Great Chardonnay Renaissance
February 2014 held at Ostro Restaurant downtown Auckland
The opportunity to taste 18 Chardonnay including twelve from some of New Zealand's premier producers was brilliant occasion.
With Michael Brajkovich MW, Allister Mailing MW, Steve Smith MW and James Halliday leading the panel discussion - there was plenty of palate and experience to listen to.
The point of the event was to take a focused and critical look at the modern expressions of Chardonnay, taste and make comparisons between each wine presented and on this occasion to white Burgundy and New Zealand and ultimately appraise (or not) the efforts of New Zealand winemakers.
All the wine notes below are as I wrote them on the wines tasted (blind) - the title for each wine and link to each producer is added.
2011 Lawson’s Dry Hills “The Pioneer” Chardonnay
Sophisticated, elegant and gentle floral bouquet with light spices and a distinctive citrus peel/flesh bouquet. Great palate textures with notable acidity that had a fresh appeal; low sulphide evidence/interaction/complexity; a balanced, elegant and compelling wine. Youthful.
2012 Nautilus Estate Marlborough Chardonnay
Very creamy peach bouquet, the MLF seems a little more forward, On the palate a crisp and fresh basket of fruits with white tree fruit before stone fruit flavors, toastier flavors and a more noticeable 'flint' character (sulphide) adding complexity, firm youthful acidity, but still an elegant example. Balanced with medium+ length and a medium to medium+ finish.
2011 Domaine Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Les Forêts 1er Cru
A little more colour and development of the bouquet, complexity shows immediately and with a distinctiveness not unlike a white Burgundy with a mineral layer then citrus and stone fruit attributes. On the palate - dry with medium to medium+ acidity, taut and tense on the front palate then unfurls to reveal a wine with balance, medium+ length and complexity.
2011 Palliser Estate Chardonnay
More oak centred on nose; with aromas of lightly roasted stone fruits and a little citrus; palate is delicious and offers a lot more than the nose suggests; a lovely elegance, poise and balance with a nudge of MLF and sulphide on the finish; Balanced with a long finish and medium++ complexity.
2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Luchets
A fruit centred bouquet with apple and pear leading the aromas alongside an elegant and softer complexity; there’s also a touch of funky wine making influence. This follows through on the palate; noticeable medium+ weight and lots of pushy acidity influencing the mineral flavours; nicely dry on the finish; Balanced with medium+ length and finish.
2012 Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2
The bouquet of this wine is familiar in that it displays layers of toastiness and gentle butterscotch; the palate shows a more gentle side with sweet citrus and floral highlights of chamomile; a little sulphide complexity emerges. The lees influences in the wine making push the toasty note, but also add complexity. After this wine was revealed to the group the use of 100% Mendoza clone made sense of the way in which the gentle stone fruit and exotic notes found harmony.
2010 The Millton Vineyard Clos de Ste Anne Chardonnay
On the nose - a bold round and creamy attack with medium+ toast and bourbon-like oak suggestion. On the palate quite forward at first with the fruit then a toasty cheesy layer kicks in and flows into the creamy texture the nose first suggested; delightful balance, medium++ length and complexity. By the time the panel discussion began this example began to reveal its cellar potential and the finish became longer and more elegant.
2010 Domaine Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets 1er Cru
A slightly advanced bouquet - aromas of cooked white fleshed fruits then a floral layer which adds a little complexity; The palate seems a little lean at first, but when the floral aromas turn into flavour as well - the delicate and charm of this wine begins to unfold; overall a solid wine that is balanced with a medium+ ish length and medium complexity. I was surprised that this was a 1er Cru Burgundy when revealed - the lack of texture and terroir attributes did not seem to be so entrenched in this particular example. In returning to the wine at that time it was revealed and re-reading my notes, my impressions were no different.
2010 Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay
Toasty, nutty, youthfully poised and tense bouquet; palate reflected the nose with the poise and tensity as well as a closed and youthful pause; that said the flavours send out enticing messages of floral, citrus and lots of elegance; a wine yet to show all it has; medium++ acidity, balanced with medium+ length and finish. Very nice!
2010 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay
Classic Burgundy like beginning with a swag of mineral, limestone and chalky aromas, chamomile tea and a little oak; the more the wine is swirled the more it begins to release the [sulphide] intensity that seems a little more than a Burgundy might have – still I like it – could be a Keltern. Palate equals the nose – generous, sophisticated, elegant and stylish. The finish is long and glorious. The overall expression of this wine is quite funky and different. Balanced with a long finish and medium++ complexity.
2008 Domaine Etienne Sauzet Batard Montrachet Grand Cru
Creamy, rich, rounded, nutty and cheesy bouquet – a very specific expression in an Old World style yet a little; duller still as the wine takes on more oxygen - some oxidative notes begin to draw my attention. Judicious use of oak. The palate seems a little flat and oxidised spoiling what the bouquet was trying to suggest. Overall though I liked the wine, I would not buy a bottle based on this particular taste experience.
2010 Pegasus Bay Virtuoso
Quite a bold bouquet with the mix of fruity aromas and flavours of wine making – different pickings. On the palate a lovely wine; handles the oak well; flavours of citrus, citrus peel and stone fruits emerge; ageing well; balanced, medium+ length and complexity.
2012 Neudorf Vineyards Moutere Chardonnay
A very text book ‘Kiwi’ Chardonnay bouquet – oak, butter, cream BUT this example has elegance and charm as well, even a little mystery. Palate is way better than the nose suggests – the texture and medium++ acidity rise easily above the oak and bouquet to reveal a very sophisticated polished wine; Wonderful balance, poise, medium+ complexity long finish.
2010 Fromm La Strada Chardonnay
Gentle slightly roasted stone fruit and apple led bouquet; nutty & sulphide like layer – very complex. Palate confirms the nose with a lovely pure fruit expression, pristine acidity, moderate and well placed oak; balanced with a long finish and medium+ complexity - A quiet and slowly evolving example – delicious!
2010 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er Cru
A very expressive bouquet - quite a nutty and mineral laden expression with layers of soil, steel and MLF cheesy-ness; Citrus centred fruit flavours with moderate oak and medium+ to high acidity; balanced with medium + length and medium complexity. Creamy oak. Nothing special.
A very specific use of oak leads the bouquet followed by a soft stone fruit and gentle citrys attributes; lean yet plenty of purity of fruit flavours – a very special wine that is poised, gentle, charming and beautifully balanced with a youthful finish – needs time to even begin to integrate. An exciting example.
2011 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay
Elegant, floral, white stone fruit and citrus; palate reflects the nose on flavour; a young, expressive and beautifully balanced; generous, but not invasive or intense oak; a little hint of sulphide adds complexity and length to the finish which is elegant and very long.
My words don't do this wine justice - this wine was perhaps my favorite of the tasting - its charm and elegance won my palate over and respect for delicious Chardonnay.
2011 Domaine Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
White smoke and nutty richness, slightly juicy yet clean stone fruit and tree fruits in the bouquet; The palate has an 'Old World' layer with mineral and light clay flavors; peach, red apple; light oak and medium+ acidity. Balanced with medium+ length and complexity. Very Very Nice!