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]


  • Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2014
  • Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2013
  • Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012
  • Leheny Gibson Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2011

Latest wine reviews, news, events and more. 🍷
We respect your privacy.