As winemaker Andrew Pirie reminded the audience at the Tasmania Unbottled masterclass, chardonnay, the white wine variety of Burgundy, is actually a cool-climate grape that can be very expressive of its terroir when sensitively handled in the vineyard and winery.
A recent tasting, organised by Single Vineyard Sellers and held at the White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney, provided ample evidence that chardonnay can create wines that are balanced, refreshing, complex and elegant. At a chardonnay masterclass, winemakers Paddy Borthwick of Paddy Borthwick Winery in Wairarapa, New Zealand, James Kellie of Harewood Estate in the Great Southern and Becca Duffy of Holm Oak in Tamar Ridge guided us through a comparative tasting of their most recent releases.
What was abundantly clear from their comments was that getting the best out of chardonnay from a cool climate is hard work, requiring deft handling both in the vineyard and the winery!
The Borthwick vineyard is located in Wairarapa, just north of Martinborough at the southern end of the North Island. The chardonnay vines, a mix of four different clones, are around 15 years old. Here the rainfall is low and the free-draining, stony alluvial soils encourage the vines to dig deep for sufficient nutrients and water. Borthwick explained that a flock of sheep are let loose in the vineyard to pluck off the vine leaves so the grape clusters receive more sun exposure – a practice that in this cool, fairly dry climate encourages more flavour concentration in the grapes.