Tag Archives: Chardonnay

Salo To The Angels

Each night, I bury my love around you
You’re linked to my innocence

A little creepy? Don’t worry: nothing creepy about this wine. Intriguing, yes, but really this lyric from the Interpol track Say Hello to the Angels serves only to provide a clever-looking headline. If you read this far, no harm done. If you listen to the song – and, even better, drink this wine – much good done.
We had this Chardonnay at a blind tasting for friends curated by Cameron Hogarth of Chateau Yering. Cam chose as his theme leftfield acts by Yarra Valley winemakers, and this was my white of the night.
One half of Salo is Steve Flamsteed, who can’t put a foot wrong at Innocent Bystander. And don’t even get me started on Giant Steps; if the feeling ever sets in that single-vineyard wines are a me-too exercise, return to these. The sites have something to say and are beautifully articulate. In fact the Applejack Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 probably spoke to me more persuasively than any other Aussie red this year.
The other half is Dave Mackintosh, a winemaker of Kiwi/Scottish extraction who used to tread those Giant Steps. Mackintosh now spearheads Ar Fion, which translates as ‘our wine’ in Scottish Gaelic. He was last month a Young Gun of Wine finalist, in recognition of his vision and vino.
This wine was a joy to share. If you wanted to think about it, there was substance. But if you shut up and let go, it led you a merry dance. Great, gut-feel winemaking.
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Salo Chardonnay 2011 Yarra Valley

I found a lot of noise on the nose, with lemon curd and cashew wafting through a lees-and-banana funk. Then a clean and intense palate of apple, lemon, spicy melon, fleshy nectarine, nuts and marzipan. The mouthfeel is silky with generous curves, and it’s shot through with a beam of acid and minerality. Alive and dynamic, a wine to keep you guessing and drinking. Excellent Chardonnay.

Price: $40 from Barrique Wine Store, Healesville – Alcohol 13% – Tasted 04/11/13

Call That A Challenge?

I’m writing this post on a Friday night with a glass of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay to keep me company. I can’t say too much about how good it is, as I do casual work for its producer and don’t wish to stand accused of bias. It’s a bit like refusing to save a drowning man because you work for the company that makes the lifejackets, but there you have it.
Bonnezeaux Gonzo is in its infancy, and there are certain strategic points that have yet to be worked out. One of these is how to tackle the Chardonnay thing: does its brilliance need a bombshell or is it a question of attrition, a barrage of allusions to its wondrousness to leave readers dumbstruck?
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For now I’ll go for the latter, because it’s getting late and I’m onto my second glass. So here’s a little rave about some already raved-about wines, based on my notes from the recent Sommeliers Australia tasting of trophy-winning wines from the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge at Vue de Monde.
We blind tasted three flights of four wines, all of which came top in their region. Discovery of the day for me appeared in the first bracket. It was the Ridgemill Estate WYP Chardonnay 2012 from the Granite Belt in Queensland. It has a floral, orange-blossom nose with grilled nuts, leading into a full-bodied palate of ripe peach, apricots and honey and finishing long with apricots and lemon slice.
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The second flight was all Victoria, and a strong showing it was, too. The most distinctive was the Galli Estate Pamela Chardonnay 2011 ($60) from Sunbury. This was taut, mineral and intense, with ruby grapefruit and green apple followed by a pure citrus and stone fruit finish. The acid was bracing, hard even, but it worked for me. I was also very taken by the Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (RRP for the 2011 was $33) from the Yarra Valley, which I liked even better than the previous vintage, which recently came up trumps at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Full-bodied with nuttiness, cream, peach and grapefruit, what really took me here was the way it powered through the back palate. Such drive to back up that generosity.
But my favourite of this bracket was the A.Rodda Smiths Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from Beechworth ($38). It all seemed to be on show from the first sniff – smoke, nuts, peach and lemon – and yet the palate was toned and restrained, with fresh, pure nectarine and citrus fruit meted out ahead of a finish that was creamy, long and moreish.
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Then the final flight, which featured Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2009 ($70) from the Hunter Valley (for some dumb reason I’m always surprised by how much I love this wine – and the 2009 is looking super fresh), and the Xanadu Chardonnay 2010 ($35) from Margaret River (which seemed a bit obvious and plump at first, but in time showed depth and nuance). It also contained the Penfolds Reserve Bin 10A 2010 ($95) from the Adelaide Hills, a wine with quite a reputation – well won, I’d have to say. It had complexity in spades – spice and zing, a bit of grip and a gamut of pure-fruit aromas powerfully expressed. Gorgeous.
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The 10A was my preferred wine of the bracket, followed by the wine that came top in the Halliday Chardonnay Challenge: the Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($40) from Henty. It was flinty and fine-boned with a lovely lemon-lime acid line, great fruit purity, and – a feature of many of these wines – effortless drive. It was complete and utterly delicious.

Unmasking Massolino

There’s something about the impeccable presentation of this fourth-generation wine producer. I confess I can fall into casual inverse snobbery when it comes to labelling; anything too fussy and clean raises suspicion. I wonder whether the people behind it know what fun is, or whether they’re too busy being perfect.
The home of Massolino, perched in the shadow of Serralunga d’Alba’s 14th-century castle, reinforces that impression. It’s a polished presence, although there’s a bit of mess inside with renovations going on. But those are only going to make it even more perfect.
Then again, I made this appointment because on the handful of occasions I’d tried the wines, I’d enjoyed them. And this would prove no different, except that it also brought home quite how misleading the personality-free packaging is. Massolino has a certain precision about it, no doubt. But it’s a precision that zones in on characterful varieties and wonderful sites.
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The tone of the tasting was set by the meticulous preparation of our glasses. A sacrificial drop of Langhe Chardonnay 2012 was lovingly caressed around every inch of the bowl, then gently discarded to make way for the tasting measure. After the token – and very good – white, the glass-readying ritual was replayed for a lovely suite of reds: Dolcetto d’Alba 2012, a pair of spot-on Barberas and the Langhe Nebbiolo 2012. This latter in particular deserves so much more than this cursory mention.
But let’s allow the Barolo to do the talking here. We kicked off with the Barolo 2009 (14% alcohol; $89 from Prince Wine Store in Melbourne), made with Nebbiolo grapes from Serralunga vineyards lying between 320 to 360 metres up. It displayed raspberry and black cherry, mushroom, forest floor and plenty of grippy, earthy tannins that arrived late on the scene. The Barolo Margheria 2009 (fruit from a Serralunga vineyard at 340 metres; 14% alcohol and $150 at PWS) displayed balsamic and orangey tones on the nose, along with spice, tar and graphite to go with the red fruit. More time is needed for the tannin to fully integrate, but it had great freshness.
Then there was the Barolo Parafada 2009 (14% alcohol; $150 at PWS), an elegant wine from a south-facing vineyard with 55- to 60-year-old vines. It had pronounced perfume and better-integrated tannins, a little more body, smooth, plum and cherry fruit through the mid-palate and good length.
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Next came the Barolo Parussi 2009 (14% alcohol; $150 at PWS), a more recent acquisition for Massolino (the first release was 2007) and also the only one of these vineyards outside Serralunga – though only a short distance away, in Castiglione Falletto. A more complex bouquet this time, with sweet spice, leather, tobacco and mushroom. Its colour was also deeper and the tannins more masculine, with high acid taking it through to a long and savoury finish.
Last of all was a pair of wines from Massolino’s most-celebrated site: Vigna Rionda, on the winery’s doorstep. This is released at six years of age (three and a half in large Slavonian oak, two and a half in bottle). The Barolo Riserva Vigna Rionda 2007 (14% alcohol; $210 at PWS) had a pronounced nose of roses, red fruits, exotic spice, clove, mint and smoke, with roasted nuts coming in to join the wild strawberries and plums of the medium-bodied palate. Last of all, we were treated to the Barolo Vigna Rionda Dieci Anni 2000 (14% alcohol; $365 at PWS), a wine which was held back until 10 years after the harvest. It was pale garnet in colour, with a bouquet of game, leather, tobacco, spice, tar, liquorice and black fruits. Fleshy cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry came through beautifully on the palate, with well-integrated tannins and plenty of length.
It was always going to be a polished performance, but behind Massolino’s poker face lies plenty of personality. It was a privilege to see a bit more of it.

Tolpuddle of Tasmania

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If Adelaide Hills producer Shaw + Smith was going to make a good wine in Tasmania, it wasn’t going to be by accident. “It’s a shit-hot vineyard. This is off the shelf. This is not bespoke.”
Michael Hill Smith’s words at the lunch to launch the 2012 Tolpuddle wines betrayed all the excitement he and Martin Shaw felt at acquiring such a precious piece of land in mid-2011. The vineyard was planted in 1988 and its back story is a roll call of great cool-climate wines – fruit had been used for Eileen Hardy Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and by many of Australia’s finest exponents of sparkling wine: Chandon, Heemskerk, House of Arras.
Michael wasn’t so keen on the name but had decided to stick with it. Good move, I reckon. It sounds a little cutesy and the label’s pretty conservative, but Tolpuddle has a great history beyond wine. It’s named after the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of men from Dorset, England, sent as convicts to Australia for setting up a farmers’ union. The leader of the group was a chap with the evocative name of George Loveless, who worked on part of the property that is now Tolpuddle Vineyard.
The vineyard won the inaugural award for Tasmanian Vineyard of the Year in 2006, and used to be worked on by Ray Guerin in his capacity as viticulturist for Hardys. Ray is now viticulturist at Shaw + Smith – and Gourmet Traveller WINE’s Viticulturist of the Year 2013. So it would seem the stars are aligned for some pretty good wine.

Tolpuddle Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 (RRP $65)

Nerdy stuff: Fruit was handpicked, whole bunch pressed and fermented mostly wild into French oak barriques (roughly a third new, a third one year old and a third two year old). About 20% went through malolactic fermentation. It spent about 10 months on lees, with occasional battonage.

What it was like: There’s nothing meek about this wine as you approach it. The colour is medium to deep lemon, and the nose fairly pronounced with lemon, white peach and a whiff of earth. It’s strong and forceful across the palate, getting on for full bodied and with great drive and fruit purity. A really fine, dry acid line keeps it taut, but there’s nothing hard about it. Bracing, yes, with a long finish of lime and white stone fruits. Impressive. Drink now to 2017+

Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 (RRP $75)

Nerdy stuff: Grapes were hand picked, fermented in open fermenters and hand plunged, with an average of 25% whole bunches. The wine was then aged in French oak barriques (roughly a third new) for 10 months.

What it was like: Amazing perfume. As with the Chardonnay, leaves you in no doubt that this is going to grab your attention. Exceptionally floral, especially violets, plus cherries and earth-encrusted mushrooms. It’s smooth-textured and vigorous in the mouth, mostly primary fruit (strawberry compote and cherries) that pulses through to the long finish. Very good acid and tannin structure. Drink now to 2020.

Overall, the Chardonnay edged it for me but both wines show real strength of identity and structure. Generous but measured, and very drinkable.

I attended this lunch on 14/10/13 as a guest of Shaw + Smith