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
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.