Word on the grapevine is that Chardonnay is making a welcome comeback… I think a large part of the reason for this is better winemaking and viticulture. I believe really fine Chardonnay is neither oaky, buttery, full nor lean, flavourless and austere. There is a place somewhere in the middle where savoury complexity, vineyard flavour and texture, as well as natural acidity and freshness create absolutely delicious and age-worthy Chardonnay. This is what we are striving for.
What sets Chardonnay apart is that it is the complete package. It can show its site really well, it has texture and weight as well as balanced acidity and it ages beautifully in the right conditions.
There’s a common misconception that Chardonnay is always oaky. Our premium Chardonnays are all made in French oak casks but not all are new. In fact our most premium Chardonnay parcels see very little to no new oak because we are very interested in how the site expresses itself. Slightly older barrels are essential to create complex character and texture in a wine without necessarily seeing the flavour of the wood.
In terms of winemaking, site selection is really important. In the Yarra Valley it thrives on the protected south and easterly facing slopes. Fruit is hand harvested, and then the whole bunch is crushed and pressed for extra phenolics (texture). The wine is pressed firmly, then settled for 12 hours or less, before turbid juice is racked straight to barrel.
It undergoes natural fermentation in barrel (small and large - from 225L up to 5,700L) and stays on its lees for approximately 9 months. Most parcels also go through natural MLF and a little stirring to build texture, depending on the season.
My favourite De Bortoli Chardonnay is the 2015 Reserve Release Section A5 Chardonnay - I really love this wine! It was a fantastic season, mild and dry with really expressive wines.
It is still young and tightly coiled and should age for a good 10+ years, but it is starting to open up and show its beauty. It is savoury and nutty with lovely aromas of white flowers and sweet citrus, typical of the vineyard. The palate is elegant, textured and long… a joy to drink.