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
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2012Chardonnay from New Zealand - MarlboroughReview Date : 19-Sep-2013Brilliant straw-yellow colour with some depth, pale on rim. The nose is full, open and voluminous with great depth of white and yellow stonefruit and subtle citrus fruit notes, infused with powerful and complexing flinty reduction. The aromas are bold and unfold barrel-ferment butter and nuts, and savoury bacon oak nuances. Full-bodied, rich open and up-front flavours of yellow stonefruits, flinty reduction and minerals fill the mouth. Layers of nuts, butter citrus and tropical fruits add richness and detail. The roundness and sweetness of the flavours is supported by fresh, discreet acidity, allowing the palate breadth to grow harmoniously. Soft, fulsome textures and power carry the flavours to a full, broad and accessible finish that highlights the nutty, flinty complexities. This is a full, bold and open Chardonnay with mouthfilling and rich flavours of yellow fruits complexed with flinty reduction, that grows in harmony and accessibility. Match with pork, hare and veal over the next 5-6 years. Mendoza clone fruit from the Brancott district, fully barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels, undergoing partial MLF and batonnage. 19.5-/20 Sep 2013 RRP $59.95
Matua ‘Single Vineyard’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2011Chardonnay from New Zealand - MarlboroughReview Date : 19-Sep-2013Bright, pale straw-yellow colour with slight green hues. This has a fresh, tightly bound and very refined bouquet with subtly interwoven white stonefruit and citrus aromas at the core and beautifully balanced flinty complexities unfolding layers of delicate white florals and nuts. The nose is fresh and youthfully undeveloped. Medium-full bodied, tight and penetrating flavours of white stonefruits, citrus and minerals are underlined by refined and harmoniously integrated flinty sulphide complexities. The purity, finesse and detail are features. The acidity is fresh, but soft and discreet and the mouthfeel is one of dryness, linearity, drive and class. The palate has energy and vitality and carries through to an extremely long and lingering finish with a complex melange of flint, nuts and oak toast notes. This is a beautifully refined and classy contemporary Chardonnay with discreet flinty complexities and an array of detail. Serve with seafood and poultry over the next 5-6+ years. Mendoza clone fruit from Brancott Road, fully barrel-fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 50% new French oak barrels, undergoing partial MLF and batonnage. 19.5/20 Sep 2013 RRP $59.95