Ryan Aggiss called. It is just a year since he had won The Wine Society Young Winemaker of the Year (and another is about to be crowned).
At that past time I interviewed Ryan and tasted the wines which catapulted a young local Margaret River man from Flying Fish Cove winemakers into the national light.
He was both humble and helpful about his wines as regards the style.
One wine was a recent unwooded chardonnay (2010); at the time it was a bit of a worry about where the judges were thinking, yet also an endorsement of where the fruit in this region goes even uncluttered with barrels and little lees.
The Wine Society show some vision as Ryan was the recipient of some funds to travel elsewhere to hone both knowledge (sensory that is) and skills.
He chose Burgundy, with an emphasis on chardonnay.
Out of the fray comes Flying Fish Cove Wildberry Reserve Chardonnay 2010; 12.5%; (USD 30); ++++1/2; superbly pale which is the demand today for top chardonnay from any place, restrained, lemon oak cedar, hints of funk which blew away, good nose which makes you work as it evolves over 6 or so hours, palate composed so fruit is not obvious, there is more artifact wrapped around flavour bits, no primary hit is overdone, then drying oak and palate, acid linearity, a fruit lift at the finish and a great coil of dryness.
Masterly. A good year. OMG alcohol is low.
Ryan says” “The evolution and development of Margaret River Chardonnay is an ambivalent activity that is, I believe, we are yet to find the correct matching of its regionality, sub-regional terroir and clonal/varietal attributes.”
Many people such as Di Cullen, Mike Peterkin, Robert Mann and a host of other makers in the region are down the path of searching. Some have a result which pleases.
He says “From the iconic styles of the mid to late 90′s of bigger, broader and richer wines, to the current trend of restraint, elegance and refinement, this evolution will continue for, I believe, sometime yet.”
“Are we dreaming if we think we can replicate the finesse and style of the world’s finest region, Burgundy?
With Margaret River now being included in the same breath as old world leaders of Chardonnay production, we at Flying Fish Cove are focusing our energy on delivering a style that incorporates all of the above factors, and delivers a long drawn arrow through the heart of these attributes to begin the definition of our style of premium Margaret River Chardonnay production.”
The 2010 Wildberry Reserve Chardonnay is hand selected from a long term Wilyabrup grower, based on clonal attributes, acid balance and flavour/sugar balance.
Picking the fruit just under the 12 Baume mark allowed the eventual free run juice to show restraint and elegance, minimal colour and provide a tract of acid straight down the centre of the palate.
The juice was then settled over night, racked and then “dirtied up” with collected juice solids and placed onto 8 barrels, 2 of which were new French oak, 4 were 1 year old French oak and 2 were 2 year old.
Fermentation was undertaken with a selected yeast strain and upon completion barrels were stirred monthly until desired texture and balance were achieved.”
The wine: was it what we thought it would be?
Do we yet have the balance of all the attributes that will truly begin to carve our own piece of history within this great region?
Well I think we are beginning to compile things together, play on the strengths of the vineyard and show respect to the fruit.
Lower alcohol, fine acid balance and subliminal oak with delicate fruit to me show both a respect to the sub region of Willyabrup and also to the finest producers in the world of this style.”
I think Ryan Aggiss and the team around him is on the money.
Many Australian makers now chase this mix; more angular acidity is a feature-even if it is to compete with the ever-present and overly acid New Zealand sauvignon blanc which is bearing out like a rash.
It brings new meaning to the word full flavoured for chardonnays at 13.5% alcohol and above (Leeuwin?)
Flying Fish Cove Wildberry Reserve 2009; 14.5%; (USD 30);+++++; not super deep colour, but with purples, composed, nose savoury, importantly no herbal notes so the ripeness was nailed, tobacco and cinnamon, oak recessive, palate compact, again savoury, impressive tannins that give backbone, not extra dryness, in a good space with fruit holding the wine a long way on the finish. Impressive.
Expect to see this brand star.
Peter Scudamore-Smith is a Brisbane-based Master of Wine, winemaker and educator www.uncorkedandcultivated.com.au
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