Prancing Horse leaps forward

Prancing Horse Estate has been organic since its early days, 15 years ago, and employs some biodynamic practices. (Photo: Pinterest)

I hadn’t tasted Prancing Horse Estate wines for a number of years, so I received a pleasant surprise when owner Tony Hancy dropped in recently. He was in Sydney as part of a renewed effort to distribute his wines, and with good reason. The new wines are superb.

The new style is fresher, lighter, more buoyant and more fruit-driven. And utterly delicious.

What’s changed? The winemaker these days is Jeremy Magyar, at Moorooduc Estate. He has changed the style that was set by former winemaker Sergio Carlei, a winemaker who specialises in organically produced wines and did a sterling job for years. But the new style is fresher, lighter, more buoyant and more fruit-driven. And utterly delicious.

Prancing Horse Estate has been organic since its early days, 15 years ago, and employs some biodynamic practices, according to Hancy.

It is located just 200 metres from Paringa Estate in Paringa Road, Red Hill, the highest-altitude part of the Mornington Peninsula wine region. The style is different though, and Hancy says his grapes ripen a week later than Paringa Estate’s, suggesting his is a cooler site.

“Paringa Estate is north-facing, we are east-facing,” says Hancy. “There is a quite a difference.”

It seems to me that Prancing Horse pinots are more red-fruit driven while Paringa’s achieve darker fruit flavours. Alcohols are also low, the 2017 and 2015 pinots are both under 13%, the chardonnays a little over. “High acid levels are usual.”

Picking is three to three and a half weeks later than low-altitude Moorooduc Estate, so there are logistical synergies at harvest time.

The wines are all estate-grown. Soils are partly grey loam and partly the famous red basalt that gave Red Hill its name. There are 13 acres planted, six in production, the other seven planted more recently.

The site, overlooking Westernport Bay, is on the edge: in 2014, a notoriously low yielding year generally, Hancy picked just four tonnes of grapes. It’s normal to pick 24 tonnes.

Downy mildew reduced the 2018 crop, although a good harvest was still had. 2017, though, was a ‘bumper’ year.

Normal yields are one tonne per acre for pinot noir; two for chardonnay.

Younger vine grapes go into the Pony wines, which are lighter, early-drinking pinot and chardonnay selling for AUD $35. The regular pinot noir and chardonnay are both AUD $75. A reserve bottling of pinot and chardonnay is produced occasionally, so far only in 2012 and 2015.

Prancing Horse is unusual in that Hancy has wines made for him in Burgundy, using Patrick Piuze in Chablis and Pascal Marchand on the Côte d’Or. These wines and several more (François Villard Rhône wines, Henri Giraud Champagnes, etc) are advertised for sale on the website.

At Mornington, Prancing Horse also produces a very smart pinot gris. The 2017s are all highly recommended, and while both Pony wines and pinot gris have been released, the Prancing Horse Estate chardonnay and pinot noir are due to be released ‘in the next three months’.

Hancy is buoyant about the Peninsula wine industry: cellar door visitation is up big-time.

“Cellar door sales are three or four times what they were a year ago,” he says. “I call it the Point Leo factor.”

Point Leo Estate is a new winery, vineyard, restaurant and sculpture park that opened late last year on the peninsula to great fanfare. Another drawcard for a region that already has plenty.

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