There’s nothing remotely trendy about this terrific Chardonnay

May 12, 2020

There’s nothing remotely trendy about this terrific Chardonnay

Virtually 100% of the time if you’re talking about white wines made by Jeff Grosset, then your subject is riesling. The guy is a riesling genius and has stayed at the forefront of Australian riesling for more than a generation. But I’m here instead to talk about his chardonnay.

Being an enthusiastic adoptee of the Clare Valley in South Australia since 1981, Grosset’s first chardonnays entirely, then largely comprised Clare Valley fruit. In 1993, however, he took the plunge and chose to make this wine exclusively from fruit from a region that suits the variety much better – the Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills. Furthermore, given that’s this is one of the coolest places in the State, he chose to source from a south-facing site, effectively making it even cooler and later to ripen.

Historically, the Grosset Chardonnay has been a pristine, medium-bodied wine of translucent purity and freshness. It’s been a wine of substantial quality and reliability but has honestly failed to shoot my lights out. Until the 2018 release, that is. Here’s a wine that delivers a more interesting, complex spin of the fruit – thanks I expect to some rather more involved winemaking – and is underpinned by the kind of fine, dusty backbone that we’re now seeing more of in higher-end Australian chardonnay.

Scented with grapefruit, ginger and vanilla with suggestions of cinnamon and clove, it reveals undertones of brine and mineral. It’s long, smooth and effortlessly complete, with a vivacious core of beautifully ripened, translucently clear fruit extending with style and suppleness down a fine, dusty spine towards a soft, chalky finish. It’s artfully made and will cellar for a decade and more.

Today in Melbourne where I’m based, you are constantly cornered by hospitality staff trying to ply upon you a chardonnay that’s lean, green and hollow, with the kind of acid profile that inevitably leads to dental attention. For reasons that still escape me, to this crowd at least, chardonnay isn’t meant to have flavour. Or anything, really.

Fortunately, there’s always been a raft of alternatives. While they might not get the hits on social media, they’re usually better wines. This, most certainly, is one of them!

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