The participants: The Settler’s Liquor Store Tasting Collective (S.L.S.T.C), guided by our fearless leader Charlotte Newton
The mission: Yes Way Chardonnay!
Time: Tuesday 3rd October
Place: Reputable Margaret River drinking establishment (upstairs)
Our scribe: A Harry Menckl
There are all sorts of things to love about Margaret River: the food… the beaches… the bush… the idea of building an elderly care facility literally next door to a maze…. But perhaps better than any of these things is the Chardonnay. Frequently Cabernet Sauvignon is touted as the region’s trump card, but for my money it’s the Chardonnay that has been the best booze going around these parts for the last decade. And this is borne out by show results – 2 Halliday Chardonnay Challenge wins with producers like Deep Woods, Amelia Park, Xanadu and Flametree beating just about all before them. To me, it really is THE drink down this way.
The beauty of Chardonnay, in many ways, is its diversity. To deny Chardonnay is to deny not just one variety of winegrape – but a veritable raft of winemaking styles and techniques. So to me it’s no exaggeration to suggest that if you don’t like Chardonnay, you don’t really like wine.
Thus the chance to sit down and look at a range of Chardonnays from across Oz is a joy. If someone offers, jump at it.
Xanadu Exmoor is a firm favourite at Settler’s Liquor – and you can see why. It’s got really classic Margaret River fruit power – tinned peach and proper, chardonnay fruit weight, enough oak to prop it up (but not box it in) and texture that enhances but never overwhelms, like good backing singers do. Smart, assured winemaking.
Next up was the Devil’s Lair Dance with the Devil. I love dancing* but generally in the absence of satanism – but who am I to judge? If the ‘devil has the best tunes’ then it stands to reason that he’s going to have an interest in quality dancing. And that’s what this is – a tad more winemakey (more serious oak, less ripe fruit power, but good length and drive) makes for a great gateway Chard.
Singlefile are one of Denmark’s most recognised producers, and this shows up the Great Southern’s slightly lighter fruit weight and has a nice line in mealy, wheatgerm and cashew-y oak and lees character, with persistent citric and lemon curd.
A little punchier and a tad more whip-smart is the Marchand & Burch Villages. This is a tight, almost athletic expression of Chardonnay, all granny smith and lime curdy, with a nice oak frame and a pleasing, small CO2 crackle.
Amelia Park popped up with their 16 Chard, and like a great deal of Jeremy Gordon’s wines, came through with a genuine clarity of fruit expression, and like Clooney in a watch ad, not a single hair out of place. This is a drink that is really pristine in its presentation of fruit, and showcases one of Chardonnay’s principle virtues – matching well with an array of different foods or drinking conditions.
Tod Dexter and his eponymous label is easily one of my favourite Mornington Peninsula producers. His 16 Chardonnay was for me, wine of the night by a distance – it’s funky, fresh dough-y lees work (lovely barrel stirred texture), delicious, slightly savoury and perfectly judged oak handling makes for a wine that’s got everything you can want in modern Oz Chardonnay, right up to the struck match / scalextrix sulfides. $40? An absolute stone-cold empty your pockets BARGAIN.
Giant Steps is an iconic Yarra Valley producer and this is a wine true to modern Vic styling. Lithe and lean, with a racy, citric, acidic line creating enviable shape and definition, a maypole for the oak fruit and leesy quality to dance around (enough with the dancing – Beth).
Bruce Dukes and his Domaine Naturaliste Floris is a bulls-eye hit. Great length, a touch of mineral, fantastic oak and winemaking that’s imposing, but never overwhelming. Great length, and truly, thoroughly pleasurable.
In contrast, Victory Point’s ’13 Chard is almost defiantly old-school in its makeup – rich, ripe, oaky and textural, this is precisely the sort of wine that trad Chardonnay drinkers will like and Chardonnay haters will loathe.
Voyager Estate are, undoubtedly, Margaret River royalty, and rightly so, most particularly when it comes to their Chardonnay. This is a wine of refinement – quietly firm, suitably structural, and a really good example of how good breeding can manifest in wine.
In a similarly regal mode, Flowstone’s Queen of the Earth Chardonnay from 2013 is a wine that’s had a long gestation. But rather than being old and tired, this is a wine with a sense of maturity. Comfortable in its own skin, with a firm but suitably gentle persistence and presence, it’s more of a classy waltz than quickstep (I said ENOUGH dancing – Beth). Second best wine of the night.
Brave New Wine Klusterphunk 2016 is full-blown, unfiltery natural-as wine. This is proper jazz wine – in full free jazz mode: some will hate it; others will love it.
*this is true readers – let the record show I’m the chair of South West Swing Margaret River