Drinking Victoria: Celia McCarthy

Published on 16 March 2022

Photo: Mandi Wines' Celia McCarthy.

Growing up on the Mornington Peninsula with winemaking parents, Celia McCarthy has a love of wine that is equal parts nature and nurture. For the better part of two decades, she spent every March lending a hand during vintage (usually cleaning concrete or cooking for the team) before a trip to northern Italy with her father, Kevin McCarthy, opened her eyes to the depth of skin-contact wines. Upon her return she started Mandi Wine, a project that was born to bring approachable and accessible skin-contact wines to the masses.

Here’s how she sees the state of drinking in Victoria. 

As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Victoria is direct from the cellar door, because there's nothing more exciting than drinking wine poured by the winemaker – hearing the story behind the wine totally transforms the glass for me.  

When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I usually ask the sommelier, “what do you have that's exciting you at the moment?” I love trying new things from regions and makers I've never seen before. 

The Victorian spirit I’m loving most right now is Sundays’ Melbourne Dry Gin. It's super easy drinking and perfect with a splash of tonic; we're on to our second bottle far too quickly. 

There’s no better value on a wine list or in a bottle-shop in this state than Rutherglen muscat. It’s so lush and indulgent, you only need a little at the end of the meal so a bottle goes a long way. There are so many great options but I tend to go for Campbells or Buller Wines.  

My favourite place to buy booze is City Wine Shop – I work in the CBD and love popping past on my way home to see what they've got in the fridge. Being able to linger for an aperitivo is also a bonus.  

I’d love to see us planting more alternative styles and varieties in Victoria. We nailed the classics here early and sometimes we get a bit stuck on them, but it's so exciting to see people experimenting with things like locally made vermouth, non-alcoholic beers and the more left-of-centre wine varieties.  

The last three delicious Victorian things I drank were:

Call it nepotism but my brother's rosé – Kerri Greens 2021 Pinots de Mornington Rosé is creamy and moreish and has me grasping onto the last legs of summer. 

I was given a bottle of Sin-kō-nah tonic syrup for my birthday last year, which is the greatest accompaniment to a Gin and Tonic I've found. 

Finishing the list off is the 2020 Giant Steps 'Ocarina' Clay Ferment Chardonnay. I met Jess Clark and Steve Flamsteed last year on a project for Wine Victoria and couldn't leave without a few bottles of this chardonnay. Weighty and full of flavour – this wine is seriously impressive.  

My guilty pleasure in the fridge is throwing a handful of ice cubes in a glass of dry white wine on a hot day. 

The best or most important change to the way we drink in Victoria in recent years has beendrinking less, but more thoughtfully. People are starting to care more about who made their wine, and how it was made. I love hearing people ask what on the list is minimal intervention or family owned. 

For me, the most inspiring people in the Victorian drinks world are my parents, Kathleen Quealy and Kevin McCarthy. Mandi was dreamed up alongside my dad while we were on a trip throughout Northern Italy. They've been ahead of the curve since before I was born, making wine at both Quealy and Treasury Wine Estates and they've taught me so much about wine styles, varieties and growers from all over the world.  

Mandi Wine, mandi.wine

Mandi Wine is one of many next-wave local producers appearing at MFWF's New Crush event – book your ticket here

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