Why is this Wine so Yummy?
Tasting in Context & with Contrast
Cool Climate Aussie Chardonnay with a Lafon from Mâcon thrown in.
Same variety, through cool climate regions in Aus + a Mâcon from Burgundy.
The variety takes its name from the village of Chardonnay near Uchizy in the Mâconnais, in southern Burgundy. A region gaining in reputation for the production of delicious Chardonnay. Thought to have originated from Sâone-et-Loire between Lyon and Dijon.
Where is it grown?
Burgundy is the mythical home of Chardonnay. From there it spreads far and wide across the world. One of the three main varieties of Champagne production, we also see massive plantings in Australia and North America. You’ll find it somewhere in pretty much every wine growing country.
What does it taste like?
There are a vast array of flavours, aromas and textures that Chardonnay can offer from the fruit alone, add in use of solid, fermentation vessels like oak, eggs and tanks, and, malolactic fermentation, the sky is the limit.
Chardonnay has incredible versatility and can be picked over quite a wide range of sugar levels and flavour ripeness. The same vineyard can be picked at with enough sugar to make a wine of 10-11% alcohol for sparkling production and then 14% for table wine with anything in between possible. Picked earlier it tends to have more citrus and green apple characters. Picked ripper the natural acidity drops and the flavours progress through stone fruit, to pineapple, fig and melon.
The hand of the winemaker has been particularly evident in Australia over the last 20 years. Starting with big, broad, alcoholic full malo styles in the 1980’s and 1990’s, the pendulum swung to the lean, acid-driven styles in Australia in the mid-00’s, with some downright mean wines produced in the cooler climates like the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Mornington, and, Tasmania. Currently, styles have found balance with generosity and elegance. Australian Chardonnay is the best it has ever been. Restrained oak use is thankfully the norm.
Use of wild fermentation, malolactic fermentation and grape solids in ferments can add an array of secondary aromas and flavours, nuttiness, creaminess, bakery notes, butteriness, funk.
Some makers have played heavily with reduction in Chardonnay often resulting in flinty, burnt match characters.
In Burgundy, climate change, just as in Australia (along with mature vineyards) has seen picking times bought forward with sugar levels maintaining. The degree of chaptalisation in Burgundy is reducing and is often not required at all.
In the Vineyard
The mad rush of planting in the 1990’s has long passed. Badly managed, overcropped vineyards planted on poor sites have been ripped out. The good vineyards are now mature, in balance, produce fruit with greater intensity of flavour and natural acidity. We’re also seeing an increased need to manage heat in the vineyards. Managing the canopy (leaves and shoots), positioning them to shade the fruit is becoming more common. And, believe it or not, applying grape sunscreen to protect the bunches from burning is also increasing in popularity.
Combined with lower yields and mature vines, winemakers have been picking fruit earlier, with four main outcomes:
- Flavour profiles have shifted from riper melon, peach, pineapple and fig to more citrus, green apple and perfumed florals.
- Alcohol levels have dropped by as much as 1.5% to around 12.5-13.5%.
- Higher levels of natural acid have been retained improving texture and freshness of the wines as well as require less if any acid to be added. The 3 Aussie wines in this pack have no added acid.
- Break acid down one more step, higher levels of malic acid are retained, the green apple acid.
Older oak, and, larger oak are being used more often, reducing interference of non-grape character. If you want to learn more about oak in wine check out this article in the Wine Bites Mag Q&A with Paul: “How does the percentage of new oak affect wine?” In a nutshell the larger the oak the slower the wine develops in barrel and the fresher it stays. The ratio of surface area of oak to volume of wine drops, effectively resulting in a new large barrel having less of an impact than a small one.
Texture & Complexity
Winemakers have had time to figure out the nuances around the use of solids, lees stirring, extraction of phenolic.
All of these contribute to the texture of the wine. In the Dolly Parton days, it was not uncommon to see angular Chardonnay with a hard finish. Thankfully we’ve shifted away from those textures.
Handling of phenolics which come, largely from the skins, and, can offer body and flavour as well as impacting texture has been refined too.
- Yabby Lake & Hoddles Creek crushes the fruit prior to immediate pressing.
- Vanguardist, foot stomps it and lets it sit chilled for a couple of days then presses.
- Lafon keeps the pressings separate, hyper-oxidises them to drop out phenolic compounds that turn brown and then adds the juice back. A common practice, particularly in larger wineries in Australia.
All of the above doesn’t even begin to explore all of the option when pressing the fruit to separate the juice. Whole long, how hard ie how much pressure, do you take a free run cut and separate the pressings?
There is no right answer, it’s about the hand you’re dealt and the fruit you’ve got. At the end of the day, the final judge is your tongue!
Malolactic fermentation is being blocked or stopped part way through keeping acid level higher and avoiding the potential of diacetyl, buttery, aromas and flavours being produced.
Extremes for all of these techniques have disappeared, at least in the good wines, like the Vanguardist. It’s a beautifully layered, harmonious wine of great complexity.
Time & Élévage
You’ll notice all of the Aussie wines are 2017’s, they’ve only just been released. Extending the time these wines spend in barrel and bottle prior to release allows them to settle and become more generous. That said all will benefit from another 12-24 months in bottle snad last for around 10 years comfortably.
What to look out for
If you really want to get your head around these wines, taste all 4 in one go
It makes it so much easier to find the differences and helps you to appreciate each wine’s qualities. Having a glass for each wine is the way to go!
At minimum taste 2 at a time. Don’t fear they’ll last for a couple of days open.
Pairing 1 – Hoddles Creek 1er, Yarra Valley & Yabby Lake Single Vineyard, Mornington Peninsular
You’ll find the Hoddles Creek to be richer and more immediately generous than the Yabby Lake on first impression. Notice how fine the acid is on both. Try and concentrate on the depth and length of flavour, you’ll see just how good it is on both!
If you’d like to try this pair with a couple of years of age on them we’ve organised access to some 2015 Hoddles Creek 1er and 2014 Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnays.
- Great Chardy
This finds the perfect balance between richness & juicy acid, delicacy & power, fruit & complexity!Such Purity & Expression!$48ea in any 3+, $46ea in any 6+ $50.00 More Info
Hoddles Creek 1er Chardonnay 2015
Life's Pretty Good in the Winery when you Start with Fruit this Good!Perfectly Balanced!From $35ea with any 12 Bottles $40.00 More Info
Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2014
Pairing 2 – Vanguardist, Adelaide Hills & Lafon, Mâcon, Burgundy, France.
Concentrate carefully on the texture, the almost hidden generosity of the Vanguardist, compare it to the Lafon. Notice the almost translucent nature to both wines.
Michael Corbett from Vanguardist picked his Chardonnay at around 11.5°Bé and people thought him mad. Having worked in the Côte de Blanc, the golden strip of Chardonnay vineyard in Champagne, I’ve seen fruit picked at 10-10.5°Bé that I would have been happy to see made into a table wine such was the intensity of flavour.
The Vanguardist doesn’t look at all green or unripe, it has a deceptive power to it.
If you let the wines warm a little you’ll see more layers of complexity express themselves. Try each of the wines with this in mind. You don’t necessarily have to pick out individual character, just close your eyes, take a long inhalation and ask your self is this a simple one-dimensional wine or something with loads of different aromas. Ask again after you’ve tasted the wine.
Tips for Drinking these Wines
🌡Temp: 12-14°C. We tend to drink whites too cool. If they end up too cold they’ll warm up quickly in the glass.
🍷Decanting: Not necessary, these young whites will benefit from air, open up and be more expressive with a bit of time in the glass.
⏳Time: I love trying good wines stand alone, with food, and, often the next day. It gives them the chance to shine and ensures you don’t miss a good wine through impatience or fail to bring out it’s best by not marrying them to food.
🕯Cellaring: These wines will all comfortably go 5 years.
The Best 2 Options for Preserving your Wine:
- Grab a Coravin wine preserver.
- Watch this video, “Stop the Wine-ocide” Kaani 2012 – My Deep Dark Secret, one of my first, about saving open bottles of wine from the drain, sorry about the quality, but, the message is still there.