Sommeliers Australia – our wine tasting professionals are a very active crew.
I blew in on a chardonnay tasting run by the Queensland chapter: wines were assembled by Ortiga restaurant’s Matt Brook.
He teased De Bortoli’s Gourmet Traveller Young Winemaker of the Year-Cowra-born Sarah Fagan to come by and chat about the first flight from the Yarra.
Quite soon the discussion was about the dual climates of the place, firstly the Yarra floor where all the robust cool climate chardonnays take shape.
That meant De Bortoli Reserve 2007 (90) USD 41 and Tarrawarra Estate 2008 (88) USD 17.
The upper section of the Yarra starts across the Warburton Highway, has a totally different climate and later, cooler ripening patterns which stress the acidic minerality.
Some makers source sparkling base in the same area I have known in the past as Hoddles Creek.
Wines were PHI 2008 (95) USD 41, Mac Forbes Woori Yallock 2008 (94) USD 31.50 and Punt Road 2008 (92) USD22; all terrific wines with the common thread of high natural acidity showing minerality.
But that’s where it stopped; PHI was sphinx-like with its withdrawn nose, coiled up fruit, lean kernel-like fruit; Mac Forbes has played with solids to add the funk factor, while Punt Road also comes from the PHI vineyard but harvested a little later.
Of the second group two chardonnays stood out-Freycinet Reserve 2008 (95) USD27 from Tasmania; following the pHi mould with nose restraint, hints of lemon and candy oak, then a very smart textural experience running mainly alongside the high natural acidity. Fab.
The second is Gippsland’s Caledonia Australis 2007 (96) USD 27, showing more complexity than the rest of the bunch, coupled up with subtle but feral wild yeast, solids there, some malo-lactic, old oak barrel complexity, then great palate focus, square but high, high acid and minerality ever so stoney.
Clearly the modern styles of cool area chardonnay are standing out with their repressed fruit boundaries, disguised oak and long, savoury tail.
Holding up the second fiddle are the older styles; fatter, with slicks of higher-ripeness fruit and a propensity to fatten rather than age in the tighter mould of their superseding styles.
The group agreed that all chardonnays are in demand; the market is going in every direction.
But those that are less obvious but textured now compete with sauvignon while eating our brighter, spiced foods.
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