Adelaide Hills Chardonnay - Evolution Revolution!

Victoria House, 37 Southampton Row, London, WC1B 5HR

Adelaide Hills Chardonnay – Evolution Revolution was the first of 3 Masterclasses held as part of the Australia Day tasting on Tuesday 24 January 2017.  The largest Australian wine event in the UK was held at Victoria House, a Grade II listed building dating back to the 1920’s.

 

With over 1000 wines from 31 different regions across 5 states, it was challenging to know where to start.  Let’s kick off with some cool climate Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills.

MASTERCLASS:

The Adelaide Hills Chardonnay Masterclass was hosted by Marty Edwards of The Lane Vineyard, Mark Davidson of Wine Australia and Sam Stephens of Penfolds/Treasury Wine Estates.

 

The Adelaide Hills is a relatively new viticultural area in the Mount Lofty Ranges about half an hour’s drive from Adelaide.  Aspect, elevation and orientation are important in this region which forms a long narrow corridor of 70km long and 30km wide and ranges between 400m to 700m above sea level.  It is bordered by the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley in the north and McLaren Vale in the south but due to its elevation the Adelaide Hills is significantly cooler and the harvest is generally later. 

 

Summers are warm and dry but temperatures drop considerably at night which helps grapes ripen slowly.  The region receives an average of 480mm of rain during the winter which varies with topography and altitude. 

 

The 2014 - 2015 growing season was warm and sunny and one of the driest on record.  The good weather encouraged early budburst, early flowering, and an early harvest. As a result the region produced above average yields whilst retaining good levels of acidity. 

 

We assessed 8 Chardonnays from the 2015 vintage.  My top 2 were from Henschke and The Lane Vineyard, closely followed by Pike & Joyce, Penfolds and Shaw & Smith.

 

Henschke

Croft Chardonnay 2015 - clean and crisp with medium (+) acidity, warming alcohol, white flowers, ripe peach and fresh apricot

 

The Lane Vineyard

Beginning Chardonnay 2015 - savoury, more complex and with good minerality, ripe citrus, stone fruit and medium (+) acidity

 

Pike & Joyce

The Kay Reserve 2015 - warm and aromatic with a fuller body and texture

 

Penfolds

Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2015 - a traditional “Aussie style” nose, full-bodied, bright acidity, citrus, white peach and banana, well integrated oak and a long finish

 

Shaw & Smith

M3 Chardonnay 2015 - rich and full-bodied with some tropical aromas and flavours

 

AUSTRALIA DAY HIGHLIGHTS:

 

Thistledown Wine Company

Thistledown Wine Company is located in the Adelaide Hills and sources the best quality fruit from a number of growers in South Australia to produce wines reflecting local terroir.  I met Giles Cooke MW, Winemaker & Co-Owner of Thistledown Wines, who works with Peter Leske and Fergal Tynan MW to create small parcels of top quality wine to complement fine food. 

Thistledown ‘Thorny Devil’ Barossa Valley Grenache 2015  The fruit for this full-bodied and powerful red comes from a vineyard estimated to be over 100 years old.  The vineyard is dry farmed, grapes are hand-picked and wines aged in old oak hogsheads.  It has a good concentration of red cherries, cranberries and a hint of cinnamon.

Thistledown ‘Vagabond’ Blewitt Springs McLaren Vale Grenache 2015

A single vineyard wine from 70 year old bush vines.  Grapes are hand-picked, 20% whole bunch pressed and aged in 500 litre puncheons.  This elegant Grenache has a juicy palate of red raspberries, fresh strawberries, a dash of cream and a touch of spice.   

 

Ten Minutes By Tractor

Ten Minutes By Tractor is located in the Mornington Peninsula region of Victoria.  Vineyards cover an area of approximately 34 hectares and are situated 10 minutes by tractor away from each other.  All have very different aspects, altitude, soils and slopes.  I compared 3 of their Pinots.

Ten Minutes By Tractor ‘Coolart Road’ Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015  Coolart Road is the flattest and lowest of their vineyards.  Vines ripen here 14 days earlier than Wallis and Judd.  With soft ripe tannins and juicy red fruit, this young Pinot Noir is already displaying savoury characteristics.

Ten Minutes By Tractor ‘Judd’ Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015

Judd is the steepest and highest of their vineyards, reaching up to 206m.  With a westerly facing aspect, Judd enjoys good afternoon and evening sunshine resulting in a more generous fruit profile.  This Pinot has higher levels of acidity, ripe red fruit, sweet spice and a hint of tobacco.

Ten Minutes By Tractor ‘Wallis’ Morning Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015

Wallis is their second flattest and second lowest vineyard, reaching up to 142m.  With a north-easterly aspect, the vineyard receives good light and heat in the day but temperatures drop quickly at night.  This wine is less intense; it is floral and spicy with pure red fruit and good minerality. 

 

Henschke

The Henschke family has been making wine since Johann Christian Henschke planted his first vineyard in 1862.  The estate is run by 5th generation winemaker Stephen Henschke and his wife Prue and they have vineyards in the Eden Valley, Barossa Valley and the Adelaide Hills.  Their most iconic wine is Hill of Grace, a Shiraz based wine first produced in 1958; one of Australia’s ‘cult’ wines.

Henschke ‘Julius’ Eden Valley Riesling 2015 - this extremely aromatic Riesling packs a punch!  Zesty limes on the nose, mouth-watering levels of acidity and an excellent concentration of juicy lemons and limes on the palate.

Henschke ‘Keyneton Euphonium’ Barossa Valley Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc 2013 - deep, rich and concentrated with silky smooth tannins, cooked black fruit, well integrated oak, cinnamon and clove 

 

Shaw & Smith

Shaw & Smith was established in 1989 by cousins, Martin Shaw and Michael Hill Smith.  They own 2 vineyards in the Adelaide Hills; Balhannah Vineyard which is approximately 46 hectares and Lenswood Vineyard which extends to approximately 20 hectares.  They specialise in producing cool climate Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Shaw & Smith Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2014 - a wonderful combination of juicy black fruit, fresh acidity, silky tannins, black pepper and smoke

Shaw & Smith ‘Balhannah’ Adelaide Hills Shiraz 2013 - a very powerful and perfumed nose, bright red fruit, smooth fine-grained tannins and gently integrated oak 

 

Tolpuddle

The Tolpuddle vineyard covers around 20 hectares and is located in the Coal River Valley in the south-east corner of Tasmania.  Originally planted in 1988 by Tony Jordan and Garry Crittenden, it has established a reputation for producing exceptional quality grapes.  It was purchased by the shareholders of Shaw & Smith in 2011. 

Tolpuddle Vineyard Tasmania Chardonnay 2013 - a classic cool climate Chardonnay with refreshing acidity and ripe citrus

Tolpuddle Vineyard Tasmania Pinot Noir 2014 - a bold and powerful Pinot Noir with bright red cherry, a hint of smoke and already developing savoury secondary characteristics 

 

The Australia Day tasting really is a fabulous way to explore some of the new and exciting wines coming out of Australia.  My only criticism would be – there are far too many for just one day!

 

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