Archive for the ‘Macedon’ category

A selection of Australian Chardonnays

June 10, 2008

No grape is more versatile than Chardonnay. Climatically diverse regions produce unique fruit that can be moulded into various styles. In relatively small areas as Chablis and the Côte d’Or it even comes down to single vineyards, where minute details as soil and exposition determine whether a wine can be labelled as a Cru or not. Despite the differences in quality or winemaking, a certain convergence can still be seen: Meursault tastes like Meursault, St-Aubin and Puligny-Montrachet like a Côte du Beaune.

When I had a line-up of six premium Chardonnays from WA a while ago, it seemed to me that – without doubting the quality of the fruit – the winemaker clearly ruled within the limits set by the raw materials and (more often) the market: styles generally get leaner, tighter and more defined. I did the same exercise again with Pierro’s Dr. Michael Peterkin, this time with some of Australia’s best. Not worrying too much about regionality this time, I looked at them as individual wines telling their own story.

The Bindi Quartz Chardonnay was one of my favourites and after the majestic 2005 I finally had a look at the 2006 edition. Bright, clear and yellow straw in the glass the nose displayed intense and rich characters of nectarine, white peach and citrus fruit, following through on a palate that showed more restraint with its usual tightly focused, mineral acidity.

From the tiny Wantirna Estate Vineyard in the Yarra Valley comes the 2006 Isabella Chardonnay. All work in this in 1963 planted vineyard in done manually while the overall oenological philosophy tends to be rather traditional. The resulting wines are therefore of very high quality, fully reflecting the potential of the fruit as is shown by this yellow straw Chardonnay. Initially very shy on the nose, the wine opens up nicely with some time in the glass, presenting intense melon, lemon and nectarine fruit following through on a palate that is elegantly marked by barrel fermentation and lees stirring.

Every great wine starts in the vineyard, so does the 2005 Pierro Chardonnay from our host. Thoughtful site selection, high-density planting, balanced canopy management, hand-picking and even irrigation are part of Dr. Peterkin’s repertoire. The expression of the winemaker himself is what this wine really stands out for though, a textbook example of how the variety can be manipulated to express itself to a maximum without losing its sense of place. Nuts, lees, stone fruit, melon, grapefruit and vanilla are just a few of the aromas that greet you on the nose while frequent bâttonage, 100% malolactic fermentation and barrel ageing have left their mark on the palate. Hedonistic buttery roundness with underlying taut acidity show the balancing act between fruit and winemaking is perfectly executed.

The yellow gold coloured 2005 Giaconda Chardonnay elaborates on the same theme although this effort from Kinzbrunner is as precise a wine can get. Incredibly intense on the nose aromas of melon, apple, pear, citrus, stone fruit and spice follow through on a powerful palate showing astonishing intensity, depth and length. In one word phenomenal.

Leeuwin Estate must be one of Margaret River’s major tourist attractions judged by the sheer number of people visiting the excellent cellar door, restaurant, art gallery and annual concert. Brilliant marketing from the region’s biggest winery that produces an overall solid range of wines. But Leeuwin Estate has got a super-sub called Block 20, one distinct parcel forming the backbone of the ‘Art Series’ Chardonnay. The pedigree of the fruit always shines through in a wine that is marked by one year lees contact and entirely new oak. It’s therefore no surprise that this wine needs time to flesh out in the bottle before it unveils its full potential. The 2005 Leeuwin Estate “Art Series” Chardonnay proves no exception to this rule as I’ve tasted this wine three times since its release, gradually showing more coherence and complexity. The light golden wine delivers the most intense aromas pears, apples, peaches, figs, nuts and spicy oak with an equal monumental concentration of flavours on a powerful and long palate. Again, your patience will be repaid.

From the King of Terroir himself comes the 2003 Petaluma Tiers Chardonnay, a wine that stood out by its golden colour,  unfortunately betraying its forward characters of ripe fruit and toasty, honeyed characters that became more obvious over some time in the glass. Despite triggering an interesting discussion on the amount of free sulphur dioxide after bottling the wine left me disappointed. Regarding the tightness of Croser’s 2005 Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay it’s unlikely this would be the style intended.   

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Curly Flat Chardonnay 2005

November 10, 2007

img_3639.jpgCurly Flat has become one of my favourite Australian wineries in a pretty short time. I simply like the entirely on quality focused philosophy reflected in the sheer beauty of their wines. The 2005 edition of the Chardonnay is pretty much in the same mould as the outstanding 2004. This light golden wine shows the same complex nose where primary fruit and barrel-ferment characters continuously interact. The buttery roundness on the front of the palate clearly indicates substantial secondary fermentation and bâtonnage with lively stone- and citrusfruit giving the wine a lovely vinous spine through to the finish. All in all the 2005 seems better balanced than the 2004 although it still needs a bit of time to show its best. 94 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $45  Drink: 2008-2015

Web: www.curlyflat.com

Curly Flat Chardonnay 2004

October 8, 2007

img_3690.jpgI have highly anticipated the release of this wine for quite some time and was delighted when it finally arrived last Friday. And wow! The versality of the variety that is shown in this single bottle really blew me away. Pale straw in the glass it opens with a rich and complex nose of ripe peach, nectarine and citrusfruit complemented by a funky array of toasty oak, nuts and lees. These barrel-derived characters are carried through on the front of the palate that is round, full and creamy to melt seamingless with the intense juicy, lemony acidity in the middle that gives the wine a mouthwatering and lingering finish. The classy oak never dominates the palate but has nicely integrated with all the other components instead. It all gives this world-class Chardonnay the power and structure to last in the cellar for a long time. 95 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $45  Drink: 2008-2015

Web: www.curlyflat.com

Williams Crossing Pinot Noir 2004

July 17, 2007

img_3007.jpgA lot of Australian wineries produce a second label wine next to their premium bottlings. These “entree level” wines sometimes give a reflection of what the premiums are about, but mostly they offer nothing more than uncomplicated, instantly enjoyable drinking. A few labels are really good though, especially the ones that are made from estate grown fruit which a winery chooses to exclude from its first label like the 2004 Williams Crossing Pinot Noir, “junior” label of Curly Flat. The intense colour of the wine suggests a serious Pinot and that’s exactly what you get with a concentrated nose of plum, cherries and black berries, all wrapped up in spicy and vanilla oak. The same characters run through the equally impressive palate where fine but firm tannins and great acidity define the excellent structure of this wine. Although more open and approachable than its big brother, the Williams Crossing clearly shows the benifits of dedication to quality. If you happen to come across this wine don’t hesitate, buy it by the case and drink it over the next 5 years or so. 91 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $22  Drink: Now-2012

Web: www.curlyflat.com

Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2004

July 13, 2007

img_3008.jpgIt can be said with certainty that exciting things are happening on the Australian Pinot scene at this moment. Especially in the cool Macedon ranges some very handsome wines are being produced by small and dedicated producers. Bindi’s stunning Pinots are drawing a lot of attention for quite some years already, while the wines from Epis and Curly Flat are receiving critical acclaim more recently making them fast rising stars. For Curly Flat success didn’t come overnight and has everything to do with long-term meticulous vineyard practices which include a unique canopy management, heavy crop thinning and hand-picking of fruit that is being processed in a new state-of-the-art winery. When all this is combined with nearly perfect growing conditions the outcome is terrific as is shown in the 2004 Pinot Noir. This dark ruby coloured wine combines power, density and depth with subtle refinement. The nose offers intense red berry fruit, plum, bacon and spicy aromas and the complex, richly layered palate has firm tannins and fresh acidity leading to a long and spicy finish. I think this wine should be left alone for at least another year to open out and show its true potential, however, if you can’t resist – perfectly understandable – make sure you decant the wine well before you drink it. 94 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $55  Drink: 2009-2016

Web: www.curlyflat.com

Bindi Composition Pinot Noir 2006

June 29, 2007

img_3014.jpgI had the intention to leave this bottle alone for a while but I simply couldn’t resist the temptation. The 2006 vintage was the warmest, earliest and driest on record in the Macedon ranges and I was curious to find out whether these conditions were reflected in the wine. The intense brick red coloured wine shows ripe and fragrant cherry, plum and spicy aromas on the nose. Full and round fruit flavours dominate the front-palate with soft and velvetly tannins giving a perfect mouthfeel. There is enough acidity to keep everything in balance while the finish is restrained and tight with a lot of lingering spicy oak. I expect that with a little more time all components will be even more integrated leaving a powerfull yet elegant and harmonious wine. My conclusion is that this wine is just another example of what can be achieved with proper viticultural practices, exceptional fruit and great winemaking skills even in more challenging vintages. 93 points.

Source: Swanbourne Cellars  Price: $50  Drink: Now-2015

Bindi Quartz Chardonnay 2005

May 31, 2007

img_2915.jpgWhen I tasted Bindi’s flagship Chardonnay it immediately reminded me of a 2004 Corton Charlemagne from Domaine Bonneau du Martray that I enjoyed over a trade-lunch a couple of months ago. The wines from this Domaine offer ripe and intense fruit flavours within a flinty framework and that is exactly what the Quartz Chardonnay does. The grapes come from a miniscule half-hectare patch of the Bindi vineyard that is strewn with stones and rocks of quartz in the windy and chilly Macedon Ranges. The fact that they can fully ripen in such a cool area is a combined result of site selection and viticultural practises. In search of excellence all work in the vineyard is done by hand and crop-levels are kept ridiculously low resulting in rare wines – around 150 cases of the Quartz Chardonnay – of the highest quality. The 2005 Quartz Chardonnay is a phenomenal wine with a basket of ripe stonefruit, melon, figs and nuts on the nose. The palate is full, rich, intense and long with layers of texture and flavour and lovely balanced mineral acidity. The oak in this wine is merely supportive and allows the sheer power of the fruit to shine. This is the best Australian Chardonnay I’ve had so far. 97 points

Langton’s already has classified the Bindi Original vineyard Pinot Noir as an excellent wine. Despite the fact that the secondary market for white wines is not as strong as for red wines, I firmly believe that it will only be a matter of time before the Quartz Chardonnay will make its appearance. Leeuwin and Giaconda, be aware!

Source: Swanbourne cellars  Price: $70  Drink: Now-2017