Is it possible to experience the environmental diversity of a region through your taste buds? The answer, as David Chapman of Allies Wines is proving, is ‘yes’, and thankfully it doesn’t involve eating plants or tasting soil. David is using his range of pinot noir wines, produced with grapes from a range of Mornington Peninsula vineyards to celebrate diverse environment of the region.
A couple of friends, some wine and an idea are the basic ingredients of countless conversations happening somewhere at any given moment, and so it was with Allies. Often though, the inspiration of such ideas dries up at the bottom of the bottle. Not only did David and workmate Barney Flanders successfully realise their ambition of making their own wine, but they turned it into a fruitful business. One reason for the success was possibly the fact that the idea was born while working with wine at Moorooduc Estate winery, rather than just drinking it. It seems you don’t need to be drinking wine to be subtly intoxicated by it and the dreamy aspirations it can induce.
In 2003 the pair sourced funds and invested their own time to produce their first wine of the Allies stable, the 2003 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir. Demonstrating the benefit of a supportive employer, with no vineyard of their own David and Barney produced the first three vintages of Allies wines at Moorooduc Estate.
In 2006 they took the reigns at Merricks Grove Vineyard, home to mostly pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Since then, the pair has amicably parted ways, with Barney taking on the Garagiste label, leaving David as the sole winemaker behind the Allies brand.
If he has a workmate now, it is his gorgeous, friendly and watchful dog, Lily. Not that she works for or with him, but she is there keeping him company as a friend while he works. David spends many of his days alone among the vines on several properties, but says he enjoys the peace and quiet of it all. But at the same time, he is a relaxed and friendly type who enthusiastically talks about his love for winemaking, his methods, processes and philosophies. Working with grapes from a range of vineyards, none of which he owns, allows David to inject a unique variety into the Allies range. He tends to the vines himself, harvests the fruit and bottles the wine, working from a stunning property in Merricks. In return he supplies the owners of the vineyards with batches of the final product.
This arrangement also allows David to take a somewhat different approach to his winemaking. Rather than producing a range of wine varieties from a single vineyard, he has turned his focus to making a range of pinot noirs that highlight the diversity of site characteristics – namely climate, altitude, aspect and soil – throughout the Peninsula.
His 2011 efforts – the Main Ridge Pinot Noir and Merricks Pinot Noir – demonstrate this diversity nicely and are quite different experiences of the region on the palate, despite being of the same family of grape. So there you have it, a good excuse to try a couple of nice reds other than the mere enjoyment of the wine – making sure taste and smell are not left out of the sensory experience of the Morningon Peninsula. His aim is to show the varying characteristics that can be displayed in Pinot from the changes in altitude, soil and aspect of each site.Through minimal changes in the winery, so far, he has done this quite well. A great education in “terrior” and clonal changes on the Peninsula, as both wines are quite different. Both the 2011 wines are neither fined or filtered, which considering the tough 2011 vintage, was a wise move.