Wine Talk

Snooth User: edwilley3

Australian Chardonnay - More "Barbie" than Wolfgang Puck?

Posted by edwilley3, May 7, 2014.

Let me start by saying I pretty much drink chardonnay from France or California. If it's 90% butter and little else, I'm out. If it tastes like lemon juice and weeds, I'm also out. If California, I'm looking for nicely developed fruit profile without so much oak that it taste like I'm sucking on a tree. I like Peter Michael chardonnay ***a lot*** because while fully oaked and malolactic it is jam packed with flavors from the fruit and has enough acid not to have a texture that's too viscous. I also enjoy many French chards, too, because they pair well with food and generally offer a decent balance of minerality, freshness, and depth, recognizing that they all pull in different directions and vary in quality. I have no problem drinking a Chablis, for example, and can't complain about a Batard-Montrachet. I adore French blanc de blancs sparkling wines. 

So I was stepping out on a limb by ordering a Leeuwin Art Series at a restaurant in Dallas with my dinner a couple of weeks ago. Well, sure is its pricing!  I really didn't see what all the fuss was about. It tasted green (fruit flavors not quite developed) and was surprisingly tightly wound. I don't think that I enjoyed it until we reached the hour mark. Notes online indicated that it is typically a fruity wine. Ok....well, perhaps compared to Rombauer, it is. But not to my palate.

Snoothers, what's your take on Leeuwin's famed Art Series? If not the Art Series, what other Aussie chard wets your whistle?


Reply by dmcker, May 8, 2014.

I'm a big chardonnay fan, too, usually in CA from Sonoma and just south of the Bay Area, and of those from Burgundy, stretching from Chablis down to the Maconnais. Value propositions are more important to me than they used to be, so I'm unfortunately drinking less good Le Montrachet than I used to.  ;-(

Leeuwins work for me, but I prefer them with a little bottle age and after they've breathed a bit. They are no Montrachets, but are better than the greater proportion of CA chards, in my book.

Reply by GregT, May 8, 2014.

But so are so many Australian wines, whites in particular. Riesling, Semillon, Albarino, Verdejo, and even the cursed Sauvignon Blanc all seem to do well in Australia, given the right circumstances. Between Antarctica and Australia there's what? The ocean. So I would never dismiss their wines and odd as it may seem, their Rieslings are more often than not bone dry and delicious and cheap.

At the moment I'm midway through a wonderful Australian Mourvedre, and that too is balanced, spicy, not woody, and pretty much everything I would want from a good S. Rhone.

IMO Leeuwin is a pretty good producer - I've had many of their wines, esp their Rieslings and Cabs. They're Margaret River no? That's a cool-climate region as compared to Barossa Valley, and you'd expect decent Chardonnay, but now I feel like an idiot because I can't think off the top of any Australian Chardonnays that I've had recently, including theirs! I'm so interested in the less-expected grapes that I've almost ignored it. So thanks for the motivation - I'm going to have to do some further tasting!

Reply by BradoP, May 8, 2014.

I'm an Aussie and though I haven't tried the Art Series Chardy, like you I have only heard good things about it. What vintage was it? Margaret River has had fantastic vintages for the last decade minus probably 2006.

One of my favourite modern Australian styles is the Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay from Adelaide Hills. Even though it's in the same state as Barossa, it's a much cooler area, more like Margaret River, and at less than half the price of the Art Series, it's really hard to go past.

Out of curiosity, does the Art Series come with cork or screw cap in the USA?

Reply by Wineogre, May 9, 2014.

I am another Aussie and I think you may have drunk your Leeuwin too young, or perhaps the bottle had been heat affected in transit? Why not try the same winemaker's Prelude Chardonnay? The price will be reasonable, and the fruit more accessible. If you like super premium Chardonnay then Rick Kinzbrunner's Giaconda Estate, Cullen's Kevin John, Moss Wood, Vasse Felix Heytesbury, Voyager Estate, Pierro, Howard Park, Penfolds Yattarna (or some of their trial Bins), Bindi, Toolangi Estate, Mount Mary, Yabby Lake, Oakridge 864, Tyrrells Vat 47, and I also agree with the Shaw &Smith M3.. But really, these are very special occasion wines. You may be better served to drink some of the "lesser" wines. Larry Cherubino has several lower price point wines that punch above their weight, Singlefile is a Great Southern producer with a superb Chardonnay. Once the Aussie dollar drops to 85c US when deflation hits you will need to fly out here for a quick holiday. First to Perth and then down to Margaret River and Great Southern for a week, then fly to Adelaide and several day trips to the Barossa, Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale, and a 2 to 3 day trip to Coonawarra, then to Melbourne and day trips to the Yarra, Mornington Peninsula,Geelong, then a several day trip to Rutherglen, the Alpine Valleys, then fly to Canberra, and a few days tasting there, then fly to Sydney and off to the Hunter Valley for about 3 days. ... and you still will not have seen 1/2 of Australian wine. If you make it as far as Queensland, our best wines are at higher altitudes in the Granite Belt and South Burnett, but you can access these wines at Sirromet winery between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. (Try the 864 above range eg 864metres above sea level = about 2,800 feet). 

(Wine Australia, I am not charging you a cent for all the free plugs, and I apologise for leaving too many people out.)

Reply by GregT, May 9, 2014.

You should charge Wine Australia! They really haven't done a good job IMO. Every so often they come through with a slew of wines and winemakers but they never follow up. Even worse, they came up with that lame-ass idea a few years ago about regional champions or something of that nature.

"Hey! Let's identify some grape with a specific area!" someone shouted.

"Yay! Great idea!" someone else replied.

So they set about matching different grapes to different regions.

"Can they do pretty good Shiraz here?" someone asked, looking at a map.

"Yeah, great stuff. But Shiraz is already taken. Barossa gets that." came the reply. "Let's assign Petite Verdot to that region."

"OK. They get Petite Verdot," everyone agreed.

Finally they were all done assigning grapes to particular regions. There are thousands of grapes in the world, but to simplify things, they just focused on the important ones.

"We're just like Europe now," they all exclaimed, elated on finishing the assignments.

"In Europe, years of politics, wars, ignorance, and pressure from powerful interests has resulted in certain grapes being identified with certain areas. We did it in a few months! Let's go have some beers."

Can we all say "complete fail"? GregT asked. 

And then the Australian dollar issues took care of any lingering brilliance.


Reply by Wineogre, May 10, 2014.

A big trend in Oz wine now is global warming and planting more Mediterranean varieties, heading for altitude and as far south latitude as possible with traditional varieties. Even Tasmania is getting warm enough to ripen the occasional Cabernet. I just hope the Hunter Valley keeps being able to produce its Semillon and Shiraz despite flood,fire,heatwaves and coal mines.

The other big trend is to export wine and wine making expertise to China.  As their middle class start buying wine for "face"- the icons like Grange and HOG (Henschke's Hill of Grace) get priced to ever higher levels a la Bordeaux and Burgundy, although the Bordeaux bubble appears to have burst with the 2013 vintage. I think my 09's and 10's  will possibly depreciate, certainly in real terms. 


Reply by dmcker, May 10, 2014.

When you say '09s and '10s will depreciate, you talking Bordeaux, Burgundy, Grange or Henschke?

And thanks, Ogre, for bringing a fresh breath of Aussie air into these sometimes moribund California-centric boards!  ;-)  We've been needing that down under perspective for awhile.

Reply by Wineogre, May 10, 2014.

Sorry, Bordeaux will depreciate. Burgundy,Grange and Henschke will all apreciate.

Reply by Wineogre, May 10, 2014.

Also, thanks to you for providing the forum replies and the exposure to American wines, which are very difficult to access in Australia.

Reply by GregT, May 10, 2014.

Yeah but WO, aren't the prices of HOG and Grange partly due to the Australian exchange rate?

Why do you think the Bordeaux wines will depreciate, especially from those years? Seems like that bubble has only burst because Bordeaux hasn't had a vintage of the century for a couple years but they're about due.

What's not factored into many plans is the production of wine in China. They're already one of the largest producers and eventually they'll figure out something good and given that every industry seems to have government backing, I think the wine world is poised for a real disturbance.

Reply by dmcker, May 10, 2014.

Trust me, Greg, unless you're the kind of person who believes any and everyone's marketing hype, China will not have good wine for a very long while. Didn't you see my posts in that thread on the subject? The land is literally poisoned with heavy metals, air pollution darkening the sky on a regular basis, and even with overseas consultants they won't get it when it comes to making wine that you and I want to drink anyway, not for a long while. Even with all the money they might want to throw at the project, however that money is structured.

Japanese are better agriculturalists on many levels than Chinese (how's that for broad brushstrokes?), but they've really struggled with wine over decades. Won't start here on all the reasons, but it is fact.

Just because people love to talk about how big and whatever China is doesn't mean they don't have serious problems all across agriculture, other industries and socio-political structures that will limit them delivering what people want or fear them to. And I'm not even referring to regional expansionist adventurism that is likely to bring structural issues to a crisis when the international community truly begins resisting.

The only way 'the wine world is poised for a real disturbance' is if Chinese consumers buy more local stuff and less of what the French and Aussies want to sell them.

Reply by Wineogre, May 10, 2014.

Yes GT, currently the exchange rate is actually in favour of most currencies as the Government bring in an unpopular budget to reduce the deficit. However I doubt that your local wine shop will reduce the price of Grange. You are more likely to see it in one of those "critter" wines.

I think that the premise that Bordeaux en primeur price is always going to be the cheapest price for a given vintage is now being tested by the 2013 vintage. So in Australia I bought Bordeaux 2009 and 2010 en Primeur via Langtons and Wine Ark, both of whom are now owned by one of the supermarket duopoly. Because I live in a hot climate, I have to store these wines in climate controlled conditions, in this case with Wine Ark, and pay storage fees if I decide to sell these wines,either buy auction, or directly via Wine Ark I would pay a 15% Sellers premium, into a market that has "gone off" Bordeaux in favour of Spanish Tempranillo, Burgundy,and local wines. Luckily I didn't buy the wine to sell later. I bought them to taste from great vintages and to share with friends.

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