Matua’s 2012 and 2011 Single Vineyard Chardonnay Champions

When the Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 took the Champion Wine of the Show trophy at this year’s Spiegelau International Wine Competition, announced last month, it reinforced the statement the company made at the 2012 Air New Zealand Wine Awards when the previous 2011 vintage wine won trophies for Champion Chardonnay and Reserve Wine of the Show. These results issue a clear signal that Matua has resumed a place in the super-premium level category of New Zealand wine. Matua Valley has had an illustrious history since it was founded by Ross and Bill Spence in 1974. The company’s success saw it being acquired by Fosters, eventually leading to its ownership by the global Treasury Wine Estates group. On the way with the consolidation of its market share at the value end, the very top wines became rather lost. Knowing this, the viticultural and winemaking teams led by Richard Shenfield and Nikolai St. George respectively were given the freedom to flex their muscles. This resulted in a broad range of ‘Single Vineyard’ wines released two years ago (click here to see my reviews). These were an auspicious return to form, and a number of the styles, particularly the Merlot have continued to fare extremely well in wine shows and critical tastings.

Nikolai St George revealed to me that while the 2009 ‘Single Vineyard’ Chardonnay was very good (I rated it 18.5+/20), it was "not really of the style that we were looking for”. No doubt this would have been influenced by what the Treasury Wine Estates group had achieved with the likes of Penfolds ‘Yattarna’ where the greater elegance and finesse had been the result of using Tasmanian fruit. The Australian wine scene has seen the development of the complex sulphide expression in Chardonnays and these styles have been taking the show circuit by storm in Australia and New Zealand. Nikolai’s new approach "started from loving what Australia was doing and thinking we could do that better”. After employing Dartmoor Hawke’s Bay fruit for 2009 and 2010 in making the ‘Single Vineyard’ Chardonnay, Nikolai and Richard switched to Marlborough as the source for the fruit for the wine. They think is been the right move, and the show results – 6 trophies and 8 golds for the 2011, and 2 trophies and a gold for the 2012 – to date. Nikolai truly believes that "Chardonnay will be such a large player for N.Z. in years to come, so we better get it right now”. He and the Matua team are doing it, judging by these wines.

The 2012 and 2011 wines come from Wairau fruit, from different sites, from Mendoza clone fruit, fully barrel-fermented and aged 10 months in half new oak barrels. The wine is given some MLF and lees work. Quality will not be compromised, such that only half the amount of 2012 was made, despite the demand. Nikolai would like to go back to using Hawke’s Bay fruit, and also try Central Otago grapes as well, utilising what has been learnt now. We may see a range of ‘Single Vineyard’ Chardonnays showing the uniqueness that regionality and site gives in the near future. The two wines here share the contemporary expression which has a significant flintiness from sulphides, from high solids ferment and intensive lees work. The question that is now being asked is: "How much is too much of this character?” Here are my reviews on the Champion ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough 2012 and 2011 Chardonnays. My ratings are very close, but indicate my preference. www.matua.co.nz


  • Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2012
  • Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2011

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