It’s been an exciting 18 months for the Mount Mary team. Not only were they named Halliday Wine Companion Winery of the Year for 2018, but they also launched their newest label, Marli Russell by Mount Mary.
“It was such an honour to be named Halliday Winery of the Year,” winemaker Sam Middleton says. “It’s a great feeling to know that this award is not only recognising our history and journey, but also validating all the hard work we’ve put in to these new projects over the last few years. To receive this recognition from such a respected wine expert as James Halliday meant a lot to us and gives us great confidence for the future.”
Mount Mary is an exceptional Yarra Valley winery backed by more than 45 years of history, producing ultra-premium wines that are snaffled up by its ultra-loyal followers each year. They have recently released their 2016 Marli Russell by Mount Mary wines, the third vintage of this new label, extending that quality to even more wine lovers with its fresh selection of varieties grown on the Mount Mary estate. These Rhone-inspired wines encourage the idea that Mount Mary can be an earlier drinking style, as well as a collector’s item.
“We hope the Marli Russell wines will be enjoyed on release rather than cellared for a long time. That’s not to say they can’t be aged, but our aim was to showcase a fresh style, with less new oak and time in bottle or barrel,” Sam says. “Our Mount Mary estate wines reflect varieties we’ve worked with for 45-odd years, and that we have a great deal of confidence in growing and making. With the Marli Russell wines it’s early days for the vines, but they’re made in a very similar way to the Mount Mary range, with the same care and attention to detail,” he adds. “We wanted to make wine that reflected what these varieties bring to the table naturally – to be fruit expressive, vibrant and lively – but we also wanted them to fit within the Mount Mary framework in terms of style, which is elegant, restrained and food-friendly.”
The varieties for the Marli Russell by Mount Mary range have been traditionally grown in the Rhone Valley of France and include grenache, shiraz, mourvedre, cinsault, marsanne, roussanne and clairette. The decision to plant these grapes was a future-focused project Mount Mary embarked on a decade ago: “We’ve been growing grapes here for a long time, so we’ve accumulated a lot of data on climate and in particular what the temperatures are doing in the growing season,” Sam says. “We’ve noticed quite a significant shift over the years that has resulted in earlier picking, with vintages becoming shorter and more compressed. You’ll always have outliers to these findings, but this knowledge base prompted us to 10 years ago start thinking about what varieties would be suited to this warming climate, as well as what the Yarra Valley and our site in particular would be known for in 20 to 50 years’ time. We wanted to stick to the classic French varieties currently running through our business, so we looked to the southern Rhone Valley.” That’s not to say these will eventually supersede the original varieties: “Mount Mary wines are only continuing to get better, in particular with the Quintet, as it was marginal to plant those varieties 30 years ago and now they’re thriving. We simply want to start experimenting with other varieties and push the boundaries in terms of what our site can produce.”
The hero of the range is a grenache-based red (including at least 50 per cent grenache each vintage), with some shiraz, cinsault and mourvedre in the mix, called the Marli Russell RP2: “The grenache we have planted expresses itself similarly to pinot, so we’ve followed that path in terms of how we’ve made it. Generally speaking, when you grow grenache in cooler climates it makes a style of wine that’s subtle, spicy and with a savoury character. Of the reds, this has been the one that’s excited us the most. It’s also the wine that’s closest in style to Mount Mary,” Sam says.
Rhone whites might be a little more under the radar in terms of what you'd be used to pulling off bottle shop shelves, but the Marli Russell RP1 is deserving of your attention too: “We’ve got more history in the Yarra Valley with Rhone whites than we do with any of the red varieties discussed. We’re again aiming for a Mount Mary style of white with these wines, so we want it to be quite textural, with good fruit expression and weight. The style we’re making is a really unique expression of marsanne and roussanne: probably a little bit leaner and more acid-driven than other styles in Australia,” Sam says.
Will the range grow to include more wines? ”The long-term vision is to add a shiraz-dominant red,” Sam says. “We do have some vines planted for that project, but that’s another four or five years away.” Stay tuned.
To find out more about Marli Russell by Mount Mary wines, or to enquire how to purchase, go to mountmary.com.au