Mount Mary has launched a new label under the name Marli Russell, and the wines are bloody fantastic. The project started in 2007 when changing environmental conditions and a desire to see what else the famed Mount Mary Site could do saw them plant seven Rhone Varietals. The plantings included three whites grapes; Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairet, and four red varietals; Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre, and Cinsault. Originally it was called the Rhone Project - but due to labelling laws they had to change it, Rhone legally can’t appear on a wine not made in the Rhone Valley). They opted to name it Marli Russell instead, after one of the cofounders of Mount Mary, and Sam Middleton’s Grandmother. Ten years after planting, they made their first wine from the site, one from their white grapes (RP1) and the flagship for this new label from the red grapes the RP2.
The RP2 (stands for Rhone Project 2) is Grenache dominant, which was very much an intentional decision. Early on in the project, they noticed how well the Grenache vines were doing on their site and opted to have this as the red blend’s backbone.
“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 Middleton - Mount Mary Winemaker
The other three grapes Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault, add complexity and depth to the blend. These wines have impressed wine critics with each passing vintage, with 2018 being the most refined release yet. It has certainly brought home the highest scores to date; it landed a whopping 97 points from Halliday and 95 from Gary Walsh. Walsh tasted all the releases in a vertical and marked this newest release as his favourite, giving it the highest mark he has given the project thus far.
The Marli Russell RP2 is an exciting wine, it still definitely has that iconic Mount Mary elegance, but in a style looking to be appreciated in its youth. What’s not to love about the winemaking talents of Sam Middleton combined with a bit of experimentation. We have 60 bottles of this fabulous new release, don’t miss out.
The 2018 growing season was not without its challenges. We saw particularly high rainfall in November and December 2017, filling us with optimism for the months ahead. As it turned out, that rainfall preceded one of the driest spells recorded during a January to March period, with no significant rain falling before the end of March.
These particularly dry, warm seasons - the kind we seem to be experiencing on slightly more regular basis - are the inherent reason we chose to explore these varieties on our site back in 2008. It was extremely satisfying for us to see how well these varieties performed under such conditions. We believe the two ‘Marli Russell by Mount Mary’ wines from 2018 are the strongest we have made to date under this label.
This wine includes all four red varieties from our Marli Russell plantings: 55% Grenache, 20% Shiraz, 20% Mourvèdre and 5% Cinsault. It was always the intent for this blend to be Grenache dominant (at least 50%) and now having worked with these varieties in the vineyard for 10 years we are convinced more than ever that this is such an important aspect. We truly love the way Grenache grows on our site and it is this variety we hope dictates the wine’s style. A wine of elegance, with beautiful mid-palate fruit sweetness combined with savoury attributes and fine-grained tannin. It is matured in larger-format oak barrels to preserve freshness, fruit vibrancy and energy.
Destemmed, with 100% whole berries going into the open-top fermenter. Pumped over for the first four days, after which the wine was plunged three times a day. All up, the wine spent 10-14 days on skins. The Grenache was raised in seasoned large-format oak (1600L), while the Shiraz went into two- to four-year-old barriques. The Cinsault and Mourvèdre went into older barriques. The wines were aged for 14-16 months. They were bottled unfined after a coarse filtration.
This wine has a strikingly bright, vibrant hue when first poured into the glass. The nose is bursting with small red-berry aromas and spice. It quickly draws you back in for another look as it slowly reveals it’s many layers of complexity. On the palate there are raspberries, strawberries, cherries and spice. The palate is medium-bodied, elegant and refined but with great concentration and length of flavour. While not necessarily needing time to age, we suspect it will flesh out even further over the coming years.
Mount Mary is one of the great small wineries of Australia, established by Dr John Middleton in 1972. Production is tiny. Mount Mary is noted for both the character and high quality of its wines. Since the first vintage in 1976, it has established itself as one of Australia's most highly regarded producers, commanding a mythical status among wine collectors. The vineyard faces due north and captures optimum sunlight during the growing season. The purity of fruit, poise and structure of Quintet, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend, epitomises the estate. It resonates with individuality of place and Dr John’s fastidious respect for the landscape. Mount Mary has continued to take great steps forward while staying true to the vision of Dr John, whose son David oversees the business while grandson Sam Middleton has taken on the winemaking mantle with aplomb.
Sam Middleton is a third generation wine maker from the Mount Mary family. He holds a degree in Agricultural Science from the University of Melbourne as well as a degree in Wine Science from Charles Sturt University. His background includes employment at several significant producers including Coldstream Hills and Dominique Portet. Sam has gained experience in France working a vintage in Burgundy in 2009 and travelling extensively through other wine regions on a number of occasions since. Bordeaux is of special interest to him as a result of its role in Mount Mary's history. Growing up in the Yarra Valley alongside his father and grandfather, grapes and wine have always been a part of life. He has always demonstrated a passion for primary production and has a deep respect for this region and its unique ability to produce world-class wines.
JAMES HALLIDAY - HALLIDAY'S WINE COMPANION
50% grenache, 20% each of shiraz and mourvedre, 10% cinsaut, each variety vinified separately. Bunch-sorted on vibrating tables, then berry-sorted by Oscillys machine, 10-14 days on skins, matured for 14-18 months in French oak (10% new). Pure class, pure Mount Mary, long and silky.
GARY WALSH - THE WINE FRONT
Ripe strawberry, raspberry, dried roses and herbs, redcurrant and rosehip jelly. Medium-bodied, but has impact, the quality of the tannin moving up a notch this vintage, offset with cool limped acidity, succulent flavour, and a long finish shaped up with chalk dust tannin. A very strong release here. A pleasure to drink.