Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2014 – 2011
Warren Gibson and Lorraine Leheny of Bilancia Wines in Hawke’s Bay have a well-defined vision of good, contemporary Chardonnay. For them Chardonnay wines should have elegance and develop with bottle age to become richer and more complex with bottle age. They are aware that consumers bemoan the fat, rich Chardonnays of the past have gone. However, for Warren and Lorraine, well-made Chardonnays which are made tighter and leaner in their youth will invariably open up, broaden and become ‘fatter’ and richer with time. I know such Chardonnays will retain a degree of elegance that will make them easier to enjoy and endear them to pairing with a wide range of foods. The intrinsic nature of elegant wines is that they will have the style and proportion to age well.
One of the much-discussed components of modern Chardonnay is the ‘gun-flint’ or ‘struck-match’ character of sulphide reduction. For Warren and Lorraine, this is only one aspect of the make-up of Chardonnay. I’m sure they’ve followed with great interest the development of Australian Chardonnays, many of which push the boundaries with sulphide reduction and other inputs. Lorraine cites Yabby Lake, Giant Steps, Oak Ridge, Shadowfax and Vasse Felix as particularly enjoyable and interesting. And likewise with New Zealand wines, I’d imagine that Michael Brajkovich’s ground-breaking Kumeu River Chardonnays starting from the mid-1980s will feature on their radar. Nowadays, there are many others who employ the complexity that sulphide reduction provides Chardonnay, especially those from Vidal and Villa Maria.
The Chardonnays that Warren and Lorraine make incorporate sulphides which are part of the outcomes of modern winemaking. The complexity here joins detail and other layers of interest from the overall winemaking approach. Their approach is holistic, with the primary aim, as noted above, of having wines that begin their lives elegant and taut, but developing richness and interest with age. You can see this in their own Bilancia wines, and Warren’s work at Trinity Hill.
The Leheny Gibson Chardonnays
Lorraine and Warren have a much broader and also more focussed approach to the Chardonnay variety than most wine enthusiasts are aware of. They have created the Leheny Gibson label which is a representation of their collaborative work with their Australian winegrowing friends in the Yarra Valley, Australia (Lorraine hails from Melbourne, so this is familiar territory). It is an exploration of the contemporary Chardonnay style outside of their home in Hawke’s Bay. They have sourced fruit from the Gladysdale district in the cooler Upper Yarra, and made their wines, employing hand-picked fruit, skin and whole bunch input, higher solids in the ferment and natural yeasts for fermentation and MLF. Larger oak formats for maturation are preferred. Lorraine and Warren’s aim "is for wines with extra-added interest, a slightly crooked leg that adds to the appeal rather than detracts”. The Leheny Gibson label has within its scope, the making of other wines, not only Chardonnay, to be made in other regions.
Lorraine and Warren have sent to me their Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnays from 2011, their first wine in this venture, to the 2014 vintage, for my consideration and assessment. Here are my reviews. The wines are certainly in the elegant contemporary style, and show a family style. They develop subtly greater richness, depth, roundness and complexity with age, but retain freshness and show the ability to keep well. I might disagree with the call that the wines are ‘fat’ with age, but they do have greater presence and harmony. For more information on the wines and their availability, go to www.bilancia.co.nz You can call Lorraine and Warren on Tel: 06 844-4301 or email: [email protected]
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2014Chardonnay from Australia - VictoriaReview Date : 17-Jul-2017Bright straw-yellow colour, paler on the edge. The nose is very elegant and finely presented with tightly bound aromas of fresh white stonefruits entwined with notes of white florals and an amalgam of herbs and nuts with subtle, mouthwatering flinty minerals. This features delicacy, finesse, freshness and youth, building in intensity with aeration. Medium-bodied, the palate is taut with finely concentrated flavours of white stonefruits and florals, along with nutty notes and a subtle line of flinty minerals. The mouthfeel is fresh and crisp with lively acidity, and the wine flows along a refined, phenolic-threaded line. The palate is mouthwatering and carries to a long, lingering, tightly bound finish. This is a taut, mouthwatering, tightly bound, youthful Chardonnay with white stonefruit, floral, nutty and flinty mineral flavours on a crisp, fine-textured, linear palate. Serve with seafood over the next 4+ years. Hand-picked Chardonnay fruit from Gladysdale, indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with some skin and whole bunch input, and high solids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged approx. 9 months primarily in 500 L puncheons, around 10% new, with no batonnage, and a natural balance of MLF, here with none. A concentrated year with very low yields, but very high quality. 18.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $39.95
Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013Chardonnay from Australia - VictoriaReview Date : 17-Jul-2017Brilliant, light straw-yellow colour with some depth. The nose is elegantly full and voluminous with aromas of white stonefruits, white florals and nutty notes, with complexing suggestions of oxidative elements, and minerals. The aromas are rounded in presentation, but retain a degree of freshness, unfolding herb and waxy detail as it grows in breadth. Medium-bodied, the palate is softly full and mouthfilling with flavours of white stonefruits, nuts, and a complex amalgam of flinty minerals, herbs and waxy nuances. The mouthfeel is smooth-textured, and the wine flows a long a fine line underlined by fresh acidity. The wine is rounded, but balanced by fine phenolic textures providing structure and line, leading to an elegant, soft finish with toasty notes. This is a softly full and rounded Chardonnay with a fine heart of white stonefruits, nuts and complex oxidative hints and waxy elements. Match with poultry and pork over the next 3-4 years. Hand-picked Chardonnay fruit from Gladysdale, indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with some skin and whole bunch input, and high solids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged approx. 9 months primarily in 500 L puncheons, around 10% new, with no batonnage, and a natural balance of MLF. Consistent warm and dry growing conditions, with lower yields but full and balanced flavours. 18.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $39.95
Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012Chardonnay from Australia - VictoriaReview Date : 17-Jul-2017Bright straw-yellow colour with pale golden hues, lighter on the rim. This has a very elegant and tightly bound bouquet, the aromatics slender in proportion unfolding detail and intricately interwoven notes of white stonefruits, gunflint and minerals, along with nutty and smoky elements. This has proportion and intensity that grows in the glass. Medium-bodied, the palate is elegant and delicate, quite slender in presentation, with tightly bound and restrained flavours of white stonefruits, gunflint, minerals and nutty, smoky notes. The fruit possesses richness and the wine flows softly along a very fine textured line with integrated acidity, leading to a delicate, subtle finish. This is a very elegant and refined, delicately nuanced Chardonnay with white stonefruits, gunflint, nuts and smoke on a soft-textured palate. Match with seafood and poultry over the next 3-4 years. Hand-picked Chardonnay fruit from Gladysdale, indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with some skin and whole bunch input, and high solids to 13.5% alc., the wine aged approx. 9 months primarily in 500 L puncheons, around 10% new, with no batonnage, and a natural balance of MLF. A long and slow growing season with an Indian Summer for great flavour development. 18.5/20 Jul 2017 RRP $39.95
Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2011Chardonnay from Australia - VictoriaReview Date : 17-Jul-2017Bright, even straw-yellow with pale golden hues. The nose is full, deep and voluminous, with well-integrated aromas of fragrant white stonefruits and white florals entwined with nutty, flinty and mineral notes, unfolding suggestions of oxidative complexities. The nose is harmonious, intense, and densely concentrated. Medium-bodied, the palate has softly rich and mouthfilling flavours of white stonefruits melded with creamy barrel-ferment elements and nutty notes, and integrated layers of flint and minerals. The wine flows smoothly becoming richer and rounder, but there is balancing soft textures and acidity lending poise and energy. The wine carries to a soft, mouthfilling finish. This is a subtly rich and harmoniously interwoven, complex Chardonnay with flavours of white stonefruits, nuts, florals and minerals. Serve with poultry and pork over the next 3 years. Hand-picked Chardonnay fruit from Gladysdale, indigenous yeast barrel-fermented with some skin and whole bunch input, and high solids to 13.0% alc., the wine aged approx. 9 months primarily in 500 L puncheons, around 10% new, with no batonnage, and a natural balance of MLF, here approx. 50%. A wet and cool year, deemed brilliant for Chardonnay. 19.0/20 Jul 2017 RRP $39.95