Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


The story and wines of Mondillo in Central Otago

American born Domenic and Ally Mondillo developed 65 hectares of vineyard land in Bendigo in 2001 when they stuck vines on three terraces of arid land in this warm corner of Central Otago. It’s a long way from the United States to the world’s southernmost wine region but the couple pioneered their vast vineyard here because Domenic believed the warmer climate in Bendigo provided ideal ripening for grapes. The mix of grapes they grow reflects the region’s strong dominance in Pinot Noir; overall Central’s vineyards are 80% planted in this early ripening red grape. It suits the cool climate and variable growing season. In homage to this, Domenic and Ally grow 10 hectares of Pinot Noir (clones 5, 114, 115. 667, 777 and Abel on four different rootstocks) and they have two hectares of Riesling. It was my privilege to taste their four latest wines; one Pinot and three different styles of the world’s most misunderstood mainstream white grape; Riesling, of course.

Domenic Mondillo has completed 49 vintages in total, 25 of them in Oregon in the United States of America, with the remainder in New Zealand.

New Mondillo wines

2018 Mondillo Pinot Noir $45.99, 13.5% ABV
This latest Mondillo Pinot Noir is made with grapes grown in the hottest summer on record in Bendigo, Central Otago. It’s often the first area in the region to harvest each year, in this case the grapes were picked in mid March 2018 and 100% destemmed before being fermented to 14.5% ABV. The finished wine was aged for 10 months in French oak, 25% new, which flatters this wine’s elegant red fruit flavours, providing silky flavours and textures. This wine drinks well now and will benefit from bottle age of at least four to five years. This is a lovely expression of Pinot Noir from the deep south.

2020 Mondillo Central Otago Riesling $25.99, 11.5% ABV
Delicious aromas of ripe peach, honey and kaffir lime seem to leap out of the glass as soon as this wine is poured. These bold, bright fruit flavours are balanced by a light refreshing body and lingering finish. If I had to nominate a first wine of the night, here it is; a medium style of Riesling with noticeable sweetness on the front palate and a crisp finish.

2020 Fantail Central Otago Riesling, 9% ABV
A sweeter style of Riesling with intense flavours of honeysuckle, candied lemon and limes, all combining to create an intensely flavour some wine with a super long finish.

2020 Mondillo Central Otago Nina $32.99
Nina is the sweetie of the Mondillo wine range, made from Riesling in years when natural botrytis occurs on the grapes, in this case an impressively high 60% botrytis, which occurred in cool autumn weather . The grapes were hand picked in the second week of May 2020 and just 960 bottles were made of this lusciously honeyed and lime zest tasting Riesling. It will match citrusy desserts beautifully, with its high acidity adding balance to the sweet taste. This is a rare wine made in small quantities which can evolve beautifully for 10 years plus.