For Winetraveler’s Friday Feature, we have the playful perspective of Zoe Crittenden, a second-generation family member of Crittenden Winery.
Crittenden Winery was started in the Mornington Peninsula back in 1982 with their first vineyard plantings, and since have grown into a widely respected name in Australian wines. They grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the style Mornington is known for, while also focusing on varietals not common to the region. In fact, the family is responsible for commercializing several varietals such as Flor- covered Savagnin, Sangiovese, Barbera, Arneis, Dolcetto, and Barbera in their region. For these uncommon varietals, they have created quite a name for themselves and are sought after in the region for offering a range of wines for all wine lovers.
Winetraveler (WT): Garry was a true visionary to plant vines in Mornington Peninsula, What drew him to the area?
Zoe Crittenden (CZ): Garry has been on the Mornington Peninsula for a long time, well before he turned his hand to the wine industry. Funnily enough he wanted to ship his young family off to Tasmania and grow grapes across the ditch when he discovered that a couple of people had planted vineyards on his doorstep and were making outstanding wine. This was in the late seventies and by the early eighties he had purchased land and planted his own five acres. In planting those five acres of vines he doubled the total area under vine across the Peninsula at the time. These days there are more than 2000 acres!
WT: What was your father’s occupation prior to starting the winery?
CZ: Garry was in the horticultural industry. He had nurseries and grew plants – both retail and wholesale. So the desire to have his own vineyard stemmed from a combination of loving wine and his interest in growing things. He has always been innovative in the way he approaches the viticultural side of things and I think this stems from his background in horticulture and interest in all things plants and soil. The recent move to farm our vineyard as organically as possible stems from much consideration and research into how we can do things better. We believe a good wine is grown in the vineyard and simply finished off in the winery.
WT: There are some interesting names for the wines within the Crittenden line, how did they come about?
CZ: Each name has its own unique story and each one had a lot of consideration. The Geppetto and Pinocchio labels are a bit of fun and were Garry’s idea. They follow the famous story of Geppetto the wood carver and his son Pinocchio – father and son team. The name Zumma was a baby nickname for myself, Zoe… What better name for a premium range!? And Los Hermanos means The Siblings in Spanish…to name a few.
WT: Your winery is very family oriented – with even the youngest member Oscar contributing to label designs at age eight – did you always know you would work for the family?
CZ: Rollo was doing punch downs and hanging out in the winery from the age of about 12. He always took a great interest in the family business and in wine. I’d say he always knew he would end up making wine, it really has always been his passion – but who knows if it’s a case of nature or nurture? For me, I took at little longer to come around having worked as a teacher for many years. But eventually I saw the light!
WT: It is incredibly impressive to be able to cultivate a natural Flor covered Savagnin, how did this wine come about?
CZ: In 2008, all Albariño planted throughout Australia – quite literally all – was declared to be a mistake. What vineyard owners THOUGHT was Albariño was actually a little known French varietal called Savagnin. We had a few acres under vine and were initially quite flummoxed by the situation. But now, we see it as a blessing. We researched and found that in the Jura region in France, the way they make Savagnin is under a flor. Rollo and Garry explored the wine and fell in love with it. Rollo went on to make his own and the accolades it has received worldwide have been outstanding.
WT: Garry’s love for Italy and visits to the country is what inspired him to commercialize Italian varietals in Australia. What challenges have you found with growing, making and selling these unique-to-the-country wines?
CZ: There are not many Italian varieties planted here on the Mornington Peninsula – they tend to grow better in Northern Victoria. So sourcing the fruit can be somewhat difficult. We have good relationships with our growers. This aside, I guess the other challenge would be the introduction of different varietals to the Australian palate. When Garry released a few Italian wines in the 90s, he did so to a consumer who had really only purchased French varietals. But this is the fun part too – and has resulted in becoming known for our alternative wines.
WT: Within the Crittenden line there are four different Pinot Noirs and three different Chardonnays- what are the differences between them? Do you have a personal favorite?
CZ: Despite being known for producing a range of Italian and Spanish wines, what we are really and truly passionate about is Pinot Noir. Pinots and Chardonnay grow exceptionally well in the cool climate of the Mornington Peninsula and the region is becoming known as a world-class producer of these varieties. Pinot Noir is nuanced and enigmatic, appreciated for it’s fickle nature and elegance. The Peninsula has many sub-regions and terroirs, which result in differing styles of Pinots. Pinot Noir can be difficult to make so the satisfaction that a winemaker gets from producing it – particularly a good one – is compounded by this fact. In the past I’ve wondered why a couple might choose to have five children….but, then I look at our range of Pinots and understand that when you love something, you just can’t stop!!
For more information about this winery please visit:
Or Stop by their tasting centre 25 Harrisons Road,
Dromana, Victoria 3936.
Open 7 days per week, 10.30am – 4.30pm