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Meet the winemaker: Montalto’s Simon Black

Simon is the Chief Winemaker at Montalto on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. Here, we get some amazing insights about what to do on a wine tasting, tips on how to pick a wine for the table and more. You'll want to bookmark this!



What are the dos and don’ts when attending a wine tasting?


  • It’s always good to arrive on time, to maximise your tasting and tour. 
  • Always ask questions, even if they seem silly. You have at your disposal knowledgeable wine people who love to educate and to share their knowledge and experience! 
  • Keep an open mind to new tastes and smells. Just because you’re a Shiraz drinker, doesn’t mean you won’t like Pinot. Tasting unfinished wines is a different experience to appraising bottled wine, but it can add tremendous value to understanding how wines develop their unique qualities.



  • Avoid wearing perfumes, smoking or being around strong smells prior to visiting.
  • Your senses have a greater alertness when you’re hungry, so avoid eating too close to your tasting. 
  • Stay out of the vineyards unless you are with an authorised person. This will prevent the spread of vine pests and disease. It will also protect you from coming into contact with farm machinery and vineyard chemicals.


Can you share some tips on how best to appreciate wine?

Understanding basic viticulture and winemaking can enhance your tasting experience, but it’s not essential. The more you taste, the more curious you’ll become, and the more questions you’ll ask. The journey is as important, if not more so, than the destination. 


When you do taste wine, try to do it as part of a group and aim to focus in on a particular wine theme or grape variety. Having brackets of wine gives great context and the opportunity to compare and contrast against a neighbouring wine. 


Tasting as a group helps to improve your wine vocabulary – by listening to others you’ll pick up tasting descriptors and fine-tune your vocabulary. It’s surprising how often a friend/peer will be able to describe a smell or taste that you’ve been desperately trying to recall or recognise. These experiences help to train your palate memory. 


There are lots of wine clubs and tasting groups you can join to help you on your journey, or you could start your own!


When it comes to actually tasting:


  • Get the wine temperature right. If it’s too cold, it’s hard to smell and taste. Too hot, the tannins and alcohol will be accentuated, making the wine hot and hard, whilst losing freshness. 
  • Use a good quality, universal wine glass – not too big, not too small.
  • Don’t overfill your glass – this prevents swirling the wine which helps increase the surface area, enhancing the intensity of aroma. 
  • The taste buds of the tongue identify taste, and the nerves in the nose identify smell, so to get the most out of your tasting experience, be sure to smell as well as taste. 
  • If eating, match the wine with a complimentary food.
  • A younger wine may need some aeration through decanting.
  • Similarly, an unfiltered wine may need decanting to separate any sediment that may have accumulated in the bottle.
  • Be careful if decanting older wines, as they may be susceptible oxidation.


We’ve all been tasked with picking a wine for the table. What are your tips?

When choosing wines for the table, I like to consider a host of things including the occasion, who I will be tasting the wines with, the food pairings, the venue (picnic, fine dining or celebration?) and even the weather conditions, to name a few. 


  • Consider food matches. White wines usually pair with white meats and lighter dishes, and red wines typically suit red meats and richer dishes. Consider the acidity, sweetness, tannin, texture and alcohol levels and the intensity and similarity of flavour. Try to match like with like.
  • Consider guests’ preferences and dietary requirements.
  • It’s good to open multiple bottles and have extra glasses at hand so you can compare and contrast wines. Having points of reference really helps to fine-tune your palate and enjoy the unique qualities of each wine. It also makes for some interesting wine discussions. 
  • Have extra bottles on hand in case of spoilage/quality issues.


At Montalto, visitors can take a Behind the Scenes Winery Tour, get the best of the seasonal cycle on an Estate to Plate Gourmet Indulgence experience, or taste the region on a Mornington Peninsula Discovery Tasting


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Published: 28 September 2021

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