jamie goode's wine blog: Chardonnay trail again

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chardonnay trail again

Another data point for the Chardonnay trail, an unofficial series of notes on examples of this variety that have been accumulating on my blog in recent weeks.

This time it's off to Australia - the Piccadilly Valley of South Australia, to be precise. This one's from a famous vineyard, but it's a new wine. It's the first release of the Tapanappa Chardonnay (2005), which comes from Brian Croser's Tiers vineyard (pictured), which until this year was used to make Petaluma Chardonnay (and in more recent years the single-vineyard Tiers bottling). I can't think of many (if any) better Chardonnays from Australia. It's boldly flavoured but not at all fat, with a lovely minerally complexity. The oak is well integrated and there is huge potential for development. It's a wine you can drink now, but rarely for Australian Chardonnay this will likely improve over the next 5-7 years, rather than just survive, and if I had a few bottles of this I'd not be tempted to crack them too early. As an aside, the label design is lovely, and the cork is physically perfect - it's one of the best looking corks I've ever seen. 450 cases made, around £40 retail (an educated guess).

Note added later: my £40 estimate was based on the retail price of the Petaluma Tiers Vineyard Chardonnayretail is £29.95, from Noel Young Wines, Avery’s, Fine & Rare, The Secret Cellar (Tunbridge Wells), Edencroft Wines (Nantwich), Harrods

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At 4:07 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

So even better than Leeuwin Art series?

At 9:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

err... Jamie, I think Alex may indeed have a point!
The Leeuwin Art series, nay even the "Prelude" is/are quite remarkable.



At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Doug said...

I'm sure this wine is delicious and I endorse the comments about Leeuwin. Giaconda is pretty good as well. However,I was just rifling through the Farr web-site and I see that they do the Corton-Charlemagne, Latour 1999 for roughly the same price as the Tapanappa Chardonnay. Now Farr are not particularly great value for Burg and you're talking Grand cru here - well-regarded (WA 90-91) -with six years bottle age versus a new wine, so at £40 it would have to blow your socks off and leave your head in smoking ruins to justify that price tag. But let's not just compare like with not-quite-like. For forty quid you could alternatively buy a couple of Grand cru lovelies from Zind-Humbrecht or Domaine Weinbach; it would purchase three bottles of Donnhoff's delicious Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett, a pair of Meursaults from Michel Bouzereau or a quartet of Macon-Milly-Lamartines from Heritiers des Comtes Lafon.

Put the word "boutique" in front of a wine, limit the availability, and you get a "beastly" price!

At 12:11 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Hmmm, the Art Series is very nice - I have one in my tasting queue - 2003 I think. So you may have a point.

At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Doug - you raise an interesting point about prices (although I don't think Jamie ever said it was a bargain ;-), but I don't think it's quite as simple as that. Perhaps a point that can be drawn from the Chardonnay trail is that there are many different styles and even if one were to say "I prefer this £40 Burg to that £40 Aussie" (and that's exactly what I said having tasted the lovely Leeuwin 2001) it doesn't mean one would only buy the Burg. Well, that's my slant on things - variety being the spice of life.

BTW - love your metaphor for a £40 wine!

At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Doug said...

You're right, Alex, although I was also making a general point about the price of the wine being relative to its quality. I'm sure the Tapanappa is superb, but I was kind of worrying out loud that this sort of pricing sets an irreversible trend. Once the glass ceiling is smashed, why not a £50, £75 or £100+ wine/vanity project? Perhaps I'm discerning a New World marketing strategy to punt out exclusive single vineyard wines (suddenly everyone's into terroir), stick a frightening price on them and allocate them severely. The Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay that you mention has great pedigree; it has earned the right over many vintages to command a certain price. Maybe it's Chardonnay itself that is squiffily overpriced: take any of the top Rieslings from Alsace or Germany, the best Sauvignon in the world (say Didier Dagueneau's Pouilly-Fume Silex), Huet's Vouvrays or Joly's Coulee de Serrant, the greatest Condrieus from Vernay, Perret or Rostaing, top Gruner Veltliners from Austria, even the Grand crus of Chablis and you'll get plenty of change and sublime taste sensations from two twenties. Looking at California and Australia now there seems to be a virility challenge to create "micro-wines" to garner the maximum critical acclaim. Make a thimbleful of grape-juice, call it the best thing since "sliced Cloudy Bay" and Bob Parker's your uncle!

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous steve said...

Doug makes a very good point about the pricing of New World boutique wines. However, you really have to blame the wine buying public at large and not the small producers. It's simply a game of apparent value. In California, for example, if you release a wine at $20 not too many people are going to pay attention. Price it at $60 and voila! you have something to be taken seriously and will most likely outsell the same wine at $20. Unless, of course, it's complete swill.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Alex Lake said...

Doug/Steve - you're both right and I should shut up. Actually, on second thoughts, we should all point out (loudly) what a rip-off these wines are. I remember seeing Vergelegen's "V" and KWV's Perold, and thinking that they were stakes in the ground that would force/allow other "very nice" Cape wines (eg. Foundry, Columella etc) to move up in price.

At 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my fav shops in the SE of the UK, The Secret Cellar (in Tunbridge Wells), is doing this win for £29.99. I just got six bottles as the staff had just tasted it! Seems like Brian Croser is triumphant again.

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow this wine is great! I will get another case from THE SECRET CELLAR very soon. This store in Tunbridge Wells has an amazing range of wines and the staff are so knowledgeable. Great wines, Croser is still the king! (Ivor B, SurreY)


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