(2022) How intriguing to have this nine-year-old Chardonnay on the Society's shelves, from a top Margaret River estate. Wild fermented, it spent nine months in French oak, 45% new. Light gold in colour, the funky, flinty character this wine always posesses is there in full force, butteriness and a suggestion of fruit ripeness beneath. Loads of streaking, salty, flinty mineral character over pristine apple and hints of juicier nectarine, the acidity tapering elegantly but persistently. Some may find the bold and assertive style too much, but I really enjoyed it.
(2021) Vasse Felix is one of the great names of Margaret River in Western Australia, and I was super-impressed by their top 'Heytesbury' Chardonnay 2019 recently (94 points), but this is their estate wine at around half the price but it runs its big brother close on style and quality. Plenty of flinty, cordite nuances to the ripe and fleshy peach and cooler Asian pear fruit, a nougat softeness adding another layer. In the mouth it strikes that lovely balance between oak-derived coffee and toast, sweet and succulent fruit, and that nervy edge of cool mineral acidity. Very stylish. Watch the video for more information.
(2021) A cool start to the vintage meant careful canopy management to avoid disease, but mild conditions through the growing season extended the harvest to finish with ripe fruit, slightly lower alcohol and good acidity. Matured in French oak barriques for nine months, 61% new. Plenty of flinty, mineral and gunsmoke character to the fore here, a subtle oatmeal creaminess and some lemon meringue pie aromas follow. In the mouth it is bracing stuff, a nervy sweep of acidity punches through nuttier, creamier texture and ripe but lean fruit flavours. Long and tensioned from front to back, a very nice Chardonnay indeed with intensity and cellaring potential.
(2021) From 25-year-old vineyards of Gingin clone Chardonnay, this is whole-bunch pressed into larger French oak barrels and fermented with wild yeasts. It was fermented and aged nine months, with 40% of the barrels new. The inclusion of 'solids', the various compounds from the grape matter of the whole bunches, immediately gives this a lot more flintiness, toast and notes of seeds and herbs, with fine orchard fruit coming through. On the palate the drive of the pithy lemon and grapefruit is mouth-watering, a real energising blast that cuts through the peachier mid-palate. The oak diffuses the effect of the saline and citrus acidity very nicely in the finish, in a wine that is a bit of show-stopper, and packed with personality.
(2021) From the most southerly of McHenry Hohnen's vineyards, this is 100% Gingin clone, and again was whole-bunch pressed, and into barrique (25% new) with solids, and moved to tank after eight months. The nose here is more in the nutty, gently hazelnut and almond spectrum with just a suggestion of gunsmoke and roasted seeds in the background. The fruitis apples and pears again, quite restrained. Great juiciness on the palate: a squirt of lemon or sour orange instantly gives this mouth-watering, savoury quality, again there is a little nectarine juiciness, running into more blood orange, to a long, tapering finish.
(2021) A combination of 70% Gin Gin clone, along with Davis and Bernard clones for this wine, fermentation partly with wild yeast, in Burgundian-coopered barriques, where it aged for 10 months, 35% new, with no malolactic. Lovely crushed almond and oatmeal, quite subtle oak, but it marks this wine with a touch of buttery softness, creamy and feels like a touch of background flint, even talcum notes. Lovely fruit on the palate, with very juicy and ripe pear, a sweetly-fruity tangerine quality too, then a much more incisive lemon zest and grapefruit acidity, touching on salts, a little nuttiness from the oak adds to a balanced finish.
(2020) From selected vineyard parcels of Gingin clone, aged 25 years on average, this was whole-bunch pressed to barrel with solids, spending nine months in oak with some batonnage. The aromatics are loaded with flint and oyster shell, a layer of almond and oatmeal, and creamy orchard fruit. The acid line is slightly less aggressive than the pungent Flametree Chardonnay tasted alongside, lots of citrus peel and salts, but that bitter orange edge to the fruit plays against a peachier tone, into a balanced finish that stays fresh and finishes on salts and frut. Superb.
(2019) Voyager Estate's 2016 Chardonnay is a class act, matured in French oak for 11 months (only 36% new barrels), and a complex blend of nine Chardonnay clones, naturally fermented with native yeasts. In many ways it is an exemplar of modern Australian Chardonnay, not over-ripe or over-oaked, with earlier picking lowering the alcohol and increasing the flinty, mineral-etched character of the wine. Some toasty and coffee-ish oak sets against stony, salty notes and lemon fruit, before the palate punches through, bright star fruit and Asian pear against more tropical fruits, the dazzle of pithy, zesty acidity, and all the time a lightly spicy and tobacco-infused infill from the time in barrel. A lovely Chardonnay, drinking well and it's savoury character bringing broad food-friendliness. Note: stockist at time of review is for an earlier vintage.
(2018) From a single block of old Gin Gin clone Chardonnay on clay/loam soils that retain moisture and need little irrigation. Again this was whole-bunch pressed into larger French oak barrels and fermented with wild yeast. It spent 10 months ageing in barrel (40% new). Much more obvious Brazil nut oak, but also a little bit of flinty reductive character. Lovely palate, the acid powerful and intense, but a hugely decisive wine without losing fruit or charm. Lovely wine from a winery that does not own vineyards, but sources this fruit from the cooler South of the region. Note stockist and price quoted is for 2015 vintage.
(2018) Heytesbury is a selection of the best vineyards and fruit. 100% Gin Gin, the recipe again was for pressing straight to barrel and fermentation with wild yeast. Lees were stirred regularly during nine months ageing in 57% new French oak. Subtle wild ferment earthiness and nuttiness, a juicy directness, firm and acidic, it stays quite grippy and intense, but very good fruit. This has length and a good balance and certainly the fruit and infill of creamy oak to give lovely balance.