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Quealy Winemakers

Pioneering Mornington Peninsula

‘Pioneers’ is not a word we throw around loosely, but it’s precisely the right term to describe Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy. This power couple was not only part of the early wave of growers to begin seriously exploring and planting the Mornington Peninsula in the early ‘90s, but they were also the producer to identify this area’s potential with Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio and their work with this variety made the grape a household name in Australia. Study trips to Collio (1995), Alsace (1998) and the pilgrimage to Josko Gravner (2006), each had a profound influence on Quealy and McCarthy’s thinking—and led to some of Australia’s finest, and earliest attempts at quality skin contact wines: an adventure that continues today.    

Now there is a generational shift at play with Tom McCarthy, the eldest son of Kathleen and Kevin starting to make his mark. Tom McCarthy took over as chief winemaker at Quealy in 2019 with Kevin—as Tom puts it—as his “consultant and night shift”. While the outstanding vibrancy of the latest releases underlines what Tom is bringing to the table, he’s also quick to point out that he’s working with Quealy’s established house philosophy of many years, which includes no pressings (and therefore no need for fining), no acidification, low and late sulphur additions and a reliance on old oak.

Not content simply playing the role of trailblazer, today this pioneering Estate is being driven to new heights by a young team making their mark in both vineyard and winery.

In the vineyards, Quealy’s full-time viticulturist Lucas Blanck (son of leading Alsace vigneron Frédéric Blanck) has overseen a major renovation of the Balnarring home vineyard, including the implementation of organic certification, dryland farming, a rotational cover crop program (for nutrition and soil structure) and replanting nearly 20% of the vineyard to Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio et al. His work underpins the quality we’re seeing in today’s wines and was recently recognized by the judges of the Young Gun of Wine Vineyard of the Year awards.

The Quealy range is a many-splendoured thing. Four vineyards lie at the heart of the portfolio. The Home Block in Balnarring was planted in 1982 and has some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines on the Peninsula. This is also the home to Quealy’s oldest Pinot Grigio, and the aromatic varieties of Moscato Giallo, Friulano and Riesling, as well as some more recent plantings of Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla. A little Chardonnay from the original plantings also remains. As of 2019, the Home Block is certified organic.

Kathleen Quealy planted the Musk Creek vineyard in 1997. Perched atop Main Ridge, overlooking Westernport Bay and the heads, it’s the coolest site in the portfolio, bestowing exceptional late-ripening Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. On the red soils of Merricks North, there’s the Tussie Mussie vineyard, and back in Balnarring we have Campbell & Christine, again planted by Quealy (for the owners) in 1994. Each of these sites is managed entirely by the Quealy team and, with the current exception of Musk Creek, all are farmed organically.

Much of the narrative surrounding this producer has focussed on the winemaking side of the story. Yet the Quealy team has also earned the right to be called pioneers for their recognition of potential in the region, the establishment of organic practice, and the planting of previously overlooked varieties they believed would (and did) excel.

Currently Available

Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2022

Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2022

If you ask Tom McCarthy to describe the difference between Pinot Grigio and Gris, he'll tell you Quealy’s single-vineyard Pinot Gris comes from higher altitude vineyards. This means the grapes need to be left on the vine to ripen into late Autumn, and they produce heady and richer body wines. The Grigio on the other hand comes from the warmer Balnarring sites where the fruit is picked earlier and produces racier wines.This is 100% estate Mornington Pinot Gris sourced from basalt-derived volcanic soils in the Musk Creek Vineyard. The dry-grown, own-rooted vines were planted in 1997 and enjoy a north-north-east aspect. This site enjoys cooler conditions and ripens later than Tussie Mussie. It’s perched at 180-210 metres altitude atop Main Ridge. Here it overlooks Westernport Bay and the heads, and the persistent, cooling breeze from Bass Strait ensures the fruit maintains freshness. The site produces bunches of tiny, pink berries with excellent acidity—the result is a deeper, spicier, more complex and mineral Gris. The fruit is always hand-harvested. The ‘Alsatian-style’ press cycle is a long process. Whole bunches are loaded into the press and gently extracted over six hours to capture only the most delicate phenolics. The juice was then racked, and half fermented (wild) in stainless steel while the rest went to French oak (10% new) for structure and complexity. There was no bâtonnage.

It’s immediately clear this outfit really knows its Pinot Gris. Big, pulpy and pithy flavours of orange citrus and some savoury lees-derived richness surround a dense core of quality fruit, with a measured 13.9% alcohol seamlessly integrated into the wine’s complex and detailed character. Some phenolic grip and mouth-coating texture are swept up by a powerful and citrus-laden finish.

“Pale straw yellow with ripe pear, jasmine and caramelised cashews on the nose. It is rich and inviting with a sense of generosity that appeals. With that said, it still carries a framework of acidity to ensure flow and direction to a long and lingering finish that has an unexpected dryness which adds to its appeal.”
95 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
“The most colour of the gris releases, and the richest with baked pears, lemon butter and lime cream. It’s a serious style, full bodied with peach fuzz texture, slightly sticky phenolics and a little bitter on the finish.”
94 points, Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion 2024
Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2022
Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Noir 2022

Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Noir 2022

Musk Creek vineyard, perched atop Main Ridge and planted in 1997 by Kevin McCarthy and Kathleen Quealy, is considerably cooler and hence later-ripening than Quealy’s Tussie Mussie or Seventeen Rows sites. As such, it’s a marginal place to ripen Pinot, and low yields are a must (along with plenty of work with the canopy). Sitting at 150 metres, these mature vines are rooted in the rich red soils of the region. The four-hectare site is planted to Pinot Noir (mostly MV6) and Gris in equal measure, with another hectare dedicated to Muscat Rouge à Petits Grains and Chardonnay.The intense, low-yielding season warranted a rethink regarding winemaker Tom McCarthy’s use of whole bunches. The low berry-to-stalk ratio simply didn’t warrant its use, so Tom destemmed all the fruit to better capture its purity and vividness. Wild fermentation took place in small two-tonne fermenters with minimal plunging and only light pressing. The wine rested on full lees in French hogsheads (25% new) for 14 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The quality of the vintage and site is undeniable. The 2022 is a bright, complex and delicious release.

“Medium red with purple tints and a bold black-cherry aroma, with very ripe fruit in the blackberry/plum/black-cherry range. Intense palate, fine and focused in the middle, with penetrating flavour and a hint of five-spice. The wine is plush and succulent in the mouth with lovely fruit sweetness and soft, refined tannins. Impeccable balance; really delicious and long. (No whole-bunch; all MV6 clone; 25% new oak; matured in 300-litre hogsheads).”
95 points, Huon Hooke, The Real Review
Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Noir 2022
Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022

Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022

Managed by the Quealy team, the Tussie Mussie vineyard was planted on the site of a former rose farm in 2007 (hence the name—tussie mussie is an old term for a flower bouquet). In Merricks North, the vineyard’s 3.5 acres of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir is rooted in the Peninsula’s most prized soil: deep red volcanic clays. North-facing at 120 to 150 metres altitude, the site is well-protected and warm. Quealy notes all these attributes, along with the youthful vine stock, result in an exuberantly fruity style of Gris.The fruit was hand-picked and whole-bunch-pressed over six hours at low pressure (Alsatian style) to capture only the grapes’ most delicate phenolics. Only the free-run was used and fermented in stainless steel. The wine was left to mature on lees for nine months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Enticing from the get-go, the 2022 is bright with fleshy orchard fruits, florals, spice and a ripple of marine salinity. The wine flows beautifully through the palate, the lees-derived richness and weight are aligned to fresh acidity and some rocky minerality. it's complex and lengthy with poised elegance, powerful flavours and plenty of character in the glass.

“Intensely flavoured with stone fruit, poached apple and pears drizzled with lemon honey and powdered ginger. Luscious on the palate but not weighty, it’s all about texture with creaminess throughout. The flavours linger long and the finish, too.”
95 points, Jane Faulkner, Halliday Wine Companion 2024
“A Gris that brings lively aromas of Nashi pear, almonds, fresh bread dough, pomelo. There’s a crunch of green fruit but also a softness of yeasty layers with a pinch of salt and a warming spice dust at the end. It has a vegetal/herbal spectrum taking the edge of sweet nuances. It does it all very well, I really enjoy the savoury mouthfeel with a salty pastry touch. It’s a top game Gris and you gotta love it for the texture.”
93 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
"Pale lemon with lime tints. Fragrant nose of gardenias and spice poached pears. Medium to full weight, serious fruit weight on entry the glides with an oily persistence across the palate. Ripe pear and tropical floral notes linger underneath, acidity is in there but as a light guiding hand, the very long finish is brushed by it to clean it up."
95 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2022
Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2023

Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2023

Managed by the Quealy team, the Tussie Mussie vineyard was planted on the site of a former rose farm in 2007 (hence the name—tussie mussie is an old term for a flower bouquet). Located in Merricks North, the vineyard’s three hectares of Pinot Noir and Gris vines are rooted in the Peninsula’s most prized soil: deep, red volcanic clays. Combined with the site’s northern location and north-facing aspect, these soils allow for slow ripening—key to developing complexity while maintaining bright natural acidity. The fruit was picked over two passes in late March and early April. The berries arrived at the winery in excellent condition: small, glossy-coloured and brimming with intense flavour. The fruit was pressed as whole bunches using a long cycle and fermented mostly in tank―10% was in barrel―with some solids. This was followed by seven months’ maturation on lees. It’s clear the 2023 season was a winner for whites at this address. This Tussie Mussie Gris is flush with fleshy fruits, flowers and spice with a delicious lick of marine salinity, seamless texture and balance and an elegant, powerfully flavoured close.

Quealy Tussie Mussie Pinot Gris 2023
Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2023

Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2023

If you ask Tom McCarthy to describe the difference between his Grigio and Gris, he'll tell you Quealy’s single-vineyard Pinot Gris comes from higher vineyards. This means the grapes need to be left on the vine to ripen into late autumn, and they produce headier, fuller-bodied wines. Conversely, the Grigio comes from the warmer Balnarring sites where the fruit is picked earlier and wines are racier. This is 100% estate Mornington Pinot Gris sourced from basalt-derived volcanic soils in the Musk Creek vineyard. The dry-grown, own-rooted vines were planted in 1997 and enjoy a north-north-east aspect. This site enjoys cooler conditions and ripens later than Tussie Mussie. It’s perched at 180-210 metres altitude atop Main Ridge. Here, it overlooks Western Port and the heads, and the persistent, cooling breeze from Bass Strait ensures the fruit maintains freshness. The site produces bunches of tiny pink berries with excellent acidity, resulting in a deeper, spicier, more complex and mineral gris. The fruit is always hand-harvested.The ‘Alsatian-style’ press cycle is slow and long. Whole bunches are loaded and gently extracted over six hours to capture only the most delicate phenolics. The juice is then racked and mostly fermented (75%) in stainless steel, while the rest goes to French puncheons (10% new) for structure and complexity. There is no bâtonnage.

“Serious business this wine. Beautiful bright golden colour. It’s the whole picture, it’s complete and coherent with a complex bouquet and intense flavour profile. Almond paste, honeydew melon, papaya, hints of pink tropical fruit, red apple skin and pink grapefruit. The texture is chalky, lightly creamy, papaya flesh-like and infused with phenolics taking warming cinnamon spice for a long ride. Potent aromas and flavours with great positive vibrations. This the wine.”
95 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
Quealy Musk Creek Pinot Gris 2023
Quealy Pobblebonk Field Blend 2023

Quealy Pobblebonk Field Blend 2023

Named after the Pobblebonk frogs that clearly love life in Quealy’s vineyards and wetlands, this is an excellent introduction to Quealy’s Friuli-inspired blends. After a year off, this wine returns to reflect the home vineyard's older white vines. The Riesling and Chardonnay were planted in 1982, and the Friulano was grafted in 2007 from 1996-planted Chardonnay vines. The 2023 comprises 50% Riesling, 31% Friulano and 19% Chardonnay. The team picked and fermented the varieties separately with indigenous yeasts, in barrels (17% new) with full solids. After blending, the wine was bottled without fining. This gleams with summer freshness with yellow flowers, sun-kissed fruits and some nutty kernel notes lending complexity. There’s lovely 'inter-varietal’ harmony at play here; it strikes an impressive balance between fleshy and ripe citrus pith, savoury nuance and a dash of coastal salinity. Tom McCarthy is super pleased with this release, and well he should be—it’s one of the finest Pobblebonks we’ve seen.

“It’s a bouncy name. Riesling, Friulano, Chardonnay. Almond friand, mandarine peel, ginger biscuit then lemongrass, lime skin. It’s punchy, both in aromas and flavours. At first, it seems slightly sweet but the juice is sour and tense and racy, refreshing and cleansing, very limey towards the end with a lightly dusty texture. Such great energy and vividness. Immediate appeal and substance. Great blend!”
93 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
Quealy Pobblebonk Field Blend 2023
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“Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy were among the early waves of winemakers on the Mornington Peninsula. They challenged the status quo - most publicly by introducing Mornington Peninsula pinot gris/grigio (with great success). Behind this was improvement and diversification in site selection, plus viticulture and winemaking techniques that allowed their business to grow significantly.” Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ James Halliday, Winecompanion.com.au

“This husband and wife winemaking team have done much to change the face of Australian wine, bringing pinot gris/grigio into the mainstream and championing alternative varieties ... The future looks bright for Quealy Winemakers, with eldest son Tom joining the business in 2012 ... Great things are seldom born of conformity.” Huon Hooke, Gourmet Traveller Wine

Country

Australia

Primary Region

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

People

Winemakers: Tom McCarthy, Kathleen Quealy

Availability

National

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