Of the plethora of jobs on the “to do” list during vintage, most winemakers I talk to agree that running Chardonnay juice to barrel is one of the most exciting and satisfying. The prospect of the same juice undergoing a dozen different fermentations in a dozen different barrels, each coming away with its own nuances of flavour and texture is I believe, the essence of our craft. Sure it creates a lot of extra work and sure, they will all likely be blended back together before bottling but this is the genesis of the soft and subtle complexities that make Chardonnay the Queen of food friendly wines.
From the outset, this wine presents as a smooth talker with the colour just rich enough to be audacious and legs that rise higher than a ballistic missile bound for Alaska. The generously perfumed nose levitates as the glass fills with warm fuzzy aromas of guava chutney, apricot kernel and freshly cracked almonds. Hints of cinnamon and spice, a little thyme, sweet grated carrot and an earthy all-bran character. Finally pungent grilled aubergine is mercifully ameliorated by the flaxen notes of chunky pineapple lumps. The palate is where Chardonnay rules supreme –for sheer weight, breadth and complexity, they cannot be beaten. As a nod to the Chardonnays of old, this wine carries a slightly higher level of new oak (around 10%) and also characters associated with malolactic fermentation, as we guided 60% of the barrels through this ancient natural acid-softening process. In the mouth the wine puts its best foot forward with a upstanding frontal assault. A tangy and slightly furry oak influence gives a prickly pear feel while roast chestnuts and salty caramel lead into a wide-mouth fullness. The acidity is soft, giving an almost cheesy serenity to the mid-palate where green apples and a nettley edge lend a certain unsettling excitement, just like talking to a stranger. The food possibilities are endless but try it with a hearty puttanesca or a steaming dish of gratin potatoes.