Matt Lugg & Will Ross Portsea Estate

Top Winemakers

In the expanse of Mornington Peninsula, the Portsea Estate banner has grown to include wines from their own vineyards in Portsea and Main Ridge, as well as sourcing from other growers in the Mornington Peninsula. Matt Lugg and Will Ross work together in crafting the offering for Portsea Estate, with a focusing on refining the classic wines – particularly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – that the Mornington Peninsula does so well.

“We are always doing trials and trying to find better ways to make our wines. Be it reduction in chardonnay, whole bunch use in pinot noir, or new oak use in either, with all our trials, we find we nearly always settle on ‘just enough but not too much’. Much like spices in cooking, these influences should be yet another component but never the main attraction,” says winemaker Matt Lugg.

Matt Lugg’s winemaking narrative is a testament to his relentless pursuit of knowledge and excellence in the world of wine. His academic foundation in Wine Science from Charles Sturt University laid the groundwork for a career marked by diversity and global exposure. Lugg’s international stints in renowned wine regions like Burgundy and the Rhône Valley imbued him with a profound appreciation for the nuances of terroir and traditional winemaking techniques. These experiences, coupled with his work in Australian vineyards such as Stonier, Tyrrell’s, and Clyde Park, have cultivated a well-rounded and adaptable approach to his craft.

At Portsea Estate, Lugg’s role transcends that of a winemaker; he is a curator of the vineyard’s narrative, expressed through each bottle of wine. His methodology is grounded in a philosophy that prioritizes the vineyard’s voice over the winemaker’s signature. This ethos is vividly illustrated in his approach to the 2022 Main Ridge Reserve Block Chardonnay, where minimal intervention allows the vineyard’s character to shine, showcasing the wine’s purity, natural acidity, and aging potential.

Will Ross’s journey in the wine industry is a blend of tradition and innovation. As a third-generation manager and proprietor at Portsea Estate, Ross carries forward a legacy of passion for winemaking while infusing the business with fresh perspectives gained from his global experiences. His academic pursuits, including a Wine MBA from Bordeaux and hands-on experience in the dynamic wine markets of Hong Kong and Shanghai, equip him with a unique blend of traditional winemaking knowledge and modern business acumen.

Ross paints a picture of the diversity of the winegrowing terrain in the Mornington Peninsula: “We access grapes from a number of vineyards within the region. Most importantly, we have two family-owned vineyards: our Portsea block, which is where our winery is, and our Main Ridge block. The two sites are just about the most extreme opposites you’ll find on the Peninsula. Portsea is pretty well at sea level and would be one of the warmer sites of the region, and is on sandy with a limestone bedrock. Main Ridge on the other hand, is at 174m altitude, has nearly double the average rainfall – 1000mm compared to 550mm – and is on the most perfectly fertile agricultural soil one could hope for. Broadly speaking, the Mornington Peninsula is a cool climate region, widely influenced by the large bodies of water surrounding it. There are lots of inspiring producers in the region, and what we love most is broad range of sites that impart their own unique terroir on the wines.”

Ross’s dual role as Assistant Winemaker and General Manager at Portsea Estate allows him to oversee the wine production process from vine to bottle while ensuring that the estate’s business strategies align with its artisanal values. His contribution to the winemaking process is marked by a respect for the estate’s heritage combined with a forward-looking approach to crafting wines that resonate with contemporary palates.

Together, Lugg and Ross represent the synergy of tradition and innovation, local expertise and global perspective. Their collaborative efforts at Portsea Estate are not just about producing wine; they are about crafting narratives that echo the estate’s history, the uniqueness of its terroir, and their personal journeys in the world of wine.

“We spend only around 10% of our time in the winery,” says Lugg “Otherwise, the rest of our year is spent in the vineyard. Each vintage is improving as our vines and soil health improve with regenerative farming. In the vineyard, we are seeing more balanced vine growth and more hardy vines, along with far happier vineyard floor health. In the winery, we are seeing better acid retention, brighter wines and more impressive tannin. Whilst it’s too early to say, we think the 2024 vintage is the first year our crops have improved thanks to the practices.”

The duo’s work is a dialogue with the land, a celebration of its bounty, and a tribute to the timeless art of winemaking. Through their wines, they invite connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike to experience the essence of the Mornington Peninsula, captured in each nuanced sip.

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