Tom McCarthy Quealy Winemakers / Kerri Greens

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Tom McCarthy is a second-generation Mornington Peninsula winemaker. Indeed, he’s from almost Peninsula royalty, being the son of Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy, pioneers of pinot grigio, friulano and skin contact in the region, amongst other achievements. Making wine at the family business, Quealy Winemakers, McCarthy also has his label, Kerri Greens, with Quealy vineyard manager Lucas Blanck. From skinsy whites from Italian grapes to elegant and poised expressions of Peninsula star varieties – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris – he oversees a vast collection of wines.

“The Mornington Peninsula is where I’ve always been,” says McCarthy. “I feel fortunate to be in a region that’s so focused on vineyard and wine quality. I simply do it because I love it, and it’s what I know. It’s a pleasure to come to work.”

Winemaking wasn’t actually in McCarthy’s plans, though vines certainly were, with him studying an agricultural science degree. “I worked in the vineyard and winery growing up, but initially preferred vines more than wines,” he says. That interest soon bloomed, though, undertaking a practical apprenticeship both at home and around the world.

In 2011 and ’12, McCarthy spent vintage at Domaine Paul Blanck with Frederic Blanck (Lucas Blanck’s father). “He works hard, taught me a lot, and drinks well,” says McCarthy. Vintage 2012 also saw the first Quealy ‘Turbul’ Friulano made, which was born from an interest in skin contact that had both been fostered by his father (whose 2008 T’Gallant ‘Claudius’ was a breakthrough Australian skin contact wine) and a friendship with Friulian winemaker Nikolas Juretic, who helped advise him on the process.

Short visits to Friulian skin-contact pioneers Damijan Podversic and Josko Gravner informed the process further, with a vintage with Kristian Keber of Edi Keber following in 2015. Vintages in the Hunter Valley at Keith Tulloch, with cult natural maker Jean-Jacques Morel in Burgundy, and with Xavier and Arnaud Desfontaine of Château de Chamilly, Burgundy, round out his practical experience… so far.

“Kerri Greens are all single vineyard wines. The concept is to simply produce wines that reflect where they come from – perhaps with some flair.”

Blanck and McCarthy launched Kerri Greens in 2013, working from the Hickson Vineyard in Balnarring. The pair are based at the Duke Vineyard in Red Hill South (which they share with Site Wine), planted in 1989. Taking on the lease on a more permanent basis in 2016, they built a cellar door on site, and they also manage the Silverwood site in Balnarring. The range is predictably focused on chardonnay and point noir, with forays into gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc. “Kerri Greens are all single vineyard wines,” says McCarthy. “The concept is to simply produce wines that reflect where they come from – perhaps with some flair.”

Common amongst the two businesses is that Quealy and Kerri Greens both farm their own fruit, says McCarthy. “Lucas Blanck is the viticulturalist, but both businesses encourage input. Quealy is certified organic with a focus on dry-grown fruit. Kerri Greens manages its vineyards following organic principles, and it also is dry grown. This has been a gradual shift, but we believe the resultant fruit quality – particularly its intensity – we have seen over the previous few years is testament to these viticultural techniques.”

At Quealy, there is a predictable specialty in pinot gris/grigio, given that McCarthy’s parents were the pioneers of the grape in this country, but there is an equal depth of chardonnay and pinot noir from a variety of sites, along with a brace of wines made from Italian varieties, from méthode ancestrale sparklings to skinsy whites. “Quealy ‘Turbul’ Friulano was the first of our skin contact wines, but this range has grown as new varieties at our winery vineyard have grown,” says McCarthy. “The Turbul Friulano and ‘Lina Lool’ Field Blend are both on skins for just short of half a year in amphora; there are zero additions until pressing, and the only addition used is sulphur. The ribolla gialla can expect the same treatment, although maybe in wood rather amphora till we get around to buying some more.”

McCarthy stresses that Quealy is a family operation. “Kathleen Quealy, Kevin McCarthy and myself all have input,” he says. “Keeping but evolving a house style is important.” At Kerri Greens, McCarthy says they are “not trying to be defined by a style. Just trying to make interesting wines from good vineyards without too much influence from the winery. Many of the Quealy range are certified organic, and filtration or fining is very rare at Quealy or Kerri Greens.”

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