The Portsea Sorrento Region

Historically and geologically, the Portsea and Sorrento area represents one of the most significant and fascinating regions in Victoria.

The first Victorian settlement in 1803 was at Sullivan Bay, Sorrento, where Capt. David Collins and 300 convicts and settlers came ashore.

Some 30 years later, limeburners moved into the area to exploit the vast wealth of limestone deposits and limeburning established itself as the main industry, with up to 18 lime kilns operating from Point Nepean to Sorrento.

The underlying Limestone bedrock was formed some two million years ago and with the rise in oceans of some 100 metres after the last Ice Age (18,000 years ago), wind and sea driven erosion has given rise to the dramatic and rugged coastline with craggy promontories, spectacular eroded cliff faces rising upwards of 50 metres, off shore rock stacks and kilometres of magnificent sandy beaches.

The vast area of sand dunes has formed only in the last 6000 years as result of wind blown sand and has resulted in an undulating capping over the limestone bedrock.

The Bass Straight coast is an extremely harsh environment with strong prevailing south and south-west winds and pounding surf constantly scouring and shaping the volatile shore line. Portsea lies at the South-West tip of the Mornington Peninsula, at the entrance to Port Philip Bay, Victoria.

Our Location

The Portsea Estate vines were planted in 2000 on the site of early limestone quarries of the 1800’s and, in the case of the Chardonnay, directly over the site of one of the early lime kilns. Significant limestone reefs and deposits still exist just beneath the surface.

In describing the almost magical effect of limestone on the bouquet of Burgundian wines, noted 19th century wine historian, Dr. Jules Lavalle, poetically attributed this to:


“…the perfume beneath the rock which the plant knows how to extract…”*

Our vines flourish on sunny, north facing slopes, shielded from the often harsh conditions characteristic of the windswept Bass Strait coastline. The fingers of wind which still manage to penetrate the leaf canopy, serve to maintain the health of the vines by minimising humidity.

* “Histoire et Statistiques de la vigne et des grands vins de la Côte d’Or”

The Moonah Tree (Melaleuca lanceolata)

Before European settlement, the Portsea/Sorrento region was covered in dense woodland dominated by Moonah and She-oak (Casuarina) with Banksia and Tea-tree nearer the coast. Stands of Moonah trees now exist only in remnants while She-oaks and coastal Banksias were virtually wiped out in the 19th century following extensive land clearing and limeburning activities.

As part of our commitment to preserving and regenerating the unique ecological environment of the region, Portsea Estate has embarked on a program of re-establishing these indigenous trees throughout the property. Our native plant nursery now stocks upwards of 20,000 plants, all of which have been germinated from seeds exclusively sourced from the beautiful and ancient stands of Moonah, Banksia and She-oaks that still grow in and around the Portsea Estate vineyards.

Portsea Estate Nursery website:

The iconic and sculptural Moonah tree graces the label of Portsea Estate.

Moonah Tree

The iconic, sculptural Moonah tree graces the label of Portsea Estate