23 October 2014
A QUARTET OF POSH CHARDONNAYS
Kooyong Faultline Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2012
$60; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
There's not much of your actual fruit to sniff here: no peach or melon aromas or much of what you'd normally expect to find rising from a glass of your actual Australian Chardonnay. Hang on: Maybe there is some melon: the crinkly skin of the canteloupe, the rock melon which is what the Americans call a muskmelon. Oh yes, it also smells like rock, or at least the guano rock of Nauru: dry, sharp and acrid. Dusty, dry hessian. Burlap. Hemp. The palate is slender and edgy, with a hint of that melon. No, it's not canteloupe, it's more like honeydew flesh. Maybe a very creamy pear. The acid is not so sharp as to dominate that sinuous, almost brittle sensation; it's more of a squeeze of lemon on that fresh-sliced pear and honeydew. It's a perfect, staunch drink for chicken or snapper baked soft in their own juice or stock with a handful of fresh tarragon. Its sister, the Farrago ($60; 13.5%; 91+), is along the same lines, but perhaps not so crunchy and a little more lime-and-lemony, with a comforting whiff of grilled cashew. Both wines are best served cold from a decanter: it's really entertaining to watch them unfold and swell as they warm.
Oakridge Guerin Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013
$36; 13.4% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points
This Guerin Vineyard is rock'n'roll: its Pinot is outstanding, and this white's distinguished, to say the least. It has that edgy Nauru/burlap/superphosphate reek, like the Faultline, but more immediate flesh along those pear and lime/lemonjuice lines. It's more sensuous, without being fat. Somewhere between what seems to be increasingly called curvy, and what was once called slender, back when Australian humans could still boast a touch of that condition. It's fine of flavour, almost fragile, with pithy tannins leaning on the citrus acidity, and a really neat, slightly waxy texture. Once again, it's cut to accompany big baked fish or pale fowl, but it would also swim tidily beside the sort of toasty leatherjacket or brown-grilled garfish Shazza and David presented yesterday at the sublime Fino. Oooh hell that little Willunga joint rocks! But, really. Let's think of Chardonnay. These wines are near the top of what Australia makes of this tricky, lazy Burgundian white. I don't think they're close to either of the supreme Penfolds' multi-vineyard blends just let loose, like the Yattarna or the Reserve Bin 13A Adelaide Hills wine, but they're very good. Which makes me wonder: if this is the best we can do thirty years after the ebullient bulldog, Len Evans (below) announced that "Chardonnay will be the vanilla of the Australian wine industry" and urged its planting from everywhere from Burke to Blanchetown and even Piccadilly, from Hoddle's Creek to Horror Gulch, way down there in the Badlands, well what? Why? The Oakridge Funder and Diamond Drive Block model ($75; 13.4%; 93++) is finer and longer, but fairly, ummmm, spendy. So what am I saying about Chardonnay? Unless you're growing it in the coolest bottom bits of southern Victoria or Western Australia, the highest of the Adelaide Hills, or Tasmania, you might be better off growing muscat or hemp. Forget bloody vanilla.