NWC – 21st Feb – Chardonnay around the world

A short list this week as the tasting was split between Sherry and Chardonnay. What I know about Sherry would fit on the back of a stamp (and I’ve not learnt to love it yet) so any notes wouldn’t do those bottles justice. Conversely Chardonnay is always competing for my favourite white wine with my beloved Riesling so I was looking forward to trying some new producers.

Chacra, Mainque, 2018 is one of those new world wines that makes you roll your eyes when you read the marketing. Our first two wines were from Patagonia, this a personal project from the grandson of the founder of Sassicaia. They have been more famous for their Pinot Noir but more recently formed a partnership with Burgundian winemaker Jean-Marc Roulot who is a Chardonnay specialist from Mersault. They produce 2 whites, this is the cheaper of the two at £48.95 from Lea and Sandeman. An attractive shimmering gold the nose was equally opulent. Lemon curd and honey with a touch of smoke and lanolin. Caramel comes through more prominently as it develops in the glass. The palate is quite neutral at the front with some citrus and yellow fruits on the mid palate and finishing with a bitter oak note. A wine that doesn’t feel in harmony or balance right now but the caramel would worry me about aging further? (89 pts)

III & VI, Otronia, 2017 and whilst this wasn’t a blind tasting this was one of two wines that seemed a long way from the typical profile of Chardonnay. Incredibly tropical, heady and expressive on the nose. At the risk of sounding like Alan Partridge…this wine smells of…Lilt (1 min 56 seconds if you want the reference). Seriously though it really was a mix of grapefruit, pineapple, passion-fruit and guava. These intense fruit characteristics carry to the palate and with the very high acidity they currently dominate any oak influence. Divided opinion somewhat, I liked it for what it was but others felt it was too far from what Chardonnay should be. (91 pts)

Over to Europe but an area not renowned for this grape with the Alois Lageder, Lowengang, 2018 from the Alto Adige. The nose was quite muted by comparison but almost anything would have paled in comparison to the Otronia. A curious combination of sweet pear with some cream soda and hints of white flower. The front palate has immediate freshness but that disappears quickly into some oak and spice as well as a touch of sour milk. Others enjoyed this more than I. £50 (88 pts)

To the home of premium Chardonnay, albeit briefly, with a big negociant in Leflaive & Associes and their Auxey-Duresses, 2018. After some wines with concentration this was firmly at the other end of the spectrum. Peach, lemon and jasmine compete with some restrained oak. The palate is tight but almost feels dilute, in an elegant way and more stone fruit comes in as you’re left with a touch of spice on the finish. Pretty classic white Burgundy from a lesser appellation but a touch in danger of getting lost in this line up of more powerful wines. Familiarity bias meant it was well received but I think it justified it, very drinkable. £50 (90 pts)

Yering Station, Reserve Chardonnay, 2017 was interesting as I wasn’t aware they made such a premium white at £65. I wrote ‘like the last wine, just made under screw cap’. Which is to say it had a similarly restrained profile but felt so young, combined with reduction and a struck match character. It was probably a touch more to the citrus in the venn diagram than stone fruit although I got some tinned peach with this wine. There was a hint of greenness, gooseberry was the closest I got to defining that but without the aromatics you usually associate that with. Well made for sure and I would be interested to see where this goes but at £65 I would rather than Kooyong or Kumeu for my new world Chardonnay. (90-92 pts)

Adrianna White Bones, Zapata, 2014 was the oldest wine by a few years and it showed. N.B. this is also a £80+ on release now. After the pale colour of our last two wines we were back to a golden hue here. The aromatics were like nothing else I’ve had on a white wine before. Herbal, menthol notes dominated for me but I got honey when someone else mentioned it. Maybe honey cough sweets, acacia honey though with more of a floral twist. As it developed in the glass I got some curry leaf too. The palate was much the same, although well made and balanced it was all quite savoury and spicy. Reminded me a little of some aged furmint, quite significant body. Perhaps past it best although reviews often mention the unique character of this wine, not one crack open as a crowd pleaser but for wine nerds lots of interest. (91 pts)

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