MOUNT PLEASANT AND MAURICE O’SHEA – AUSTRALIA’S FIRST GREAT WINEMAKERMount Pleasant was established in the Hunter Valley in 1921 by Australia’s first great winemaker, Maurice O’Shea. Australian wine at the time was all about fortifieds (e.g. port, sherry), but Maurice had spent time in France and had seen what table wines could be.
Maurice’s story is incredible, and I can’t do it justice in 500 words. Fortunately, a much better wine writer (Campbell Mattinson) wrote an incredible book about him called ‘The Wine Hunter’. You can get it in paperback or as an eBook. If you need a gift for a wine lover, get this and a bottle of wine for them to drink while reading it.
Mount Pleasant makes a broad range of wines, including an interesting blend of Shiraz and Pinot Noir (the ‘Mount Henry’). You’ll also find a wide range of grapes in the ‘Family Collection Range’, including Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho and various other bits.
That said, Mount Pleasant, like most Hunter wineries, is all about Semillon and Shiraz.
The Semillons start with the ‘Elizabeth’. While it’s sometimes around the $25 mark (and well worth it), you can often find this on special at around $17. It’s a bargain. Then there’s the flagship ‘Lovedale’ Semillon. Generally around $50-60, this is usually released with some cellar age. Don’t think of this as big brother of ‘Elizabeth’; think of it as one of Australia’s best white wines. $60 for this is sensational value.
The Shirazes start with the $25 (approximately) ‘Philip’ Shiraz, which is a lovely drop. It’s medium-bodied and ready to be drunk in its youth, but it’ll cellar for a bit too. It really is a great entry into Hunter Shiraz. You then move into the ‘Old Paddock & Old Hill’ and ‘Rosehill’ Shirazes (both around $50 or so), and from there you move up into the special wines.
There are two particularly interesting ranges among these special wines. The first is the ‘Mountain’ range. These are special expressions of what Mount Pleasant can do. ‘Mountain A’ is medium-bodied, ‘Mountain D’ (my father-in-law’s favourite) is full-bodied, and ‘Mountain C’ is light-bodied. The 2014 Mountain C in particular has been making waves in the wine world, but all are stunning.
As of 2013 and 2014, Mount Pleasant has also been bottling special ‘Block’ wines. These are wines made from vines that were planted in particular years, some of which were plantings made by Maurice himself. The ‘Lovedale’ Semillon has a special ‘1946 Vines’ version in this range, and the ‘Rosehill’ Shiraz has both a ‘1946 Vines’ and ‘1965 Vines’ version. There is also a ‘1921 Vines Old Paddock Vineyard’ Shiraz – the year in which Maurice established Mount Pleasant.
Finally, there is the extra special ‘Maurice O’Shea’ Shiraz. This is made of the best parcels of Hunter Shiraz available to Mount Pleasant each year. Sure, it can be expensive (up to $180 a bottle), but think of it like this: 2014 Hunter, the vintage of a lifetime, 99 points from Halliday, a wine that will potentially cellar for a lifetime. If you can afford it, buy it. Maurice would be proud.