Quealy is the Mornington Peninsula venture of Kathleen Quealy, husband Kevin McCarthy, their son Tom McCarthy, and viticulturist Lucas Blanck, producing some incredibly compelling wines. They arrived on the peninsula back in the 1980s, Kathleen having studied winemaking at Riverina College (now known as Charles Sturt Uni) and Kevin at Roseworthy in South Australia, and have since helped to make the region not only a fine wine destination but one of risk taking and experimentation, which has certainly paid off.
After the purchase of a vineyard and family property in 2003, Quealy was born. Dubbed the ‘Queen of Pinot Grigio’ by James Halliday, Kathleen’s desire to show the full potential of this grape is well known, and the wines they make from it are rich, multi-layered and delicious. They have also championed Friulano, following journeys to its adopted home of northern Italy, and have introduced other varieties such as Ribolla Gialla, Moscato Giallo, and Malvasia Istriana.
Much work has also been done over the past decade by Lucas (son of Paul Blanck of the eponymous domaine in Alsace) to make the vineyards organically certified. Since 2019, Tom has been the head winemaker at Quealy, and having tasted wines from before and after his tenure, it’s safe to say that the business is in very safe hands. Tom and Lucas established their own, highly recommended winery nearby, Kerri Greens, although Tom has now stepped back to focus solely on Quealy.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Splendido’ Moscato Bianco Zero Dosage 2021
93 points – AU$35
‘We have refined our style with earlier picking, a restricted yield of only 550 litres per ton (that’s extra delicate press cycle) and the wine tiraged to create the second fermentation in the bottle. Every bottle recorded with a numbered neck label so we can track the disgorge date. Our first day of disgorging Splendido 2021 on Jan 20th 2022; all by hand at the winery with no sulphur or dosage.‘
Moscato Bianco is the Italian name for the much longer French version ‘Muscat blanc à petits grains’ (white muscat with small seeds), which is used as the basis for the sparkling Asti and Moscato d’Asti in the Piemonte region. The first thing that grabbed me with the Splendido was the enchanting aroma of orange blossom, mixed with some peach, citrus, apple and yeast. Despite the sense of fruit sweetness on the nose and palate, the wine is completely dry. There’s a lot of vibrancy due to the above-average acidity, and when consumed with food, it becomes more savoury; I had it with a curry and then several cheeses, and it paired brilliantly.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Tussie Mussie’ Pinot Gris 2022
93 points – AU$35
‘Vintage 2022 was hand harvested 21st March and 1st April. The Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris arrived at the winery as small glossy berries brimming with intense flavour, and excited the winemaking team. Whole bunch pressed and fully extracted on an extended press cycle, lots of squeezing and not many turns. Settled and rough racked the following day, Tussie Mussie was fermented on some solids and left to mature unsulphured on lees in steel. Bottled after 9 months.’
The Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris is a minerally and energetic wine that shows the classic characters of apple and pear, plus some citrus and cucumber. It has a silky mouthfeel which is matched by the feeling of weight on the palate – it’s pretty lean but it’s not flimsy or flat. Pairing it with food helps to accentuate the fruit, especially if it’s a spicy curry or something with chilli, but it’s even great with a selection of cheeses.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Turbul’ Friulano 2021
93 points – AU$40
‘Hand selected in the field on the 19th of April, the Friulano was de-stemmed and fermented as cool whole berries. The fermentation took place entirely in amphora without any additions of sulphur or yeast. Turbul remained on skins until the first day of spring when the skins were gently basket pressed rich. The wine was lightly sulphured and left to mature in seasoned large format French puncheons. The wine was bottled after a single delicate rack twelve months later without any fining or filtration. We used a diam cork closure to assist in the persistent gentle oxidation of this phenolic rich wine.‘
Friulano is becoming increasingly popular in Australia, and I’m all for it. Kathleen, Kevin and Tom are big fans of skin-contact whites, and the Turbul shows what happens when it’s done with care and love. It’s cheesy, but not in a bad Hollywood film kind of way, with luscious honey, musk, dried apricot and yeasty characters. They describe it as being a “phenolic-rich wine” and I have to concur – the phenolics are off the charts, making for a heady and flavourful wine that you could pair with a wide range of tasty dishes.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Lina Lool’ 2021
93 points – AU$35
‘Blending grapes with various positive attributes can build a complex wine naturally and make the total wine far greater than the sum. In this case by weight Malvasia Istriana 46%, Moscato Giallo 22%, Friulano 17%, Riesling 11% and Ribolla 5%. Aromatic varieties, Malvasia, Riesling and Moscato Giallo, are all problematic fermenters because these grapes offer poor nutrition to yeast and the end aroma can be marred by a stinky fermentation. We co-ferment the aromatic varieties with Friulano so that the Friulano offers the yeast adequate nutrition for the entire blend. Add to this the ingress of oxygen through the terra cotta amphora and wide open top, and the ferment moves in a positive direction creating aroma, texture and vitality.’
‘Linalool’ is a type of terpene alcohol that naturally occurs in some flowers and plants, known for its aromas of spice and tropical fruit. It’s therefore not much of a surprise that this Lina Lool had an abundant fragrance of dried mango and lychee. There’s some pleasant cheesy and peppery notes, as well as citrus and melon, making it quite a bewitching and intriguing wine. The Lina Lool enhances and is enhanced by food, whether it’s a roast chook, cheese or something with some spice, to complement the array of aromas and flavours. There’s a lot to love about this delicious wine.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Musk Creek’ Pinot Noir 2021
93 points – AU$48
‘Hand-picked MV6 clone on 20th and 31st March 2021. Fermentation took place in 3 batches with various amounts of whole bunch, always underneath destemmed fruit. Fermentation was allowed to start naturally and a few light pump overs was replaced with twice daily light plunging until fermentation finished, this light touch allowed the whole bunches present to ferment as whole adding a carbonic dimension. This exhibits as massive generosity in aroma and palate. Think super ripe purple plums. The average time on skins was 25 days. The wine was barely pressed into tank to settle overnight. This young wine then transferred with light lees into a mixture of Francois Freres and Billon Hogs Heads and Barriques. All the oak used is in magnificent condition, and a quarter of the oak was new.‘
This wine was quite a chameleon. It opened with some attractive aromas of red cherry and raspberry, and a strong scent of beetroot and stemminess. As it breathed, it revealed some more complexity: earth, black pepper, musk (which is apt, given the vineyard), and the beginning of some aged characters with mushroom. On the palate it was mellifluous and minerally, giving a slight tingle on the tongue. The fruit is incredibly bright and in the mouth it seems younger than its aromas might suggest. I paired it with some gooey cheese and it was glorious.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Musk Creek’ Pinot Gris 2022
94 points – AU$35
‘The press cycle is a long process beginning with loading whole bunches and over 12 hours gently extracting all the desirable attributes of these marvellous grapes. The juices are racked and then allowed to begin their own ferment without any sulphur protection. Three weeks later we re-inoculated with a sparkling yeast to assist the wine to fully finish the ferment without marring the nose with any undesirable smells that can arise from old grumpy yeast. There was a rear guard action with the malolactic acid bacteria stalling the sugar ferment, inexplicable but common in unsulphured fermentations. Slowly as the tank and barrels laboured through their sugars, we kept mixing those yeast lees, shaking them alive, ultimately converting all to alcohol and delightful flavours. Bottled in November 25th 2021.’
The Musk Creek Pinot Gris is a complex and tasty drop that’s easy to like right from the first sniff. It’s already developing some honeyed notes and is aromatic after the bottle’s been open for a while. But right away there’s some lovely perfume (like sweet orange blossom), along with apple, pear, cucumber and hay. I tried it with several different types of cheese, which made it salty and bright, but by itself it’s still very smooth, silky and delicious.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Feri Maris’ Pinot Grigio 2022
94 points – AU$35
‘Grapes handpicked on 1st March 2021 at 11.92 Baume. Gently loaded into press as whole bunches and slowly gently squeezed so only the finest delicate juice expressed. This juice selection allows us to make wine without any additions of yeast or acid, and only the minimum concentration of sulphur to preserve.‘
This is the most elegant, the most serious, of the Pinot Gris/Grigio on offer and was definitely my pick. While perhaps not as complex as the Tussie Mussie, the aromas and flavours are dialled up a few degrees and are brighter here: apple, pear, lemon, hay, and a perceivable minerality on the nose. The palate is lustrous and intense, and the fruit is even more heightened when the wine’s paired with a dish like cheese and crackers (of which I ate far too much (if possible) when reviewing and enjoying this wine).
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Tussie Mussie’ Pinot Noir 2021
94 points – AU$44
‘The 777 clone of Pinot Noir at Tussie Mussie Vineyard behaves quite differently from the older fashioned clones we know. In addition, the vines are grafted to a Phylloxera resistant rootstock which adds another influence. The vines are only moderately vigorous however tend to set 2 bunches of heavy fruit on each shoot. Because the Peninsula can experience poor set, we wait until the vines have set the flowers before we start to remove some of the crop. It’s a young vineyard, and suits a heavier crop, too small a load encourages wasteful and reductive vigour. The vines are pruned to a single arch, so that there is plenty of light and space around each bunch. The vineyard is now managed organically although there is no certification until more years of organic management. Under vine weed management is now possible with a Fischer Twister and organic herbicide.‘
‘Pretty’ is the first note I wrote down for this wine, but there was so much to come. A resonant note of strawberry and red cherry filled the room before I’d even got around to “officially” smelling the wine, which was matched by vivid aromas of cranberry and plum, and some subtle hints of spice and earth. The palate shimmers with silkiness, vitality and verve, and the wine is enhanced by food, particularly something salty like cheese or even some fries. I imagine that this wine will cellar nicely for at least another 5-8 years and will likely not lose any of its vibrancy.
Quealy Mornington Peninsula ‘Seventeen Rows’ Pinot Noir 2021
95 points – AU$65
‘Seventeen Rows of MV6 Clone of Pinot Noir, each row wide enough for the old orchard tractor, 3.2 – 3.5 metres and each row 200 metres long. The wide planting bathes the vines in sunshine, the organic viticulture program involves caring for the soil so that the root mass is larger than the canopy. The result is healthy vines, that can withstand the duress of summer, function efficiently throughout the season accumulating flavour and tannin in the grapes without much stress. The vines were planted in 1982 and currently we are renewing some trunks that have suffered from tractor implement knocks when we transitioned to organic. The trellis is rudimentary however adequate for these widely spaced small vines.‘
I first tried the Seventeen Rows Pinot Noir a few years ago and was blown away by its quality, and the 2021 did not disappoint at all. It has a sumptuous nose of red fruits (cherry, plum, raspberry, stewed plum) plus spice, musk, earth and rhubarb. But the palate is where the real magic begins. It has mouth-filling flavours and a silky texture with dusty tannins, and the fruit is ultra-bright, tending darker the longer it’s in the glass. This is a very balanced wine with no jagged edges, and I would pair it with something rich and spicy like a vindaloo or even a roast lamb. A super-delicious Pinot.