I couldn’t keep this bottled up. Not at this time of year.
The Friends of Punch Rurale Chardonnay 2012 is a social beast, a sparkler to celebrate – but not one that demands pomp and ceremony. Not a cheers-and-small-talk bubbles, more a sit-down-and-stay-a-while affair. “It’s not supposed to be a formal wine; it’s supposed to be a delicious wine,” says James Lance, as if reading my mind.
James and wife Claire kicked off Punch on 1 January 2005. That’s when they started leasing Lance’s Vineyard and Winery in the Yarra Valley from James’ parents, David and Catherine, who founded renowned Pinot and Chardonnay producer Diamond Valley there back in 1976.
Classic Yarra Valley Pinot, Chardonnay and Cabernet from Lance’s Vineyard remain Punch’s bread and butter. But from the ashes of the Black Saturday bushfires, which destroyed the 2009 crop, rose a phoenix or two from further afield. Friends wrote to ask what they could do to help. The response: Sell us some grapes.
Hence the Friends of Punch range which includes this unusual beauty, the fruit for which came from Beechworth’s celebrated Warner Vineyard. It’s a pétillant naturel wine – “pet nat” to the cool cats – made using the méthode rurale (aka méthode ancestrale), described by James as “the oldest, simplest, and purest way to make a sparkling wine”. In this case, it meant fermenting Chardonnay juice most of the way to dryness (leaving about 18g/l residual sugar) in stainless steel before transferring to bottle to complete the fermentation, with the resulting CO2 trapped for a natural fizz. The wine spent about 18 months on yeast lees, so what you’re left with is a bottle-conditioned sparkling wine – a slightly turbid, rustic thing that’ll throw a crust. But when all’s said and done, it merits two important and aimed-for epithets: “delicious” and “wine”.
Friends of Punch Rurale Chardonnay 2012 Beechworth, Victoria
Cloudy straw in colour, the nose bears the expected stamp of its yeasty upbringing but there’s plenty of orchard fruit and biscuit enticing you to tuck in. The bead is creamy and relatively coarse and the texture across the palate thickish, though the wine has intensity and depth without being the least bit lumbering. Good fizz livens up the gorgeous Chardonnay fruit, apples and peach wrapped in brioche, culminating in an apple danish send-off. Drink with hog roast or scallops with pancetta.
Costs $22 from the Punch website – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 23/09/13 – Crown seal