Log in for prices and ordering

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 Friulano 2021

Quealy Friulano 2021

The variety behind some of northeast Italy’s most exciting whites, Friulano (née Tocai Friulano) first landed in Australia in the 1970s. Quealy sourced their cuttings from the vineyard of Slovenian émigré Denis Pasut in Mildura, grafting over a block of 1996 Chardonnay at their Balnarring vineyard as early as 2004. Above all, quality Friulano needs two things: low yields and lots of attention. “Friulano is a bugger to work with, but well worth the effort” notes Tom McCarthy. It is perhaps for these reasons the variety has yet to take off in Australia. Quealy manages yields at flowering—in effect halving the potential yields—and employs prudent canopy management to manage sun exposure. The Friulano is all sourced from the organically certified winery vineyard in Balnarring. The fruit was handpicked on the 10th of April, grapes were destemmed into a cooled open vat and fermented on skins for 12 days. The wine was gently pressed and went through malo before resting on lees in a mixture of barrel and tank. A more restrained expression than its 2019 predecessor, this is beautifully pitched with pure stone fruit and orange citrus flavours underpinned by refreshing minerality. There’s plenty of savoury flavour spliced throughout the textural weight, grippy structure and intensely concentrated fruit. It’s skinsy, salty and mineral with a perfumed lift and a charming almond skin finish. Very food friendly and very delicious—an excellent release.

A more restrained expression than its 2019 predecessor, this is beautifully pitched with pure stone fruit and orange citrus flavours underpinned by refreshing minerality. There’s plenty of savoury flavour spliced throughout the textural weight, grippy structure and intensely concentrated fruit. It’s skinsy, salty and mineral with a perfumed lift and a charming almond skin finish. Very food friendly and very delicious—an excellent release.

“Fermented on skins for 12 days, aged 8 months in barrel. A savoury wine, even if there’s some stone fruit in the mix, yet mostly smoky and peppery with a whisper of lanolin. Full bodied, with a slippery, creamy texture and neat phenolics on the finish.”
92 points, Jane Faulkner, Winecompanion.com.au
“This is not the “Turbul” label. 12 days on skins. Brown pear, hay, chamomile, candle wax, ripe nectarine. It has textural bitterness and cinnamon spice, also baked pear, mandarine peel, yellow grapefruit. Waxy and pleasantly bitter with cumin seeds and fresh minty finish. A delight of texture and smoothness at once. Very good."
93 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
Quealy Friulano 2021
Quealy Splendido 2021

Quealy Splendido 2021

Previous releases were made in the pét-nat style, but from 2021 Quealy has changed the model. The team simply felt the traditional method would be more suited to the style and clarity they had in their mind’s eye, and judging from the quality, Tom McCarthy was bang on the money. The fruit was sourced from the 100 Hunts Vineyard in Merricks North, owned and managed by Joe Vaughan—recipient of the inaugural Mornington Peninsula Vineyard of the Year Award (2021). The vineyard grows Moscato Bianco especially for Quealy. The fruit was harvested before dawn, arriving cool and ready to press at the winery only minutes away. The 2021 is 100% Moscato Bianco, picked at 10.5 Baumé to preserve perfume and acidity. The grapes were gently pressed to a low yield, gifting filigree aromas and a nimble palate weight. The juice was settled, then racked to begin ferment. The wine was then tiraged and immediately bottled for secondary fermentation. Disgorgement was by hand and the wine was made without any sulphur or dosage. Brimming with character, it fizzes with expressive aromatics of white florals, chamomile and teacake spice. A skinsy textural intensity bolsters a clean, fresh and robust palate weight, and then there’s plenty of depth, focused by pristine freshness. Zero dosage works well here—the wine finishes with vibrant intensity.

Brimming with character, it fizzes with expressive aromatics of white florals, chamomile and teacake spice. A skinsy textural intensity bolsters a clean, fresh and robust palate weight, and then there’s plenty of depth, focused by pristine freshness. Zero dosage works well here—the wine finishes with vibrant intensity.

“Full of sweet notes. Honey and yellow flowers in bloom, ripe peaches, Golden Delicious apples and Turkish Delight with bitter almonds and a waxy quality. And then. Beautifully dry flavours with a pink grapefruit tang and grip, a savoury and spicy note of powdered cinnamon to finish. It doesn’t hit with big flavours but instead, it’s refreshing and lively with foaming bubbles. One of a few sparkling Moscatos I could drink and enjoy more than one glass of.”
92 points, Kasia Sobiesiak, The Wine Front
Quealy Splendido 2021
Quealy Balnarring Pinot Grigio 2023

Quealy Balnarring Pinot Grigio 2023

This year’s Balnarring Pinot Grigio is drawn from the organically managed Hester vineyard and Campbell and Christine vineyard. Both sites lie less than three kilometres from the winery, where the fruit arrives within an hour of picking. The grapes are pressed as whole bunches with a low yield per tonne because Quealy only uses the most delicate portion of the cycle. The juice is left to settle overnight without sulphuring. In the morning, the wine is racked off its gross lees and left to begin spontaneous fermentation in stainless steel. After primary fermentation, malolactic conversion ensues before naturally stopping due to the winter temperatures. The wine is sulphured and bottled unfiltered.Tom McCarthy calls the 2023 season a "rinse-and-repeat of 2022". Once again, poor flowering dramatically reduced eventual crops. The wet spring was followed by a stable ripening season, which allowed the fruit to develop steadily, with minimal disease pressure. This resulted in exceptional fruit with excellent flavour intensity—perhaps even dialled up from 2022—and with acute varietal distinctions. This is wonderfully perfumed, with white flowers, nashi pear, citrus and a twist of maritime freshness allied to a generous yet lip-smacking palate, rippling with mineral tension and a lick of salinity at the finish. Intense, fresh and crammed with flavour, there’s a whole lot of wine in the glass here.

“A blend of two sites managed by Quealy, this is textbook pinot grigio, really good. Flavoursome with wild herbs, flinty with a mouth-watering briny character adding to the appealing chewy phenolics. White stone fruit, glacé lemon and dried pear – there’s a lot in this and it's complex but not at the expense of drinkability.”
95 points, Jane Faulkner, The Wine Companion
“Light lemon yellow colour. Sweet pears, brown sugar and baking pastry aromatics. Bright core of sweet pear fruits with some pastry notes and floral undertones. Reasonable length and just enough acidity to dry out the clean finish. Offers easy and pleasing drinking.”
90 points, Stuart Knox, The Real Review
Quealy Balnarring Pinot Grigio 2023
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 Campbell & Christine Pinot Noir 2021

Quealy Campbell & Christine Pinot Noir 2021

With Musk Creek and Tussie Mussie, this site completes the trio of Quealy’s premier league, leased Mornington vineyards. It was established by Doctors Campbell and Christine Penfold in 1994 and is mainly MV6 (while some 114 and 115 were also planted, taking advantage of the premium clones that became available around the same time). Located on the coastal plain, it sits at a very low 30 metres of elevation behind the Balnarring village, facing north on an exposed site with alluvial clay and red soils washed down from Red Hill. It’s a site that, as Tom McCarthy tells us, produces “gorgeous, small bunches of glossy Pinot Noir”. The Pinot fruit was picked over two days; the 114 and 115 clones on the 12th of March and the MV6 clone on the 17th March. Handpicked and gently destemmed fruit goes to small vats where it ferments wild and gets pumped over lightly twice a day. Maceration lasted 28 days, after which it was pressed to a mixture of hogsheads and puncheons (approx. 20% new). Regarding the evolution of Quealy’s Pinots since the T’Gallant days, the critical development has been in the vineyards with the move to organic viticulture and with weed and insect control and cover crops leading to greater balance in the vineyard. Vine age is a factor too. Having worked the same vines for many years, Kevin and Tom (who has overseen the winemaking since 2017) have witnessed the continuous upward arc in vine health and fruit quality—such progression is writ large in this characteristically fragrant, pretty and spice-licked Quealy Pinot.

Regarding the evolution of Quealy’s Pinots since the T’Gallant days, the critical development has been in the vineyards with the move to organic viticulture and with weed and insect control and cover crops leading to greater balance in the vineyard. Vine age is a factor too. Having worked the same vines for many years, Kevin and Tom (who has overseen the winemaking since 2017) have witnessed the continuous upward arc in vine health and fruit quality—such progression is writ large in this characteristically fragrant, pretty and spice-licked Quealy Pinot.

“Fragrant nose of dried strawberries, raspberries, hibiscus, potpourri and nutmeg. It’s medium-bodied with finely knit tannins. Silky and perfumed, with a lengthy, floral finish.”
92 points, JamesSuckling.com
“It seems 2021 peninsula pinot noirs are defined by acidity, making them vibrant and lively yet needing more time to settle. This has plenty of driving acidity sealing in flavours of red cherries, wintergreen and earthy rhubarb with a whiff of menthol along the way. It’s barely medium bodied with papery, fine tannins. The reference for confit duck seems all too common for pinot noir yet in this instance, it would be a great partnership.”
92 points, Jane Faulkner, winecompanion.com.au
Quealy Campbell & Christine Pinot Noir 2021
Show All

“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

While you're here