Barry Weinman: 27th March 2021
Whilst it is good to be able to review wines from a cross-section of producers, there are some wines that justify being reviewed each year, as they form the standard by which all other producers are judged.
Chardonnays from Leeuwin Estate (Art Series), Vasse Felix’s (Heytesbury) and Cullen (Kevin John) are examples of such wines. So their release demands attention.
Wines that can hold their head high in this company are also noteworthy. Juniper Estate has released a new range under the Cornerstone label and the 2019 Chardonnay (95pts – $70) is a great first effort.
Howard Park’s 2018 Allingham Chardonnay (95+pts – $89) has never looked better.
It is easy to think that Margaret River has a monopoly on high quality Chardonnay, but this would be a mistake. Yarra Valley, Tasmania and the Adelaide HIlls are just some of the regions capable of producing great Chardonnays.
We do not get to see many of them here in the west, but the Shaw and Smith M3 is readily available and a cracking example.
What WA does do better than anywhere else, in my opinion, is producing consistently high quality wines from year to year, despite climatic variations, as well as the sheer depth of producers who are making very good wines. No other region can match this in Australia.
We really are spoiled for choice.
Shaw & Smith – M3 Chardonnay – 2019. Beautiful ripe peach fruit with nutty notes and subtle oak adding depth. On the palate, the stone fruit is complemented by minerality and cashew nut mealiness. The acidity is refreshing on the close, without being overpowering, and will soften in time. 25% new oak. An excellent wine! 95pts – $55
Leeuwin Estate – Art Series – Chardonnay – 2018. Fragrant, floral and pure, with ripe nectarine and citrus aromas. The palate is spectacular. Fine and elegant, the complex stone-fruit flavours meld seamlessly with supple oak and gentle lees work, finishing with great length of flavours. Whilst a little closed now, this is a brilliant wine! 97pts – $130.
Vasse Felix – Heytesbury- Chardonnay – 2019. A lovely wine! Cooler and restrained, reflecting the vintage. The fruit quality is superb, with stone fruit and zesty citrus notes. The palate is tight and intense, with innate power and fine structure. Oak (61% new) and winemaking characters (Barrel ferment, lees stirring) provide the perfect backdrop. 96pts – $92
Vasse Felix – Chardonnay – 2019. Taut, structured and quite closed, yet the perfectly ripe fruit that has power and depth. The fruit has been paired with barrel ferment/lees characters and tight-knit French oak (40% new) with impressive results. This needs a few years to reach its drinking window but represents excellent value. 94pts – $40.
Juniper Estate – Cornerstone – Chardonnay – 2019. Wow. This wine is intense, punchy and impactful, yet it’s only medium bodied, with the peachy fruit really building in the glass. The palate is textured, chewy and almost a meal in itself. Yet this is restrained, taut and age-worthy, so give it five years to settle down. The tight, leaner style reflects the vintage. 95pts – $70
Grosset – Piccadilly – Chardonnay – 2019. A different style, this is much more floral and fragrant, with peach and nectarine coming to the fore. The palate is intensely flavoured, with fine acidity driving the finish. The oak is almost invisible, adding texture and depth. Needs years to show its best. 95+pts – $68
Tolpuddle – Chardonnay – 2019. Very White Burgundy-like, with minerals, struck match and tight-grained French oak. Fine, precise and elegant, yet powerful and impactful at the same time. Develops white peach and grapefruit notes with air and, whilst textural, has a near seamless finish. Food Friendly. 95pts – $85.