St Mary’s Wines
What catches my attention regarding this vineyard and its wines is purely their apparent association to a famous, local girl school which bears the same name. What so special then are the St. Mary’s Wines which warrant some words and your time reading them?
Family with tradition. The owner Mulligan family came with a history as long as the girl school. The Mulligan family has been a part of the Penola community for nearly 100 years. Penola was settled in the mid 1800’s as the service centre for the region as it was being opened up to European settlement at the time. I like the Mulligans because I understood that they contribute not only to making good wines, but they also contribute to the wine industry and to the society as a whole.
The wines with a difference. Perhaps the main difference between the wines from St Mary’s and similar wines in the Limestone Coast is that St Mary’s wines are Estate Grown, Hand Made, Basket Pressed and bottled at St Mary’s, and all these are done by members of the family as they really mean them. You can rest assured that they would be trying their best to defend the name.
To me, the niche of the wines from St. Mary’s lie in their minerality and their relatively high complexity by Australian standard, as well as their association with a lovely green, peppery tone with no loss of fruit ripeness, the Mulligan’s respect for tradition and drive for novelty.They are good Australians wines that could have confused trained noses as Bordeaux Blends, which I hope are nice surprises to you.
A bit about the area. St Mary’s vineyard and winery is situated 15 kilometres west of the township of Penola in the Limestone Coast zone of South Australia. The Limestone Coast is a large part of South Australia -120km wide and 500km long- that encompasses all of the wine growing Regions of Penola, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Mount Benson, Robe and Coonawarra. The Penola Wine Region is a small part of the Limestone Coast 12km wide and 45km long and joins the Wrattonbully and Coonawarra regions. St Mary’s Vineyard is in the middle of the Penola Region. Here under the cold currents influence from the Antartic, the climate is distinctively cool.
Terra Rossa Soil. Many a winemaker could have jeered at Terra Rossa soils as in Australia, all soil is red or slightly red anyways. However, St Mary’s Vineyard is planted on a unique area of Terra Rossa soil over limestone that varies from a depth of a few centimetres to a meter in other parts of the vineyard. The Terra Rossa soil is a combination of organic material, minerals and exposed iron rich particles that have been oxidised to become a deep red colour. The Terra Rossa Soil at St. Mary’s is a special blend of soil. The vineyards at St Mary’s are very stone. Some of the more austere parts of the vineyard are virtually pure rock. The vines that have survived on these stony areas produce relatively small tonnages compared to local district averages. Some of the stonier parts of the vineyard are virtually pure rock. The vines that grow on these stony areas produce very small tonnages of high quality grapes.
Basket Pressing. Traditionally, all press are vertical, with the pressure on the grapes coming from above through a screw and this basket press are normally used for making top wines.When the grapes are picked and finished the fermentation of the wine, we then use a wooden slat Basket Press in a traditional way to press the last of the wine out of the grape skins. The basket press extracts the wine from the grape skins and grape seeds in a very gentle manner and stops us from getting any harsh flavours from cracked grape seeds. St. Mary’s uses the basket press for all of our wines.
Green Tone with No Less Ripeness. St. Mary’s produces only reds and all Of the wines comes with a characteristically green tone, with no less ripeness though, likely to confuse the most experienced nose. SO note the green and black peppery tone associated with the blackcurrant Cabernet Sauvignon; the interesting grassiness of the Merlot and the black peppery tone associate with the blackberry fruit and spice of St. Mary’s Shiraz. And here, I have to say, at St. Mary’s as well as other vineyards in the region. I have to confess that for St. Mary’s, Cabernet is King.