Wine review — De Bortoli, Illuminati and Mad Fish

De Bortoli Villages Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012 $18–$22
Despite Australia’s love affair with sauvignon blanc – especially those from Marlborough, New Zealand – chardonnay remains by far our biggest locally grown white variety. By volume, it’s second only to shiraz and it’s increasingly viewed as one of our great specialties. Like shiraz, it comes in many styles, driven largely by regional variations in climate, tempered by particular winemaking and viticultural practices. De Bortoli’s Villages chardonnay, for example, shows the elegant fruit character and structure of the cool Yarra Valley, combined with the subtle textural and flavour nuances of fermentation with ambient yeasts in oak casks.

Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2011 $9.49–$11.40
We rediscovered Dino Illuminati’s medium-bodied, savoury red at Woolies, Batemans Bay, in early January. A Chateau Shanahan favourite since its Australian debut in 1991, the wine begins with clean, fresh fruit flavours. Then a delicious, teasing, Italian savouriness sets in, distinguishing it from the generally more fruity Australian styles. The Illuminatis make the wine from the local red variety, montepulciano. Dino Illuminati’s grandfather, Nico, established the business in 1890 and Dino took over on his death. Now in his 80s, Dino remains active in the business with his son, Stefano, largely holding the reins.

Mad Fish Gold Turtle Margaret River Chardonnay 2012 $14.25–$15
A mad fish and a gold turtle seem unlikely companions in a wine name. But the wine, from Jeff and Amy Burch’s Howard Park Winery, Margaret River, offers extraordinarily good drinking at a bargain price. Sourced from the Wilyabrup and Karridale sub-regions, Gold Turtle Chardonnay offers bright, fresh nectarine-like varietal flavour with lively acidity and a rich texture derived from a natural fermentation in barrel and extended maturation on yeast lees. The screw cap on wines of this calibre enables reliable cellaring for perhaps five years from vintage. It’s a notably fruitier, rounder style than the more elegant De Bortoli wine reviewed today.

Copyright © Chris Shanahan 2014
First published 9 February 2014 in the Canberra Times