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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.

The Range

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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



Primary Region

Mornington Peninsula, Victoria


Winemakers: Tom McCarthy, Kathleen Quealy



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