Circe Wines – Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia

Wines Tasted:

  1. Circe Wines, Red Hill South Chardonnay, 2011
  2. Circe Wines, Hillcrest Chardonnay, 2011
  3. Circe Wines, Red Hill South Pinot Noir, 2011
  4. Circe Wines, Hillcrest Pinot Noir, 2011
  5. Circe Wines, Pinot Noir, 2012 (blend from Dunns Creek Road and Red Hill South)

During my visit to Melbourne I caught up with a number of people working in the wine industry around Victoria. As the week progressed I began to notice a common theme about how difficult it is to get the 2011 wines in front of the trade, let alone the consumer in Australia. This has to be in part due the largely negative response from the industry media insisting the cold and wet vintage conditions of 2011 would produce nothing of interest.

Still living in Melbourne during that season I remember the weather being pretty dire and I read numerous doom and gloom accounts of the wine that would come from 2011. So I was very interested to meet Aaron Drummond from Circe Wines on a fairly cool but sunny afternoon on the Peninsula for a tasting. We tasted five wines, of which, four were from 2011 – two Chardonnays and two Pinot Noirs, with the fifth wine being a Pinot Noir from 2012, a comparatively easier vintage.

Circe Wines - Aaron Drummond
Aaron Drummond at Dunns Creek Road Vineyard © Simone Madden-Grey

Aaron Drummond and Dan Buckle started Circe Wines in 2010 on the Mornington Peninsula, approximately 80 kms South East of Melbourne. Only Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is produced, initially from 3 acres at the Hillcrest Vineyard. Production increased in 2011 with the addition of 6 acres at the Red Hill South Vineyard and then increased again in 2013 with the recently acquired 7 acres at Dunns Creek Road. This final addition provides an exciting opportunity to produce the wine on site as well as the potential for opening a cellar door at this location.

After a brief wander around the vines we settled down for the tasting and a chat about the philosophy behind Circe wines. Circe is the Greek goddess in Homer’s Odyssey and the name was chosen for the wines as “a nice metaphor for the seductions – and perils – of Pinot Noir.” It is also a good metaphor for how this venture provides an opportunity to “push the boundaries that don’t get pushed in their day jobs” and create wines that speak clearly to the location and growing conditions of each season.

The label is a picture of Circe and Ulysses from The Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493. German painter and print maker Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) created this and many other woodcuts for the medieval world history.

Circe and Ulysses

The image was taken to an artist to create a stamp from which the label was printed – no mean feat given the complexity and detail in the image.

All the wines at Circe Wines are hand harvested as you might expect from such small parcels of land. Whole bunch fermentation, (i.e. the stems are not removed from the bunches of grapes during fermentation) is used in varying degrees for both the Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir, which gives the wines a nice complexity on the palate.

The 2011’s I tasted were beautifully perfumed with an elegant linear structure and clean mouthfeel. As might be expected from such a cool vintage the acidity is rather high but I didn’t find this off putting and would expect this will work well by providing a structure around which the fruit will develop as the wines age. The colour of the Pinots is definitely worth noting – it was a brilliantly pretty and bright ruby – a feast for the eyes before the tasting even began!

With small overall production I am very pleased to see the wines are available in Hong Kong (if only in minuscule quantities) from The Flying Winemaker and wine’n’things. But, of course, if you are in Australia you will have no trouble getting in touch with the guys at Circe Wines and I would certainly recommend you do so!

Happy Drinking!

Tasting Notes

Circe Wines, Red Hill South Chardonnay, 2011

Pale lemon colour. Aromas of lemon, green apple, cream cheese. On the palate, high acidity with flavours of grapefruit, green apple and lemon.

Circe Wines, Hillcrest Chardonnay, 2011

Pale lemon colour. Aromas of white flowers, lemon and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, high acidity with citrus and mineral flavour characteristics – lemon, grapefruit, wet stone and slate.

Circe Wines, Red Hill South Pinot Noir, 2011

Brilliant medium ruby colour. Aromas of sweet red fruits and pungent spice – strawberries and black pepper. On the palate medium plus acidity and medium tannins with flavours of sour cherry, black pepper and a hint of wet leaves. Elegant and well structured mouth feel.

Circe Wines, Hillcrest Pinot Noir 2011

Medium ruby colour. Aromas of candied red fruits with a hint of black pepper and forest floor. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity on the palate with flavours of sour cherries and spice.

Circe Wines, Pinot Noir 2012 (blend from Dunns Creek Road and Red Hill South)

Medium ruby colour. Aromas of red cherries, black pepper and forest floor. On the palate, medium tannins and medium plus acidity with flavours of sour cherries, red currants and forest floor.

Related Happy Wine Woman Posts

Pinot Noir: John Forrest, Kumeu River, Payten & Jones


Circe Wines

Wikipedia – Michael Wolgemut

Mornington Peninsula Vignerons Association – Vintage Report

Published by Happy Wine Woman

Wine consultant currently based in Melbourne, Australia.

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