Articles and reports


Australian Chardonnay

a passage from the 6th Edition of the Australian Wine Guide

With more than 21,000 hectares planted, in all viticultural areas Chardonnay is the most prolific white grape variety. Chardonnay produces outstanding wine in the cooler regions such as Margaret River in Western Australia, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula and Macedon Ranges in Victoria, Adelaide Hills in South Australia and Tasmania. Tumbarumba and Orange are cool climate sites in New South Wales where Chardonnay excels. However it could be argued that Chardonnay is equally successful in hot regions like the Hunter Valley and McLaren Vale, whilst multi varietal blends source fruit from regions such as Padthaway, Cowra and the Great Southern. There is no clear regional character coming from Australian Chardonnay which is probably due to the influence a winemaker can make in determining the style. However the climate and choice of clones are factors in influencing the wine styles.

Cooler climates, achieved by a combination of degrees of latitude or altitude, as well as moderating maritime influence, will result in higher levels of natural acidity and a more linear structure. Aromas will often be focused around the green and citrus fruits. The warmer the climate the more the wine will display stone and tropical fruit notes. There is a tendency to pick the grapes early in warm climates to retain as much natural acidity as possible in the wine. Chardonnay needs to retain its acidity to avoid becoming flabby and flat. However, this can be double-edged as it may be at the expense of flavour ripeness. 

Australian winemakers have plenty of choice in Chardonnay grape clones, each having their own aromatics. The French Dijon clones (e.g. 76, 78, 95, 96) produce melon, lemons and figs whilst the American Davis clones (e.g. I10V5 or Mendoza) produce aromas of tropical fruits and higher acidity. Some of the workhorse clones in the Mornington Peninsula, for instance, are P58 which produces wines with a fuller palate and broad bean characters. Western Australia, with its history of strict quarantine laws, planted its own particular clone called Gin-Gin, which is actually a synonym for the Mendoza clone.

In the winery some producers follow a ‘funky’ French approach in making their Chardonnay. This is achieved by using less intervention, allowing cloudy musts or wild fermentations to achieve a richer mouth-feel, as well as a degree of oxidative handling that would have been frowned upon a decade ago and regarded as poor winemaking. After the fermentation is over the wine may be left in contact with the yeast lees and regularly stirred to building up more levels of complexity and intensity

Oak, preferably French, needs to be kept in balance and accompany the fruit rather than dominate it. Oak maturation can give an array of aromas to the wine including vanilla, oatmeal, nuts, woody, smoky, butterscotch, or pencil shavings.

The winemaker will experiment with varying amounts of MLF to get the right blend. MLF produces two useful by-products for Chardonnay; the first is ethyl lactate, which enhances the sensation of weight or body on the palate. The second is diacetyl which gives that desirable buttery aroma which builds complexity, when used in moderation. There is currently a trend in Australia to restrict MLF and retain as much natural acidity as possible in a wine. Unoaked styles usually display richer fruit character. These styles are often designed to be consumed young (1 to 3 years old)

Winemaker Spotlight – Rick Kinzbrunner from Giaconda
“To me Chardonnay is not a dominantly fruit driven wine – complex secondary charachers need to be in harmony with the frit to give this wine its mystery, power and depth. The nose has a range of dimensions from spice, nuts and meal through to delicate peach aromas, good oak usually, but not always, playing a  part. The palate is about concentration and depth without fatness, with the wonderful character of the nose carrying across. Surely the most complex and mult-dimensional of all white wines”

Casa Freschi (Adelaide Hills)
Freycinet (Tasmania)
Giaconda (Beechworth)
Pierro (Margaret River)

Highly Recommended
Bellwether (Tasmania)
Craiglee (Sunbury)
Lakes Folly (Hunter Valley)
Meerea Park Alexander Munro (Hunter Valley)
Meerea Park Terracotta (Hunter Valley)
Medhurst (Yarra Valley)
Moss Wood Chardonnay (Margaret River)
Oakridge Drive Bock Funder and Diamon vineyard (Yarra Valley)
Paringa Estate (Mornington Peninsula)
Scott (Piccadilly Valley)
Streicker Ironstone Block Old Vine (Margaret River)
Tyrrells Belford (Hunter Valley)
Yarra Yering (Yarra Valley)

Bay of Fires (Tasmania)
Cape Mentelle ( Margaret River)
Curly Flat (Macedon Ranges)
De Bortoli Villages (Yarra Valley)
De Bortoli Selection A5 (Yarra Valley)
Heemskirk (Tasmania)
Holm Oak (Tasmania)
Lark Hill (Canberra District)
Nicholson River Estate (Gippsland)
Paringa Peninsula (Mornington Peninsula)
Pinnaroo Estate Premium Partners Reseve (Cowra)
Robert Oatley Signature Series (Margaret River)
Robert Oatley Finisterre (Margaret River)
Yeringberg (Yarra Valley)



Top Ten Tips for Non Wine Drinkers

I have recently met some people that feel embarrassed about not liking wine. They feel socially ostracised and forced into putting up with it and want to feel part of the crowd when everyone else is drinking.
Look, you don't have to like wine if you simply don't like the taste. It is not a crime and you should not feel like a fish out of water when everyone else is discussing their latest cellar door trips. But is does help if you know a bit about the subject.
If that remotely sounds like you then here are a few points to bridge the gap and not appear social inept if you are confronted with the burden of wine as a non-wine drinker.

  1. Check your glassware at home. Throw out the crappy old ‘Paris goblet’ small glasses or the odd set you inherited after the last house party. Buy a set of 6 moderately large tulip shape glasses, preferable from glassmakers such as Riedel and Schott Zwiesel. An example would be Riedel Vinum series Chianti glasses that could be used for both red or white wine.
  2. Ensure you hand polish these glasses when people are coming round. Nothing worse than a dirty smeared glass.
  3. Purchase a simple clear decanter that holds a bottle of red wine, avoid cut glass. This hides the name of the wine you are serving. If asked tell them red wine is better if it is ‘aerated’ and that is the way wine is served at home in Europe, in a jug, without any pretentiousness.
  4. Majority of wine is now sealed with a screw cap but you will probably need a corkscrew at some stage, if people are bringing wine to your home. So buy a pulltaps corkscrew (about $20) don’t buy a cheaper one, they are easy to use and please don’t waste your money on expensive contraptions that do, what is, a simple job.
  5. In a restaurant if the selection is up to you then buy a middle of the road wine, price wise, not the cheapest, but not the most expensive ones. These often represent the best value for money. However we are slowly moving back to generic ‘house wine’ and sometimes these represents value for money. If it is a good restaurant house wine should have been well selected. Alternatively, if a wine savvy person is holding the list and asks for your preferences tell them you recently enjoyed a natural, bio-dynamically grown Rakatsiteli wine from Georgia made in an amphorae and can you they find anything similar.
  6. Whether in a restaurant or shop and the selection is down to you then here are two suggestions. If you need a red wine then buy a Pinot Noir, it demonstrates a more sophisticated taste and if questioned on your selection then tell them that Pinot Noir is a great food match and a good wine to digest, being light on the stomach.
  7. For a white wine buy a Pinot Grigio (or another Italian white grape) or Semillon and say you prefer wines that sit behind the food and not dominate it.
  8. When you go to your local bottleshop/ local retailer if you see a wine plastered with medal stickers then look where they won the medal, make sure it is GOLD or a trophy winner and choose the wine that won gold from an Australian capital show such as Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Canberra or Adelaide.
  9. If you’ve been sent to hunt a certain grape variety in a shop or restaurant then choose it from a classic region which are in very general terms:
      1. Shiraz. Try Barossa Valley, Clare Valley or Hunter Valley (the last one is better for generalfood matching but saidly not as popular as the first two)
      2. Chardonnay. Try Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Mornington Peninsula
      3. Cabernet Sauvignon. Try Coonawarra, Margaret River, Yarra Valley
      4. Sauvignon Blanc. Try Marlborough, Adelaide Hills or a Margaret River blend
      5. Semillon. Try Hunter Valley or a Margaret River blend
      6. Riesling. Choose Clare or Eden Valley
      7. Pinot Noir. Try Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley or Tasmania
      8. Sparkling. Choose Tasmania or just buy Champagne
      9. Blends. Look for Shiraz Viognier from Canberra or GSM from Barossa Valley.
  10. If you still fail to bluff your way through wine then get educated and enrol in a course at the Sydney Wine Academy and or Purchase the Australian Wine Guide. At ‘school’ you spit the wine out so you still don’t have to drink it!



At Loggerheads with Len Evans

As I entered through ‘Loggerheads’ solid oak castle doors, Leonard Paul Evans OBE was on the phone despatching visionary statements “…plan that, build this, get young people involved in wine…..”. Small dogs barked at my heels, creating a scene reminiscent of an English Hogarth painting. Showing immediate hospitality, he beckoned me to sit, oblivious to who I actually was or why I was invading his home. Click on the article to learn more.

Len Evans

Games that People Play

Wine option games can be played with a small group of friends or thousands of people at formal dinners. Learn more by clicking on the article







FAKE wines!!

Read about fake wines and how to avoid becoming a victim.

Check list for avoiding a Fake Wines

Learn about Tyrian, Cienna, Vermilion and Rubienne.

The World of Wine is not too dissimilar to humans. Good and bad years come and go, the place is full of different races and creeds (or in wines case, varieties). There is the occasional epidemic that wipes many of us out (i.e. Phylloxera), but then there are the constant re-births. The birth of children is always a special time and we are currently witnessing the emergence of a new wine ‘family’ in Australia, bred by our own CSIRO. The team at Merbein in Victoria have brought together parents cabernet sauvignon and sumoll and are pleased to announce the arrival of four offspring. Click on the article to learn more.

CSIRO Article