This was a Saturday morning Master Class held at 67 Pall Mall that I was lucky enough to attend, mainly in the capacity of working for a co-agent of Domaine Leflaive but it was very much a Wine Advocate event (the only reason that the scores are stated) as part of their Matter of Taste series. There was also a lunch afterwards where older vintages were served but sadly I couldn't make that part. The Master Class was overseen, and the wine selected by, Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW. All the wines were poured at the same time and tasted over the next hour and half from Zalto Montrachet glasses.
The wines were numbered 1 to 11 but essentially there were four flights as per the headings below. I have scored the wines out of 20 on the basis that they are Grand Cru Chardonnays.
As was pointed out, if you'd done this tasting ten years ago there is no way you'd have started with the Australian wines as they were renowned as somewhat bold. The styles generally are much more poised now, less extreme, less new oak etc.
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2013* Penfolds, Australia (RP 95) - This wine was first made in 1995 as a "white Grange". The names means "little by little". It had a good even colour, nice rich but focussed nose with lemon the most defined fruit character. The palate had good drive as well as a rounded richness, weighty but not heavy. A good wine with a nice texture. I would say best left 2yrs+. 17.5+
Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2013*, Margaret River, Australia (RP 95+) - A Biodynamic producer in the Margaret River region of Western Australia. Slightly richer colour, spicier yet harder than the Yattarna. Richer and more dense with extra texture. Less fruit orientated, has a good moreishness to it. Serious, Savoury. Needs 2-5yrs. 18(+?)
Giaconda Chardonnay 2013*, Beechworth, Australia - Richer fuller colour again. Smokey, spicy and rich, some good reduction and some more vanilla like edges. The fruit is more opulent and tropical, this is a warm and generous wine with a sweetness. The wine is ready now in my opinion, not to say it will not age but it is not a wine demanding time if ultimately a shade less complex. 17.5
Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2013*, Martinborough, New Zealand (RP 93) - Good mellow colour, a marked note of amaretti biscuits initially, that left with a good swirl in the large glass. It did start to open up over time with more fruit showing, not as vibrant as most, a little flat with a spicier finish. 16.5 (I will caveat this score with one comment, this could just have needed some time after opening, the hermetic seal that a screw cap gives might have left this a shade shocked.)
Kumeu River Hunting Hill 2013*, Kumeu, New Zealand - Michael Brajkovich was at
this tasting as a few other producers were. I have always been a big fan of these wines and he spoke with a very calm, common sense appeal. 2013 was a small harvest for the estate having lost half of it to frost. There were a few spritzy bubbles in the glass but these went with a good swirl. The colour was very youthful with a hint of green over gold. There was a good zesty, lively palate with the marked note of mellow limes and ripe lemons. So much lift and drive but not at the expense of a well textured palate. There is a real sense of a delicate touch to this wine which follows through to a saline finish (for which regular readers will know I am a "sucker" on both reds and whites). If I had this at home I'd be drinking it but in reality it will really repay another 2 years to peak and many more beyond that. Exceptional and frankly insane value. 18.5 (+).
Bell Hill Chardonnay 2013*, North Canterbury, New Zealand (RP 96) - Mid colour with may be a hint of fresh green. I'll be honest and say I don't know this wine but recognised the label and I know it is minute production. I wanted to like it but somehow I just didn't, though it did, like the Ata Rangi, appear to improve and come together with air. The initial nose was just too "in your face", OTT and slightly sickly with green fruit and mango, watermelon even an then a chunky green spiciness. Is this as it should be? 15.5 (?)
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Grandes Ruchottes 2013, B.Moreau et Fils (RP 91-93) - Not a producer I know as well as I should but looking back through the blog I did share a good Chassagne-Montrachet 1999 with a friend in the trade. This is a very small 1er Cru an was planted in 1939 I understand. Some gold to the colour, cool, lime and zesty drive, quite opulent initially, a little stoney spice. On the palate there is a little dilution that may well flesh out, a classical cool cheesecloth finish. 17+
Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2013, Domaine Leflaive Burgundy (RP 93) - Ok so
Morlet “Ma Douce” Chardonnay 2013, Fort-Ross Seaview, Sonoma, California (RP 96) - Ok I am happy to admit I didn't "get" this wine. Richer, darker colour. A markedly nutty nose, unsweet nougat and honey, the palate was a shade flat with butterscotch. This all struck me as a little OTT and certainly had e worried about prematurely secondary aromas. The wine did liven up though and surprisingly the finish was the best part (normally the opposite). I just don't think I understand the style. But to score it as I have the others I would be 15 (made up of 14 for the nose and 16(+?) for the palate and finish). Would love to know others experiences of this.
Peter Michael Winery Estate Chardonnay 2013 - La Carrière, Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California (RP 98) - Sir Peter Michael (who could not be more English) was present to introduce his wine and spoke well, I get the distinct impression there are million of stories in that mind of his. Lovely mid colour to the wine. Nicely rounded but not extravagant fruit with a lovely mineral and saline character to balance. Some good spice and then again good minerality, rounded finish with a creamier nutty edge. 17.5-18
Kistler “Kistler Vineyard” Chardonnay 2013, Sonoma Valley, California (RP 97) - Kistler is another of those wineries I know "of" more than know well even though I have had wines from them a few times. Good generous colour, tightly spritzy then a shade odd in the middle almost light, the generosity did come with swirling, the finsh was good and long, complex. I found it a little confusing. 15.5-17
* Signifies screw cap, I just thought this would be interesting to record...total coincidence I imagine but the first six wines were all screw cap, the next five all cork.
A really good tasting in good surroundings with good nuggets of information thrown in. To have a good bit of time to taste was excellent as well. The wines were all still improving at the end. No oaky monsters and good wines with bright futures. There are certainly a good few wines I will look to re-taste or re-visit. Thanks to the organisers.