6 clone, fermented entirely as whole bunches. The wine spent a full month on skins, including a length pre-ferment cold soak. The wine underwent natural malolactic conversion in spring. Racked, filtered and put to bottle with no fining.
This is pretty super. Young, for sure, and tight, and a little liberal with the oak, just, but it’s so inherently complex, so well framed, and so well fruited – in a context of savouriness. Dark cherry and strawberry, woodsy herbs, foresty/undergrowth-like aspects, lots of twiggy spice. It carries a veneer of toasty cedar wood oak but it’s not heavy and nor is it concerning. It’s a tip top wine. Fine-grained and tight, with some kind of fantastic future ahead of it.94+ points. Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front