There is a saying that when it comes to Australian wine, “great sites make great wine”. Irrespective of vintage, conditions, winemaking and cellaring, if the terroir is good, it goes without saying that so too will be the wine. This has never been truer than with Mount Mary. With vineyards set in the superlative Yara Valley, the cool climate and the grey-clay soils provide the perfect foundations for making excellent wines.
The pioneer of Yara
Yara Valley was one of Australia’s first wine growing regions, with roots that stretch back to the mid-1850s. Like much of the country’s wine “industry” – such as it was – the region’s burgeoning potential ground to a halt for much of the 20th century, forced by an economic standstill. It was only due to a renewed interest from a handful of farmers in the 1970s, including Mount Mary’s Dr. John Middleton that Australian wine holds the place it does today. Using techniques learnt in studying the region’s winemaking past, the practical knowledge he gained as a master blender at Seppelt’s Great Western winery and travelling to Bordeaux, Burgundy and Napa, he planted varietals of French grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Triolet, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This was in 1971 and neither the Middletons nor Mount Mary has looked back since.
Winery of the Year
Today Mount Mary is in its third generation, with chief winemaker Sam Middleton (and Dr John’s grandson) blending the now famous Sam has injected new vitality into the blends, projecting the estate into a golden age. Under his steerage, Mount Mary has garnered legions of fans, most notably the Australian wine critic James Halliday (the Aussie version of Robert Parker) who named Mount Mary Winery of the Year in 2017. If you found it hard to get your hands on a bottle prior to the accolade, it will be nigh impossible now. Their single vineyard wines reach well over €100 a bottle (almost 75% above average for a wine from the Yara Valley). However, they are more than worth it; exquisite ageing, not to mention a cult following and extremely low production means that demand far outstrips supply year after year.