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
Mezzanine/The Fine Wine Specialist Launch of Champagne Canard- Duchêne
Notes from a Sydney Tasting 19th March 2013
2011 Meyer-Fonne Riesling from Alsace are highly recommended, were powerful and had lovely length with a racy, acid spine. Vignoble de Katzenthal (AG) was outpointed by the Grand Cru Schoenenbourg (AG), but the latter is nearly twice the price.
The classic, whilst remaining unfashionable, Chateau Grillet 2009 displayed all the hallmarks of a warm, dry summer with rich musky aromas, toasty oatmeal characters and considerable length. (WWE) 2009 Jamet Côte Rôtie (WWE) was simply stunning. Deep, intense, rich and powerful with strong terroir character of white pepper shining through. On a similar vein was 2010 Clape Cornas (WWE) More powerful and deeper black fruit with even chocolate coming out. Tannic and rich on the palate, what you have come to expect from this producer. Both wines in their different ways were outstanding.
Staying in France, but only just, was an intriguing Corsican Vermentino 2011 Antoine Arena Patrimonio Blanc Carco (AG). It was soft and round, creamy showing a marked difference in style from Corsica’s close neighbour Sardinia.
On the Italian front I loved the reasonably cheap and cheerful 2011 Alessandria Dolcetto d’Alba (WWE) Powerful sweet red fruit aromas. On the palate it hit about its weight with a fullish body. medium length and a surprising level tannins. What also impressed was the 2010 Giovanni Rosso Barbera d’Alba Donna Margherita (AG) a well priced cru style with great tannin structure and good length and intensity and avoiding the sometime too acidic style of Alba. Highly recommended. Staying with Andrew Guard and Giovanni Rosso wines if you want a classic Nebbiolo and cannot afford B&B (Barolo and Barbaresco) then the 2010 Langhe (AG) was modern fruit driven but displayed plenty of varietal characteristics. For the more purists Barolista’s then the 2008 Alessandria Barolo Monviglieri (WWE) has the gong. True to style orange rum with savoury earthy tar notes and powerful tannins.
A couple from Tuscany made their mark. A red cherry fruit with some flowery notes and a slightly tannic palate, but with nice depth was displayed by 2010 Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino (WWE) Whilst the Fontodi Flaccianello della Pieve IGT 2008, Fontodi top cru was close to my top wine showing lovely fruit (cherry) and oak integration and great depth with well-balanced but firm tannins. Definitely a meditazione wine, outstanding.
A trip to Sicily came flooding back to me on tasting 2011 Azienda Agricola Cos Frappato (ES) expensive but soft and fruity, and their 2010 Cerasuolo di Vittoria (ES) which was fresh, juicy and light as it should be.
I didn’t try many of the Pinot Noirs on show but liked the 2011 Gladstone Pinot Noir (WWE), from Gladstone in New Zealand. Before you run for your atlas Gladstone is part of the large Wairarapa region. The wine is savoury and oak driven on the nose and palate with a slight floral leafy edge. It’s satisfying on the palate with medium plus length, subtle tannins, round and firm. Highly recommended. Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Pinot Noir from the Huon Valley (VS) was also recommended. This time the wine was more red fruit focused but with a well balanced and weighted palate.
On the home front there was only a few to try, as expected, but I did like the 2012 Harkham Winery Rosé (AG) It can be difficult to do a good preservative free wine. This wine was clean and had attractive red fruits, strawberry and cherry on the nose with a hint of rose petal. The wine was juicy on the palate with confectionary notes (in a positive way) and had a round soft palate for Rosé. Very Vin de Soif. I’d like to see more of their portfolio.
Sparkling Wine Review August 2012
No other wine so effectively sharpens the appetite, stimulates the flow of gastric juices, and enhances the pleasure to be gained from the meal, than Champagne or a glass of sparkling wine. Enjoying sparkling wine is truly a magical sensory experience. The detonation of a cork, the foamy mousse as it pours into pristine glassware. The inviting prickle of exploding bubbles in your nose as you raise the glass to your lips. Beyond doubt it is the ultimate celebration tipple. The appearance of a sparkling wine is all important. The emphasis is placed on the bubbles, which should be small and rise in a continuous stream to the top of the glass which is commonly referred to as ‘the bead’. It is essential to serve sparkling wine chilled and in pristine glassware, as an unclean glass could cause the wine to appear flat. Australian sparkling wines generally fall into two categories. The first style is light, tightly structured, and superb as an aperitif. Made predominantly from Chardonnay they display aromas such as citrus, lemon or floral. The second style is more full-bodied and flavoursome with noticeable lees/bready/yeasty and perhaps malolactic characteristics. The time spent on lees comes through more dominantly and the style can display unique biscuit, brioche, toast or even good old Australian Vegemite aromas. Pinot Noir may play a more important part in this style of wine, adding weight and length to the palate and making it suitable to drink during a meal. Both styles have their supporters. When tasting a sparkling wine the carbon dioxide bubbles should explode in your mouth, creating a creamy but fresh sensation indicating good acidity levels, without which the wine would appear soapy. Fizziness in a sparkling wine is also known as the ‘mousse’. The wine should have good length on the palate and aftertaste. Look for the amount of ‘dosage’ on the palate which will determine how dry the wine tastes. The amount of reserve wine in a cuvée (blend) will also impact on the smell and taste. A non-vintage may have between 10 – 40% of reserve wine added. This will increase the complexity of the wine. However in Australia the amount of reserve wine may be very low depending on how long a winery has been producing a sparkling wine for - they simply don't have the stock of wine or cannot afford to store it.
Classic Champagne comes from a very cool climate in northern France (average temp of 10 °C) and the grapes undergo a long slow ripening period up until October. There are only a few sites in Australia, if any, that can truly replicate these slow cool ripening conditions, which is one of the reasons why Champagne is so special. Tasmania is one of our best chances. One point to look out for is the ripeness of the fruit used in Australian sparkling wines. Some poor quality wines can taste of un-ripe fruit and have 'tart' aggressive acidity, contributing to a lack of balance on the palate. The producer has attempted to pick grapes early to replicate Champagne region, but it doesn't work. So look for cool climate but ripe fruit, well-balanced acidity and on a personal note I lean towards sparkling wines that have distinct yeast autolysis characters (fresh baked bread, nutty, yeasty, brioche etc)
Top 10 Tasmanian Sparkling Wines
House of Arras Grand Vintage 2004 (6yrs on lees. Fresh vibrant intense biscuit nose, impressive yeast autolysis. Long elegant palate with zesty acidity, nutty flavours, well balanced finish. Superb craftsmanship from Ed Carr.)
Bream Creek Cuvée Traditional 2007 (plenty of bready, brioche yeasty notes, Dry complexed palate with good texture and a lively mousse)
Jansz Tasmania Rosé 2008 (lovely pristine red fruits, zesty and delicously dry, flavour packed)
Clover Hill Vintage Brut 2007 (3 yrs on lees showing lovely toasty notes on the nose and a tight, elegant yet savoury palate. Good length)
House of Arras Brut Elite 401 Cuvée (more apple fruit driven on the nose with subtle bread. Fine elegant palate in an aperitif style)
Pirie NV (Nicely handled yeast autolysis - bready, brioche notes. Zesty, nutty,savoury palate with a lively mousse and good medium plus length)
Clover Hill Rosé 2008 (soft red fruits with a hint of spice on a dry and savoury palate. Nicely done)
Bay of Fires Tasmanian Cuvée Brut. (lean nutty and biscuit aromas, elegant palate, well balanced with lingering flavours)
Clover Hill NV (subtle nose but more expressive on the palate with doughy notes and nice intensity)
Joseph Chromy Vintage Sparkling 2008 (citrus and apple fruit driven nose, some nutty flavours with nice touch of savouriness on the palate)
Joseph Chromy Pepik NV. (touches of toasty fruit and slight yeast autolysis notes. Dry savoury palate)
A total of 21 wines tasted and 10 recommended.
Alternative Varieties Review - June 2012
You can never get bored drinking wine, it is simply so diverse. Local indigenous varieties from countries such as Greece were once poorly made and a waste of money but more often that not these wines are now well made utilising modern wine making techniques - my recent tasting of Gaia wines supports this theory.
Alternatively you can drink Australian made wines from alternative varieties. The danger here is that they have been made in a modern Australian style drowned by new oak or simply made from excessively ripe fruit, and they subsequently loose their genuine character. But our wines are coming along in leaps and bound and poor example are encountered less frequently. Some key points is to nurture varietal characteristics, retain their acidity, cut the use of oak and avoid residual sugar. Good examples are listed below from some recent tastings.
Gaia Thalassitis White, Santorini, Greece. 100% Assyrtiko - this indigenous white grape from the volcanic island of Santorini is grown in hot windy conditions where the soil is so poor that not even Phylloxera survives. Not surprising the vines are organic and ungrafted. A minerally driven wine with high acidity. Light bodied with some refreshing citrus flavours. Recommended
RVIC Vermentino 2011, Riverland. Very pale in appearance. Strong very distinctive ripe pear nose with some supporting nutty ground almond. Dry but slightly fleshy and perhaps a slight hint of residual sugar. But extremely flavoursome and round on the palate. Simply but satisfying sums this wine up, dripping with Sardinian savouryness. Good value for money from the not for profit Riverina Vine Improvement Centre Highly Recommended.
Hahndorf Hill Blueblood Blaufrankisch, Adelaide Hills, SA Deep inky core- inviting appearance. Rich ripe fruit on the nose with black cherry, sweet spice and vanilla oak. Dry velvet palate, round and supple. Medium bodied with lovely powdery tannins and flavours of cinnamon, plums and cherries. Improvement from past vintages, attractive and worth trying for something completely different. Currently this is the only commercial Australian example of this Austrian grape. Highly Recommended RRP 35.00
RVIC Alternative Riverland Montepulciano 2011, Riverland SA.This wine is made by the Riverland Vine Improvement Committee, a not for profit organisation. In Italy this grape (Montepulciano) makes fruity medium to full bodied wines for immediate consumption, normally it is found in Abruzzo, Puglia and Marche. This Australian version bumps up the intensity and is probably one of the most fruit driven wines on the Australian market. Deep inky in appearance and pungent jammy, confectionary, black cherry and plum driven nose. On the palate the wine has strong licorice, cherry and vanilla oak. Soft and quaffable. True to style. Yet to be released. See website for details. Recommended
Andrew Peace Kentish Lane Tempranillo 2007, Swan Hill, Victoria. Sweet cinnamon spice with pleasant raspberry confectionary hints. Dry, medium bodied wine with fine low level powdery tannins. Soft palate with medium plus alcohol, it leaves the palate with a savoury finish. Recommended
Kir Yianni Ramnista, 2008 Naoussa, Greece. 100% Xinomavro .lovely cedar, tar and earthy nose which opens up on the palate to display blackberry and plums and a juicy acidic front palate, then the tannins hit! Similarities to Nebbiolo abound, and clearly age worthy. Highly Recommended.
Highlights from Kemenys June 2012 Wine Dominion
I recently got the opportunity of working my way through many of the current Kemenys catalogue so I thought I'd share some of my opinions on what was on offer. One clear underlying message is that the Hidden Label range offers great value for money.
For a full throttle Champagne at a glugging price point you cannot go past the Piper Heidsieck NV. It's toasty, clearly autolytic and robust. More of a food Champagne than an aperitif. $35.88
Zinck Terroir Riesling 2008 shows off Alsace in a nutshell with precise mineral and citrus notes and a palate driven by crisp green apple acidity. Good length and it will cellar well ($16.99). You cannot go past some of the Hidden Label wines on offer. What really impressed me was the the Special Reserve Chardonnay ($29.99) and the Hunter Valley Semillon 2006 ($11.99) - see my tasting notes under white wine reviews. I also thought the Awatere Valley SB was good value at $13.99 and the SBS from the central ranges at $11.99. An interesting white was the Kooyong Beurrot Pinot Gris which has lees contact and French oak handling. Different, I suppose a Gris for people who miss chardonnay! But well made.($24.99)
Kaesler Stonehorse Shiraz 2010 was on the money for a rich Barossa red and only $16.99. Teusner Avatar 2010 is in a similar vain but a step up in quality at $25.99. On the Pinot front I'd look at Te Kairanga Estate ($17.99) but didn't get the opportunity to taste it. An absolute cheapie for quaffing is the Marques de Tezona Tempranillo 2010 for $7.99, it showed some nice varietal character. Back to the Hidden Label range, try the Coonawarra Merlot. a seriously good merlot with grunt at a whimper of a price ($14.99)
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.
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
Read about fake wines and how to avoid becoming a victim.
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.