The Mount Mary Quintet is one of the iconic wines of Australia and one of the jewels of the Yarra Valley. It is a blend of the five Bordeaux varieties - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot - sourced from the Yarra's most revered vineyard. Mount Mary Quintet is one of 'Langton's Heritage Five' which celebrates Australia's most exceptional and ground-breaking wines.
This collection, a 20 year vertical of Mount Mary Quintet magnums from 1986-2005, is a unique and precious slice of Australian wine history. It represents a wonderful tribute to the late and great Dr John Middleton.
"From the outset Mount Mary produced wines of rare finesse and purity. Today its star shines brighter than that of any of the 169 producers in the Yarra Valley. The Quintet stands proudly at the head of the portfolio." James Halliday
Mount Mary Winery (click on image to play video)
Dr John & Sam Middleton
Dr John and Marli Middleton
Dr John Middleton was a prominent physician and a giant of the Australian wine industry. He played a leading role in the renaissance of the Yarra Valley as a premium wine-producing region when he founded Mount Mary in 1971, as it had been 50 years since the Valley had produced any wine.
John was the son of a country doctor and initially followed in his father's footsteps. "John studied medicine at Melbourne University, where he met arts student Marli Russell, who was to become his wife. He graduated with honours in all subjects and was awarded prestigious medical prizes. To the surprise of friends and colleagues, this talented graduate from a privileged background chose not to become what was known in those days as 'a Collins Street specialist'. He had no desire to be a rich, society medico. He had a deep social conscience and as a physician, he would treat and counsel an entire family for the price of one patient.” Philip Jones, The Sydney Morning Herald
In the 1960s John and Marli, driven by a passion for fine table wine, made many visits to the wine producing regions of the world and in particular, to Bordeaux and Burgundy. They soon became hooked on French premium wines and the thought of producing something similar in Australia. They resolved to find a suitable site upon which to establish a small commercial vineyard with the intention of making elegant, low-alcohol wines from French varieties.
When John finally decided to devote his life to making wine, he didn't let his busy medical practice impede his search for the perfect vineyard site. He walked the slopes of the low hills surrounding the Yarra Valley and arranged for soil to be tested. It was in 1971 that he came across Mount Mary, a property that had grey-clay soil and a north-facing slope ideal for grape growing.
John planted 25 acres of vines in 1972 and produced the first Mount Mary vintage in 1976. The release comprised four wines: Quintet (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot), Triolet (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle), Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
John's attention to detail was legendary and he possessed a relentless drive for perfection. "John Middleton practised near-obsessive attention to detail long before that phrase slid into oenological vernacular. Even journalists were vetted before being allowed into the winery, its sanitary standard that of a hospital operating theatre. And therein lay the secret of the quality of the wines. Infinite care was taken with every stage of converting grapes into wine to be released when (in Middleton's view) it was ready.” James Halliday
John never sought media attention, there were no public tastings, no cellar door sales, no winemaker dinners and no advertising; the sole marketing expense was an annual A4 brochure sent to clients on his mailing list. "I still recall John Middleton eschewing all the glitz and glam of wine marketing and PR, boycotting the wine shows and expos, refusing to send a bottle for a magazine tasting because 'we might have all been drinking coffee or eating garlic for breakfast'. It was all irrelevant to him. All that mattered was what went into the bottle. No advertising, no fanfare, no flying the word's press to the winery for a party. Whatever fame Mount Mary has attained, it has achieved solely on the back of its wine quality. And that's a lot of fame." Huon Hooke
It is a classic understatement to say that John was a complex personality. When I first started seriously purchasing wine, the highlight of the buying year was tasting the new vintage release wines at Mount Mary, but more particularly spending time talking with John. My fondest memory was the year I arrived to find John leaning on the driveway gate, in a particularly reflective mood, and listening to his long discourse on a wide range of subjects.
"John did not suffer fools gladly. He wrote an annual newsletter that was usually controversial and, if he thought it was deserved, would attack politicians, government departments and critics with withering contempt. John would usually leave it until perhaps the fourth sentence for his first shot of invective, and by then it was on for young and old. He somehow contrived to address the majority of important issues facing the global wine industry, plus anything else that came to mind, in and around the loose context of introducing his loyal band of buyers to Mount Mary's forthcoming wine release. One stoush over government interference stemmed from state and federal excise on quality wine on the professed grounds of curbing alcoholism. 'These (connoisseurs of quality wines) are the last people to be viewed as drunkards,' he noted. It was riveting stuff; never dull, always intelligent and never failing to overlook any technical or political reality that might have weakened his case. John's intensity, focus and the strength of his self-belief will long remain in the consciousness of everyone who knew him.” A combination of excerpts from Angus Hughson, The Wine Genius and Philip Jones, The Sydney Morning Herald
John Middleton made Mount Mary one of Australia's greatest vineyards. "John relentlessly strove for perfection and all 4 of the wines in the original Mount Mary portfolio achieved just that. By the time John died in 2006, aged 82, Mount Mary's wines had long been recognised as the leader of the Yarra Valley pack." James Halliday
Mount Mary is in the form of its life with Sam Middleton as Head Winemaker, a position he has held since 2011. "Current winemaker and third-generation family member Sam Middleton has managed to sensitively and intelligently refine the wines to their highest-ever level of quality, driven from the vineyard up.” Nick Stock
Sam Middleton is a third generation winemaker 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 vintage in Burgundy in 2009 and travelling extensively through other wine regions. 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.
Mount Mary is entering its second golden age with Sam Middleton in charge of the winemaking process. "Charming grandson Sam Middleton is equally dedicated (as Dr John Middleton). An all-encompassing recent tasting of every vintage of the 4 wines in the original Mount Mary portfolio left me in no doubt he is making even better wines." James Halliday
About the winery
Mount Mary, a highly acclaimed single vineyard estate located in the heart of the Yarra Valley, is owned and operated by the Middleton family. Dr John Middleton purchased Mount Mary in 1971 and planted 25 acres of vines the following year on a north facing slope that captures optimum sunlight during the growing season. John played a leading role in the renaissance of the Yarra Valley as a premium wine-producing region, as it had been 50 years since the Valley had produced any wine, and duly established himself as a giant of the Australian wine industry.
Since the first vintage in 1976, Mount Mary has established itself as one of Australia's most highly regarded producers, commanding a mythical status among wine collectors. John established a stellar reputation, with the winery's small (3000 case) production selling out quickly each year. 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 John's fastidious respect for the landscape.
The Mount Mary Vineyard estate wines are premium handcrafted wines produced in limited quantities. The four wines are Quintet, Triolet (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle), Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The first two wines are classic Bordeaux blends, while the latter two are varieties traditionally grown and made in Burgundy.
Mount Mary celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2021 and today has around 40 acres under vine planted to 18 grape varieties. Mount Mary has continued to take great steps forward while staying true to the vision of Dr John, who died in 2006. His son David oversees the business while grandson Sam Middleton has held the role of Head Winemaker since 2011. "It's axiomatic that generational change can be good or bad, obvious or discreet. The changes at Mount Mary have been unambiguously good, but fittingly discreet.” James Halliday
In 2008, in response to changing environmental conditions and a desire to evaluate new varieties, Mount Mary established additional vineyard areas on the estate and planted a number of varieties that have traditionally been grown in the Rhône Valley. The varieties planted include three white grapes, Marsanne, Roussanne and Clairette and four red grapes, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault. In 2014 Mount Mary released two new wines under the Marli Rusell label, named after Marli Middleton (nee Russell), wife of John and co-founder of Mount Mary. One is a blend of the three white Rhône varietals, the other a blend of the four red Rhône varietals.
"More than half the land area of Mount Mary is not directly related to wine production. The health of our property is of primary concern and we have the long-term objective of being self-sufficient in energy and water. We are also keen to limit our impact on the environment through revegetation and weed control. Despite the many challenges that have been presented to us over the past few years, progress toward our environmental goals continues. We are on a journey of continuous improvement and while we still have a long way to go to reach all of our goals, great progress has been made in with our planting program and our water and energy system designs. Work has begun on the reticulation of our harvested water supplies, the modernisation of our winery wastewater management and the energy efficiency of our winery. Our revegetation areas are already attracting increased numbers of native birds and our Snow Gum conservation area is looking good. We are continuing with our program of collecting a variety of native seed for propagation.
The ultimate goal of our environmental works is to be energy and water efficient, relying less on outside supply, to provide additional habitat for native species, and to limit our negative impacts by containing and treating waste products on site. Renewable power, water collection and recycling, and redesigned facilities are at the centre of these improvements.
Although we are not certified biodynamic or organic we have a very keen interest in soil health and improving the environment around us. We are striving for a sustainable and robust viticultural system to ensure the long-term future of our site and the continual evolution of our wines. To help with this vision we adopt many viticultural practices, which include spreading compost in order to manipulate the soil microbiology and increase soil organic matter, along with spreading small amounts of organic fertilisers, and in some blocks mulching undervine with straw to increase soil water retention.
We like to minimize the use of machinery in our vineyard in order to reduce the amount of soil compaction within the vine row. Cover crops are sown down every alternate row which helps to increase soil organic matter, improve soil structure and provide a home for the many beneficial insects which play an important role in pest management. We continue to strive towards a spray program that only involves chemical use when absolutely necessary. We are focused on doing these things to ensure a healthy, sustainable environment." Mount Mary
Victoria is home to more than 800 wineries across 21 wine regions. The regions are Alpine Valley, Beechworth, Bendigo, Geelong, Gippsland, Glenrowan, Goulburn Valley, Grampians, Heathcote, Henty, King Valley, Macedon Ranges, Mornington Peninsula, Murray Darling, Pyrenees, Rutherglen, Strathbogie Ranges, Sunbury, Swan Hill, Upper Goulburn and Yarra Valley.
Victoria's first vines were planted at Yering in the Yarra Valley in 1838. By 1868 over 3,000 acres had been planted in Victoria, establishing Victoria as the premier wine State of the day. Today, the original vineyards planted at Best's Wines are among the oldest and rarest pre-phylloxera plantings in the world.
Victoria's climate varies from hot and dry in the north to cool in the south and each wine region specialises in different varietals. For example, Rutherglen in the north is famous for its opulent Muscats and Topaque and bold reds, while the many cooler climate regions near Melbourne produce world class Chardonnay and pinot Noir. Victoria is truly a wine lover's playground.