Working with Wine – Seminar One

Thursday 19 April 2012

As I mentioned on Friday, this year I’m taking part in Negociants Australia‘s Working with Wine program. The program is an incredibly generous initiative: it’s completely funded by Negociants and the dux of the program receives a trip to Europe.

Back in February I sat the entrance exam (yes, it’s not all lolling around tasting wine) which consisted of a theory paper and a blind tasting of two wines. I had mixed feelings about the exam so I was thrilled to find out that I’d done well enough to get a spot!

The first Adelaide seminar was held at the Italian Club and focussed on the white wines of the Côte d’Or. That would be Chardonnay. The panel was headed up by Nick Ryan, and included David LeMire MW, Sandro Mosele of Port Phillip Estate and Dave Brookes, current Len Evans dux.

The panel took us through four brackets, each of five wines. I’m not going to detail every wine (that would be one long, and potentially very pretentious, blog post!) but I’ll give you a swift overview.

We started with a bracket of Chablis Grands Crus. All the wines were William Fèvre: 3 2009s (Valmur, Vaudesir and Les Clos), and 3 Les Clos (2009, 2008, 2007). This bracket really highlighted what the day was about, which was terroir.

Next up we tried a selection of wines from the Montrachets – four 2008s from Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet as well as a 2009 single vineyard wine.

After lunch we tasted a bracket blind: four Australian Chardonnays and one Meursault. This was really interesting – the wine which really stood out was wine 5 which was Penfolds 09A. The other wines were much more consistent with one another but the Australian wines were a touch more fruit forward, with the Meursault showing a real savoury character, along with a talciness (you might want to call that ‘minerality’) that I’d picked up in a lot of the wines in the preceding brackets.

We wrapped up with a vertical of Bonneau du Martray Corton Charlemagne, tasting the 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006 and 1993 vintages. Considering I’m not likely to be buying myself one of these wines in the near future, to taste 5, including a 19 year old one, was a real privilege.

The fun part of the day was over – the 16 South Australians participating in the program then sat a theory and tasting exam. That’s just to prove (again) that these things aren’t all beers and skittles!

Our next (and final) session is in July and will be focussing on Champagne. I can’t wait!

Louis Latour Macon-Villages Chameroy 2009

As I mentioned on Friday I’m on a mission to check out Chardonnays in the $15-20 price range. The first cab off the rank is the Louis Latour Mâcon-Villages Chameroy 2009 which I picked up from a very large national chain for about $17.

This was a bit of a sentimental purchase – when I lived in England our local Oddbins sold an excellent Mâcon-Lugny for £10. The Mâconnais is the southern part of Burgundy and the wines it produces are significantly more affordable than those from the north (the Côte d’Or). The grapes for a Mâcon-Villages can come from one or more of 43 villages and if they come from just one village then that’s when you may see the village name instead of ‘Villages’. In the case of this wine, the grapes come from more than one village and the Chameroy refers to the Clos Chameroy where the wine was bottled. I suspect it’s on the label to make the wine sound a bit more exciting.

And it needs it. I thought this was a really dull wine and I really hope I’m going to be able to find more interesting Chardonnays in my (admittedly arbitrary) price bracket. On the nose we had lemon and lime with some slightly ‘warmer’ fruit – particularly some honeydew melon. There was also some creaminess. On the palate, there was much more citrus, a nice line of acidity and just a touch of creaminess which leant the wine some weight. The palate finished with bitter almonds which I didn’t particularly enjoy. All of this (perhaps bar the bitter almonds) is exactly what you’d expect but there’s no personality there at all.

My disappointment with this wine was best measured by the fact that it took me something like 4 days to finish the bottle*. And then, just to cheer me up a bit more!, I read a write up of the Shaw+Smith M3 Chardonnay. This is a lovely wine which retails for about twice the price of the Latour.

Given the choice, I’d choose the M3 and drink half as much.

* I didn’t actually finish it – I donated the last half a glass to make gravy.

Chardonnay Project

Chardonnay Grapes
photo by Pete Markham

This year I’m lucky enough to be participating in a couple of excellent wine programs. The one which has already started is Working with Wine, run by Negociants Australia. The first Adelaide session was run on Thursday 19 April and focussed on the white wines of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy, France.

These wines are made (predominantly) from Chardonnay and, after a very fun day tasting 20 great Chardonnays, I commented on Facebook how ace Chardonnay is.* I’m always surprised by the things on Facebook that elicit the most comments … and this was one of them. People seem to have some pretty strong thoughts on Chardonnay: the nay-sayers (to whom I say you just haven’t tried the right wines), the people who love oak influence and the people who don’t like oak and the people who find that Chardonnay doesn’t represent good value for money. One telling comment was that for $15 you could buy a reliably good bottle of Sauvignon Blanc but Chardonnay was too much of a hit-or-miss proposition.

I actually feel that this last comment is a fair call: Chardonnay can be grown successfully in a variety of climates and handled in many different ways, meaning that the finished products are stylistically very different. If you only like one style of Chardonnay then I can see how often you can be disappointed.

So, to try and help out the Chardonnay drinkers of Adelaide (or even Australia) I’m going to try different Chardonnays at the $15-20 price point and report back. I’ll do this until I get fed up with drinking Chardonnay and/or find some other little project.

I’ll post the first wine tomorrow (Saturday) so … stay tuned!

* Note, the session could have looked at almost any grape variety under the sun and I would have come away saying that …