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Selecting Chardonnay for the Marlborough Wine Weekend

By September 16, 2013No Comments

Marlborough Wine Weekend Chardonnay Selection Panel
Raymond Chan, Hatsch Kalberer & Nick Blampied-Lane
Photo – Sarah Booker

It was a privilege to get the call up to participate in a panel for selecting Chardonnay wines for the ‘Chardonnay Renaissance’ Seminar to be held at this year’s Marlborough Wine Weekend on Friday 1 November. The brief given by Sarah Booker of Wine Marlborough to winemakers Nick Blampied-Lane of Cloudy Bay, Hatsch Kalberer of Fromm Winery and myself was to select 8-10 Chardonnay wines from 25 submitted by participating wineries to be used as showcase Marlborough wines for attendees at the seminar. The wineries were asked to enter current vintage wines as well as top examples of older library stocks. We had wines that ranged from 2012 back to 2005.

The panel’s approach was to select as good as quality as possible, and to have wines that represented the Marlborough region well. Our desire was to have a divergence of style, from wines that are fruit-focussed to those with significant winemaker input. A spread of vintages would be ideal to show that Marlborough Chardonnay can age and develop well. Of course we all knew that there is a Marlborough regional personality, and that seemed to be an accepted fact by all of us.
Tasting the Wines
Without naming the wines (as it will spoil it for those attending the seminar, and unfair for those who supplied wine but were not selected), I’ll go through the judging process. Following are my notes and scores. The scores are all in the silver and gold range, as I considered them all showing good qualities – otherwise they would not have been submitted for consideration. Interestingly both Nick and Hatsch had their own scales of scoring, theirs being more critical and using the lower end of the scoring scale more than I did. As technicians, this is an indication of their professional approach as required by their work, whereas my approach is that of a consumer. I note if that wine was selected after consensus by the panel. I’ve grouped them into 5 wines at a time which is how I looked at them.

Wine 1 – 2005: Some colour development. Good intensity of aroma with nutty, oxidative style. Big flavours and considerable richness, nutty, toasty, oxidative, but with good acidity. This is moving on and more ‘traditional’, but in good condition. 18.5-/20 Not selected.
Wine 2 – 2006: Some colour. Tightly bound and complex on bouquet with citrus fruit and nutty barrel-ferment. Lovely intensity with finesse and cut. Citrussy fruit with lees work, and good acidity and life. Complex and refined. 18.5/20 Selected.
Wine 3 – 2006: Some colour. Nose shows fine citrussy fruit and noticeable MLF. Shy, but builds in nutty interest. Soft, smooth, somewhat restrained, and creamy in texture. 17.5/20 Not selected.
Wine 4 – 2007: Pale coloured, youthful appearance. Tight and complex amalgam of aromas, white stonefruits, nuts, a little oxidative aspect. Very tightly bound, great linear drive, very European in style, with soft textures and great acidity. Very, very long. White Burgundy look-alike. 18.5/20 Selected.
Wine 5 – 2008: Light in colour, youthful looking. Very tight and elegant on nose with nutty stonefruits and noticeable MLF. Very elegant style very finely presented and shy. Excellent line, subtle on finish. 18.0/20 Not selected.

Wine 6 – 2008: A little more colour. This is very fine with tight and penetrating aromas with lanolin-like elements, and nutty notes. Subtle richness on palate with great vitality and tension. Some phenolics leading to a dry finish. 18.0+/20 Not selected.
Wine 7 – 2008: Pale in colour and youthful. Tightly bound and elegant on nose with citrus, mineral and floral notes. This has a good, tight and elegant core with soft mouthfeel and restrained flavour expression. Stylishly dry, but sweeter on fish with oak noticeable. 17.5/20 Not selected.
Wine 8 – 2009: Some colour development. Complex nose with creamy, nutty and ripe fruits, MLF and oak. Broad, rich and soft, quite fat and open, very accessible. Luscious tropical fruit and a full array of flavours with barrel work and other input. 18.5-/20 Not selected
Wine 9 – 2009: Very pale in colour. Very tight and youthful on nose, great restraint, but with intriguing waxiness of nutty, minerally stonefruits on bouquet. Fine featured and tight, stonefruits and nuts with spices and oak. Freshness and great linear drive, white burgundian-like. 18.0+/20 Selected.
Wine 10 -2009: Some gold to the colour, distinct and unique herbal-stonefruit nose with toasty oak. Rich, full and broad, with a complex flavour amalgam, stonefruits and herbs at base, and plenty of oak power. Very individual – too much? 17.5/20 Not selected.

Wine 11 – 2010: Pale in colour. Very refined and aromatic on nose, quite subtle and intricate citrussy fruit, nutty oak and detail. Lovely elegant structure and real linearity, the balance with fine fruit expression. Classy. 18.0/20 Selected.
Wine 12 – 2010: Some colour development. Full and firmly packed nose with ripe citrussy fruit and strong oak component. More restrained on palate, but plenty of presence on palate, gentle, soft mouthfeel. Shy in final analysis. 17.5+/20 Not selected.
Wine 13 – 2011: Straw colour. Plenty of complex sulphide reduction and flintiness on bouquet but with rich fruit. Lovely intensity of rich fruit and complexity, balanced by fresh energy and cut. Great power with sweetness. Will age well. 18.5+/20 Not selected
Wine 14 – 2011: Very pale in colour. Very elegant with intense complex sulphide reduction, still tight and fresh. Great finesse and intensity of flavour on palate. Richness counterpoised by very fine phenolics. Even greater drive than #13, and in a similar style, just a fraction more to it. 19.0/20 Selected.
Wine 15 – 2011: Very pale colour, some green. Good intensity, but elegant and shy even with pure citrus and stonefruit aromas, subtle inputs. Quite refined and gentle, must look for the detail. Sweet fruit, pure, suggestion of RS? Fruit focussed. 17.5/20 Not selected.

Wine 16 – 2011: Very pale colour. Fruit purity the feature on nose, driven, clean, fresh expression. Up-front, rich and juicy fruit. Citrus and tropical with stonefruit edge. Good acidity to balance and cut through the sweetness. Very subtle in winemaker inputs. 18.0+/20 Selected.
Wine 17 – 2011: Very even pale straw colour. Soft and broad, filling nose with fine white stonefruits and plenty of lees work, edging flinty. Oak noticeable. Light and quite delicate on palate, restrained, with good line and drive, not quite the concentration. 17.5+/20 Not selected.
Wine 18 – 2011: Full straw colour. Broad, full, oxidative, nutty nose. Distinctive greengage flavours, slightly herbaceous? Quite up-front and bold, and softly presented. Some sourness to flavour. 17.0/20 Not selected.
Wine 19 – 2011: Very pale straw colour. Very fine nose, tightly bound and quite light in final analysis, clear fruited with delicate nuttiness. Lovely delicacy with fine acidity and mouthfeel featuring. Fruit focussed, but with layers. 18.0-/20 Not selected.
Wine 20 – 2011: Very pale colour. Stylish and restrained on nose, stonefruits, apricot hints, background winemaker inputs. Very dry in mouthfeel, with linear drive, still to develop, some nutty notes and white stoneffruit/citrus. Yet to emerge. 17.0+/20 Not selected.

Wine 21 – 2011: Very pale colour, and very fine and elegant on nose. Subtle sulphide complexities showing on stonefruits. Smaller-scale wine, lees work, MLF and a touch of confectionary. Residual sugar? Fades a little, but still unveloped. 17.0+/20 Not selected.
Wine 22 – 2011: A little colour development. Moderately broad and gently up-front with rich fruit and well-balanced sulphide complexities on nose. Lovely tight and concentrated palate with stonefruit and sulphide reduction in beautiful balance. Not a showcase, but classy. 19.0-/20 Selected.
Wine 23 – 2012: Full in colour, but pale. Pure, clean, fresh and up-front, but subtle in interest and inputs. Emerges in glass. Pristine fruit, pure citrus with subtle underlining interest, sweet and ripe acidity, very long. Youthful and promising. 18.5/20 Selected.
Wine 24 – 2012: Lemony straw colour. Very tight, elegant but with complexities and interest. Some MLF prevalent. Sweetly ripe citrus and nutty amalgam, still a little lean and to fill out, and some phenolic grip. Very good length. 18.0/20 Not selected.
Wine 25 – 2012: Some colour showing. Very tightly bound, quite unforthcoming, with stonefruits, hazelnutty white burgundy similarity. Tight on palate, linear and mono-dimensional in fruit. Citrus and barrel-ferment textures on lanolin, and a soft matty finish. Individual, but young. 17.5/20 Not selected.

Some Afterthoughts
It was very pleasing to find that despite the three panel members having different approaches, consensus came very easily. The different modes of analysis and scoring or rating did not matter, and judgements were based on perceived relativity of quality.

The Marlborough regionality was expressed clearly in the clear definition of citrus and stonefruit flavours allied to clear-cut acidity. The degree of winemaker inputs were significantly different, but the character of the variety and region still shone. However, it would be difficult to detect sub-region, if it is expressed!

The region has a diverse range of workable styles, from fruit focussed and minimal/subtle oaking to the very contemporary, funky complex sulphide influenced expressions. Elegance is more prevalent in the younger wines, and some of the older wines had a more traditional, ‘old school’ style. The wines seem to be able to age well, with 5-6 years bottle age very easily reached and remain enjoyable and fresh.

The selected wines will be showcased at the Chardonnay Renaissance seminar in the Marlborough Wine Weekend on Friday 1 November. For more information, go to my ‘Upcoming Events’ page by clicking here, or visit www.wine-marlborough.co.nz/the-marlborough-wine-weekend/

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