Saturday, March 24, 2007

More March Whites(4): Australia Chard, NZ Pinot Gris, Chile Chard(2)

MCWILLIAM'S HANWOOD ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2004, New South Wales, Australia, 13.0% D, #557934 $13.15 (Tasted March 28, 2007)

A General listing described as "Medium straw; oaky, tropical fruit and coconut aromas; very fruity and soft with a long oaky finish. Serve with Digby herring, crab legs, grilled salmon-trout." Winemaker was Jim Brayne - this vintage is described as " [Half fermented in] French oak coupled with yeast lees autolysis... and six month maturation.... A smaller portion underwent malolactic fermentation... Crisp acid gives length and structure to the generous palate..." Gord Stimmell gives it 88/100 saying "The McWilliams chardonnay is [from] a family winery in southeast Australia that is now owned and distributed by wine giant Gallo... a solid performer... worth every penny. The style is perhaps a little old-fashioned, but most folks like that in their chards — a bit of restrained oak adds substance and tames those sour green elements. Aromas of butter, lemon oil, coconut and citrus lead into flavours of lemony pineapple and apple. The length lacks great power, but is loaded with finesse." My notes: A distinct golden hue with aromas of lemon zest, coconut and possibly melon. The flavours are indistinct but there is a firm acid lending a citrus and tart apple component along with a pleasing roundness or cream. I don't get flavours of coconut or pineapple and the finish ends with the pithiness of chewed lemon seeds. Having experienced Gallo supermarket wines I'd think this was the equivalent in an Aussie chard but with some finesse. A commercial sipper and should be OK with most seafoods. A drink-now if nothing else is available - not a value.

GROVE MILL PINOT GRIS 2005, Marlborough, NZ, 14.0% XD*, #001693 $19.95 (Retasted March 25, 2007)

Released by Vintages on October 14, 2006 with a rating of 5/5 by Michael Cooper, Buyers Guide to NZ Wines 2006. Also given four and one half (of 5) by VH of Winecurrent . My notes: I first tasted in October last year and, as a result, cellared a few. The nose is soft with honey, wildflowers, a faint lemon zest and a distant muskiness is just becoming noticeable. Medium- to full-bodied, a honey texture and flavour surrounds the senses with a natural sweet edge balanced with a blend of pear and melba apple. The finish is warm in the throat coating the palate with remnants of smooth honey and apple now counterbalanced by an apple tartness. As before: 'A wonderful off-dry sipper and would be great with a mixed fruit and cheese tray or pair with a bento box of tempura shrimp and yam slices and sushi, or with split pea soup with ham bits or a dim sum selection.' My better half prefers a *dry pg which this is not... but I could linger over several glasses before and during a dinner of grilled whitefish or skewers of spiced shrimp. Went nicely with thickly sliced broiled ham and pan-seared green beans and mushrooms. Cellaring well and should continue to do so for several years.

CARMEN CHARDONNAY 2005, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #235663 $10.15 (Tasted March 24, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh pears on the nose with a hint of vanilla; medium-bodied, smooth and fruity; crisp citrus fruit in the finish. Serve with lobster; rich pasta dishes; lemon chicken." My notes: The label isn't referenced on the website and perhaps is a recipe designed for the 'international' market. A light golden colour crystal clear in the glass with a nose of passionfruit, delicate papaya and a hint of toasted almond. Medium-bodied, a slight creaminess and light flavours of melon pulp overriding a synthetic citrus tartness. Has a stone pit seam through an uninteresting acid and cream finish. Have with shaved meats, a brocoli dip, crockpot meatballs (ie, mild), an oyster tray or shrimp ring.... A commercial white that needs help as a drink-now. I wouldn't plan it as a meal white... also not cellarable and not recommended.

CONCHA y TORO FRONTERA CHARDONNAY 2006, Central Valley, Chile, 13.0%, D, #371716 $8.15 (Tasted March 24, 2007)

A General listing described as "Pale straw colour; fresh, clean citrus and melon aromas; dry, medium bodied palate with round, melon flavours and a well-balanced finish. Serve with lemon chicken." The website says "... Fruit forward and delicate with herb notes, tropical fruits and a hint of vanilla. Fresh, balanced and refreshing with a bit of sweetness. Long lasting. A quaffable white wine with distinctive varietal character. This wine is perfect with seafood, especially shellfish, as well as light fare such as pastas and poultry. Serve chilled." My notes: A Chilean screwtop! A light blond and crystal clean in the glass with a delicate aroma of clover honey. Crisp on the palate with flavours of straw, light honey and tart melon, medium-bodied and somewhat round. The straw and roundness carry the finish a short while. I didn't get the 'hint of vanilla' nor the 'tropical fruits'. A sipper looking for an hors d'oeuvre: bacon wrapped scallop pieces, fresh oysters, grilled bearded mussels, skewered chicken pieces, grilled halibut and chip dinner or creamy mushroom pastas. Could be taken for an unoaked chard or even a 'herbaceous' sauvignon blanc - a commercial drink-now and a value as a house white.

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