Chardonnay – New Release
Barry Weinman: 18th March 2020
In recent years, Cullen’s Kevin John has been one of my favourite Chardonnays from Margaret River, holding its own against the region’s best. So the release of the 2018 vintage is eagerly anticipated.
At a recent Chardonnay tasting hosted by John Jens, the 2018 Cullen was put up against some of the region’s best, along with a smattering of Burgundies and iconic wines from other regions in Australia.
Not surprisingly, the wine ranked amongst the best of the blind tasting. Disarmingly accessible, yet worthy of five years in the cellar.
Another highlight was Woodlands’ Chloe, also from 2018. A little richer and more textured than the Cullen, and already drinking superbly.
The tasting also served to highlight just how different the Chardonnays from Burgundy (including Chablis) appear. In this tasting, there was no mistaking the origin of any of these wines, with their nutty minerality and more subdued fruit.
There was also a touch of honey and toast in many of the Burgundies, reflecting the different philosophy to winemaking.
I also opened a few 10 – 15-year-old Chardonnays from Australia and Burgundy, to illustrate the impact of bottle age on Chardonnay. From this, two clear take-aways emerged. Firstly, it was just how well Australian Chardonnays can age under screw cap. Whilst it is no surprise that the likes of Leeuwin Estate age well, others also showed very well indeed.
The second point was the vagaries of the cork used to seal the Burgundies. Random oxidation and cork taint are an ever-present risk.
Cullen – Chardonnay – 2018 (18.8/20pts – $127). Beautifully fragrant nose with floral white peach and subtle nuttiness. The powerful and dense palate shows excellent fruit and superb winemaking. There is gentle spice, creamy, texturing French oak (50% new), citrus and tropical fruit on the mid-palate and a complex mealy nuttiness and great length on the finish. Now to 10 years.
Domaine Oudin – Chablis – 1er Cru – Vaugiraut – 2017 (18/20pts – $80). Pretty, peachy stone fruit on the nose, with subtle minerality adding depth. The palate is supple, textured, creamy and long, with gentle toast on the close. No oak used. Fermentation and aging in stainless steel. A smart wine and very different to what we see from Margaret River.
Woodlands – Chardonnay – Chloe – 2018 (18.7/20pts – $110). White peach, cashew and grapefruit lead both the nose and palate. The viscosity, mouth-feel, depth and subtle power of the fruit are all highlights, as is the seamless finish. From the Woodlands vineyard, wild yeast fermentation, 10 months in oak. One of Margaret River’s best Cabernet producer demonstrates a deftly crafted Chardonnay.