Category Archives: Australian Chardonnay

Aug 08 2016

How wild yeast fermentation helps to create a sense of place

Posted on August 08, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Have you recently had a glass of white wine that was a little cloudy in appearance or had a bit of funky nose? But on tasting it impressed you with its richness, complexity of flavours and palate length? Chances are you were drinking a wine that was fermented with wild yeast.

Using wild yeast for fermentation is a growing trend. While most of the big commercial wineries still prefer to use a cultured strain of yeast isolated for its desirable fermentation characteristics and reliable results, boutique wineries have not been afraid to embrace the risks of wild yeast fermentation.

Recent New Zealand research shows that yeasts are territorial and vary according to place. Intuitively this makes sense. The vegetation and surrounding air contains hundreds of strains of yeasts, and the types of strains are determined by the fruit, flowers, soils, trees and grasses in the local area. Consequently, winemakers interested in making wines that express their ‘terroir’ or sense of place believe that fermenting the fruit with wild yeasts helps to impart the wine with a character that is unique to where the fruit was grown.

Of course, wild yeast is only one of several ingredients that gives a wine its special character. Other elements like vineyard location, soil composition, vine maturity, farming practices and winemaking techniques all contribute to the expression of a sense of place.

In an article about wild yeasts, wine critic Huon Hooke singled out the acclaimed Cullen’s Kevin John Chardonnay 2011 as one of the best examples of a wine that has undergone a wild yeast fermentation: “This was slightly feral and very exciting. It lives dangerously. Biodynamically grown and wild fermented, it’s a pioneer and benchmark of the genre. It’s so complex it’s difficult to describe, although honey and oak and what I call … Read the rest

Aug 08 2016

Newcomer Cloudburst generates extraordinary excitement!

Posted on August 08, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In 2013 the Cloudburst Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 caused a major upset at the Margaret River Wine Show. The relative newcomer – 2010 was in fact the first vintage of the cabernet sauvignon – claimed trophies for best cabernet sauvignon, best single-vineyard red and best red wine of show, beating out a host of well established and famous wineries.

And the accolades have kept mounting! Here’s a recent assessment from wine critic Huon Hooke of a sampling of the last three vintages of Cloudburst cabernets, chardonnays and malbecs: “All are superb. These are wines of great finesse, spot-on ripeness and wonderful intensity. They’re beautifully balanced and promise to be long-lived.” (A Cloud bursts in Margaret River by Huon Hooke, The Real Review 14 June 2016)

And more exultant praise for the chardonnays from Jeremy Oliver in the most recent edition of his Wine Annual: “Another leader in the chardonnay stakes is the Margaret River newcomer of Cloudburst, whose three releases to date reveal a combination of concentration and richness in wines of seamless elegance and brightness hitherto unseen in this country.” (Jeremy Oliver, Wine Annual 2016)

We hear a lot about artisanal wines, but the Cloudburst wines are the real deal. They are practically hand-made from the vineyard up by owner/winemaker Will Berliner, an ex-pat New Yorker, who studied wine at UC Davis.

According to wine connoisseur and Cloudburst fan Andrew Hamilton: “His work in the vineyard to my knowledge is unparalleled in the Margaret River region. In fact, I don’t know a single producer in the greater Margaret River region who can claim that their vineyard has never once seen a tractor besides Cloudburst. His vines are close planted Burgundy style with vines and rows equally spaced at a meter apart from one another. His approach to … Read the rest

Jul 07 2016

Leeuwin Estate Masterclass with Winemaker Phil Hutchison

Posted on July 07, 2016 | By merrill@cellarit.com

2014 Art Series SBRecently the Wine Advocate’s Lisa Perrotti Brown singled out “eight stellar” Western Australia producers “who are killing-it when it comes to innovation, quality and coaxing the terroir into the bottle: Cloudburst, Cullen, Frankland Estate, Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood, Peccavi, Plantagenet and Woodlands.” (Western Australia Killing-it, 4 March 2016, eRobertparker.com)

Of course, to see Margaret River pioneer Leeuwin Estate on this list is no surprise. Still owned by its founders Denis and Tricia Horgan and now under the direction of their children and grandchildren, Leeuwin Estate has enjoyed an enviable reputation for its world-class wines for over 30 years. Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine, for example, lists a staggering 16 vintages, dating back to 1987, as top vintages for the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay – one of only 21 Australian wines ranked “Exceptional” in the classification.

But while Leeuwin Estate has stuck to its knitting, so to speak, by keeping the focus on what does it best – chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon – innovation is still at the forefront of their winemaking approach. Indeed, one of the highlights of a recent Vintage Cellars Double Bay Masterclass with winemaker Phil Hutchison was a single variety not usually associated with Western Australia – the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014.

Typically, Margaret River wineries blend sauvignon blanc with semillon to create a Bordeaux-style white wine. But the 2014 Leeuwin Estate Art Series vintage is 100% sauvignon blanc. As Hutchison explained, the sauvignon blanc grapes are actually sourced from an 18 year-old vineyard about 20 km south of Margaret River. Here the evening southerly winds dramatically cool down the nighttime temperature in the vineyards, extending the ripening period just enough to significantly lift the subtle lemon, lime and apple aromatics in the wine. Innovative winemaking techniques, like 50% … Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: Billy Button and Mayford Wines – Putting the Alpine Valleys Region on the Map

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Two very talented winemakers, Jo Marsh of Billy Button and Eleana Anderson of Mayford, are neighbours and good friends in the beautiful Alpine Valleys wine region, an area that covers the foothills of the Victorian alps and borders with King Valley to the west and Beechworth to the north. Last week the pair shared the stage at a very interesting masterclass at Different Drop in Pyrmont.

We were welcomed with a glass of the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Torment’ Riesling (King Valley) on arrival. This is the only wine from Jo’s extensive range made with fruit not sourced from the Alpine Valleys.

Jo MarshJo said that she couldn’t resist the opportunity to put her own stamp on one of her favourite varieties when offered a parcel of grapes from an excellent well-established vineyard in King Valley’s Whitlands.

Fermented with indigenous yeasts, the juice was given time on full solids to add texture and flinty, savoury notes to the wine. But the fuller bodied style didn’t detract from the pristine citrus flavoured fruit, which was buoyed by a laser-like acidity. An unusual style of riesling and one of my favourite wines of the night.

Another highlight was the 2015 Billy Button ‘The Feisty’ Friulano.  Jo explained that she first came across friulano, a grape that originates from the Friuli-Venezie-Giulia region of North-East Italy, when she took up the position of Head winemaker at Feathertop, one of the Alpine Valleys oldest wineries. (Jo was previously head winemaker at Seppelt.)

 

Billy Button range

‘The Feisty’ Friulano is made in a style which also lends texture and complexity to a very fruity variety. Approximately two-thirds of the wine, for example, was barrel fermented in old French oak. When the 2014 inaugural vintage of this wine was released it attracted a number of standout reviews.… Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

James Suckling Announces his Top 100 Wines of 2015

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You know the holiday season is fast approaching when the world’s top wine critics start announcing their top wines of the year.  The team at JamesSuckling.com tasted an astonishing 9,000 wines, and Suckling himself tried 7,500. With the exception of Champagne, Australia and New Zealand, which are covered for the website by Australian wine critic Nick Stock, Suckling reviews wines from all over the world and in 2015 travelled to wine regions in France, Italy, Chile, Argentina, Spain, and the United States!

The list of his top 10 wines in 2015 is an interesting compilation because to come up with the rankings, value for money and availability were considered alongside point scores. (None of the wines in the Top 10 scored less than 96 points.) Priced at US$70 or below, these are wines that can still be found for sale on WineSearcher.com.

The Flametree SRS Walcliffe Chardonnay 2014 from the Margaret River is the only Australian wine to make the top 10 list, coming in at no. 9.  Auscellardoor has it for the lowest price on WineSearcher.com- $48.90 per bottle.

This wine has been widely acclaimed. It was a star performer at the 2015 James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge, where it was awarded 97 points and rated the leading Western Australia Chardonnay of the Challenge. Wine critic Campbell Mattinson also gave it a terrific review:

96 Points. Chardonnay to blind the weary drivers. Nothing else can set fire to this glass. Score is irrelevant. This wine is wonderful. Flavour and funk. Tropical fruit, grapefruit, white peach, pear. Struck match notes scorch over pristine, mouthwatering fruit. Length. Poise. Precision.– Campbell Mattinson, The Wine Front, 26 August 2015.

2010-frescobaldi-castelgiocondo-brunelloSuckling’s Wine of the Year in 2015, the  Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Brunello di Montalcino Castelgiocondo 2010, is still available from … Read the rest

Nov 11 2015

Masterclass: Creating a Sense of Place – The Lane Vineyard, Adelaide Hills

Posted on November 11, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

You know a winery is serious about “terroir” when they print the Google Earth coordinates of the particular block each wine comes from on the front label!

The Lane Vineyard, arguably the Adelaide Hills’ most picturesque vineyard, prides itself on creating wines that display their sense of place.

And it’s a very special place indeed!

Last year John Edwards, who founded the winery with his wife Helen, reminisced about their decision 22 years ago to buy a 70 ha cattle grazing property high in the Adelaide Hills overlooking the Onkaparinga Valley: “We’re so blessed to have bought this block rather than the one across the road. This is the gem, the one with the minerals, the rolling slopes and the beauty. This is the piece of dirt that gives us the edge.” (Keys to the Lane: Meet the New Faces of an Adelaide Icon by Anthony Madigan, Wine Business Monthly, April 2014)

Today, day-to-day management of The Lane Vineyard has passed to John and Helen’s sons, Marty Edwards and Ben Tolstoshev, with Marty in charge of viticulture and Ben in charge of marketing. Recently Ben gave a masterclass on the wines at Different Drop’s new warehouse premises in Ultimo.

I don’t think I was the only one in Ben’s audience who was more familiar with the winery’s stunning restaurant than the wines themselves. (The restaurant is consistently rated one of the best in South Australia). But with Ben and Marty at the helm, both passionate and eloquent advocates for their brand, I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about these impressive hand-crafted wines.

The Lane Beginning Chardonnay 2005, for example, was a beautiful reminder of how wonderfully Australian chardonnay can age when well-made. The wine had an enticing bouquet of toasty notes with a hint … Read the rest

Feb 02 2015

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2012 makes list of top 50 Australian Wines

Posted on February 02, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2012 was one of four Penfolds wines to make the Top 50 Australian wines of 2014, a list recently put together by wine critic Nick Stock for JamesSuckling.com. (Tasting Report: Nick’s 50 Best Australian Wines of 2014, 5 February 2015,  JamesSuckling.com)

The 2010 Penfolds Grange took the number one spot, the Penfolds St Henri 2010 came in fifth, the Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 came in seventh and the Yattarna 2012 occupied 12th place. For chardonnay, Yattarna’s ranking was only eclipsed by the Oakridge Yarra Valley 864 Willowlake Block 6 Chardonnay 2012 in 8th place and the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay Margaret River 2010 in 9th place.

Stock remarked that the 2012 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay “has finally fulfilled its potential with the 2012 release,” stating that it “possesses the kind of weight, purity, class, structure and carefully constructed complexity that sets the world’s greatest chardonnay wines apart from the merely good.” (Nick’s Blog: Penfolds 2010 Grange and 2012 Yattarna, 9 October 2014, JamesSuckling.com)

“Finally fulfilled its potential” no doubt refers to the fact in the mid 1990s Penfolds set a bold ambition to create a white wine of the same standard as its world famous Penfolds Grange!

Yattarna is an Aboriginal word that means ‘little by little,’ a name that certainly seems appropriate for a wine that has stylistically evolved over the years.

Like Penfolds Grange, Yattarna is a multi region blend. In more recent vintages fruit has been primarily sourced from the primarily cooler climates of Tasmania and Victoria, with the goal of creating a style of chardonnay that is crisper, tighter and more elegant than the oaky, buttery style in vogue when the inaugural 1995 vintage was first released in 1998.

The 2012 vintage was matured for eight months … Read the rest

Feb 02 2015

Decanter Magazine names Australia’s Top 4 Chardonnays

Posted on February 02, 2015 | By merrill@cellarit.com

Decanter Magazine recently conducted a blind tasting to come up with a list of the “Best Chardonnays in the world (outside Burgundy).” Nominated for consideration by top wine critics were the finest chardonnays from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. 80 wines in total were tasted. (The Best Chardonnays in the world (outside Burgundy) by Stephen Brook, Decanter Magazine, March 2015)

While the Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from New Zealand was crowned “Wine of the Tasting,” four Australian wines made it into the top 10 list of “Outstanding Wines” (South Africa came in second with three wines on the list):

By Farr Chardonnay, Geelong, Victoria 2012

De Bortoli & Shelmerdine, PHI, Lusatia Park Vineyard, Yarra Valley, Victoria 2007

Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, Beechworth, Victoria 2011

Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River, Western Australia 2010

 

De Bortoli Phi ChardonnayThe Decanter tasting panel of Stephen Brook, Jasper Morris MW and Steven Spurrier thought that “about half  of the wines couldn’t have been Burgundy, but half quite easily could have.’

In fact, at a blind tasting in Australia, Brook confidently placed the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River 2010 as a Burgundy!  He describes it as “a magnificent, limpid, complex Chardonnay, with broad shoulders but rarely showing excessive oak or heft.”

Certainly top winemakers like By Farr’s Gary Farr are drawn twwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaao the Burgundian style of making chardonnay. Wines, which at their best, are hailed for their complexity, nuance, finesse and ageability.

The By Farr Chardonnay 2012 is an example of a wine rich in flavour yet elegant andGiaconda Estate Chardonnay refined. Brook describes it having a “full and somewhat exotic style yet [with] tension and complexity.”

The grapes for this wine are grown on the same vineyard as the pinot noir used for the acclaimed By Farr Sangreal Read the rest

Jan 01 2014

Marchand & Burch Chardonnay: Burgundy comes to the Great Southern!

Posted on January 01, 2014 | By merrill@cellarit.com

One of the most exciting developments in the Australian wine industry over the past 10 to 15 years has been the emergence of new regions and/or sub-regions making great wine. In a previous post, Great Southern, WA: The New Centre for Australian Riesling?, I discussed how the Great Southern region of Western Australia is displaying fantastic potential for riesling and perhaps even starting to close the gap in terms of quality with its better known Clare and Eden Valley peers in South Australia!

If reviews for the Marchand & Burch Chardonnay are any indication, the Great Southern is also making impressive inroads in creating fine chardonnays.

Marchand and BurchMarchand & Burch is a joint venture between Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand and Howard Park and MadFish Wines’s vigneron and owner Tony Burch. Howard Park is one of Western Australia’s oldest and largest family-owned wineries with vineyards in both the Margaret River and the Great Southern. The Howard Park Chardonnay, sourced from its Mount Barker, Porongurups, Denmark vineyards in the Great Southern, is generally regarded as one of Australia’s best chardonnays.

Pascal Marchand, ex-winemaker at Comte Armand and Domaine de la Vougeraie in Burgundy, personally overseas the winemaking process; deciding, for example, how many whole bunches to include in fermentation. The vineyard and the winery are biodynamic and organic, with an emphasis is on small batch processing to bring out the distinct character of the terroir.  The chardonnay is hand-picked and wild fermented in French barriques. (Australian, New Zealand and Burgundian Pinot Noir by Tom Cannavan, wine-pages, October 2009)

In addition to the chardonnay, which was first released in 2007, Marchand & Burch make two pinot noirs from Mount Barrow and Gibraltar Rock in the Great Southern, and a shiraz. An extensive collection of Burgundian wines (17 in total to date) … Read the rest

Sep 09 2013

50 Wines to Try in 2013: Lake’s Folly Hill Block Chardonnay 2012

Posted on September 09, 2013 | By merrill@cellarit.com

In answer to a reader’s question, “If I crave that old-school, rich, buttery chardonnay, where can I get my fix?” the Gourmet Traveller Wine’s Jane Skilton MW highlighted two good examples from NSW’s Hunter Valley, the Scarborough White Label Chardonnay and the Oakvale Reserve Chardonnay.

You may have guessed that the reason for the reader’s question is the recent dearth of ripe, rich buttery chardonnays in Australia. As Skilton notes “the current vogue is for winemakers to explore a tighter, more restrained style of chardonnay that has much more discreet oak and subtle malolactic characters.” (Wine Dilemmas by Jane Skilton MW, Gourmet Traveler Wine, Aug/Sept 2013)

Lake’s Folly is one Hunter Valley winery that seems to get the balance right when it comes to creating chardonnays that are rich and buttery textured but also display complex citrus and stone fruit characters, great length and just the right amount of acidity to lift and brighten the palate.

The winery recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and is famous for making only two iconic wines: the Lake’s Folly Cabernets and the Lake’s Folly Chardonnay.

The single vineyard Hill Block Chardonnay is a very recent addition to the stable, with the current 2012 vintage representing only the second release.

Made by winemaker Rod Kempe, who recently celebrated his 13th vintage for Lake’s Folly, the Hill Block Chardonnay is sourced from the fruit at the top of “the Hill” on a site that Kempe believes is arguably Lake Folly’s best.

The first two vintages have been very favourably received. The Australian’s Wine Companion James Halliday and the Wine Genius’s Jamie Oliver scored the 2012 vintage 96 and 95 points respectively. Here’s the winery’s tasting notes for the 2012 vintage, of which only 185 dozen were made:

Vibrant green/gold in colour, the wine displays aromas Read the rest