We could just take the ripe, flavour-filled grapes, press them and put the juice into a stainless steel tank, add some cultured yeast and let it ferment, then bottle it soon after. This would be the ‘norm’ for a chardonnay that is made without oak influence.
But we choose to do it differently because we believe our technique makes a more interesting and more delicious wine.
Our Chardonnay is made from the Mendoza clone grown on our Chaytors Road vineyard, close to the coast at the eastern end of the Wairau Valley. The free-draining soils and moderating influence of the nearby ocean combine to produce concentrated fruit with a fresh acidity.
The grapes are hand-picked and arrive at the winery in the early morning. They are gently crushed and about 85% of the resulting juice is run into a stainless-steel tank. 15% goes into old French oak barrels (you can’t smell or taste any oak influence, the oak is too old for that), to provide added complexity and texture.
But the real trick to this wine is the use of wild yeasts. This means we use yeast that is naturally present on the skins of the grapes, in the vineyard and in the winery, rather than buying an ‘off the shelf’ cultured yeast to inoculate the juice and trigger the alcoholic fermentation. In addition, this technique would usually take place when barrels are used, whereas with this wine we have undertaken a wild ferment in stainless steel.
Finally, rather than rushing the finished wine into bottle, we let it stay in tank (and the old barrels) for a further five months, sitting on the yeast lees. Lees are essentially dead yeast cells that slowly drop to the bottom of the vessel in which the fermentation has taken place. This technique serves to add texture to the wine and a richness of flavour – gentle mealy, creamy, almost toasty and nutty characters than you don’t expect in a wine that has no ‘oak’ influence.
The result is an imminently drinkable, smooth, weighty and textural Chardonnay that is 100% true to its varietal as there is no oak flavour to mask it.
Enticing lemon, beeswax and subtle stonefruit aromas lead to a palate which is dry and balanced with gentle acidity and lovely concentration. Citrus notes are combined with some savoury lees notes and there is a lovely texture to this wine, but without it being overpowering.
Delicious now as it shows the purity of the fruit character with the balance of fresh acidity, but the wine will continue to develop favourably in bottle for two to three years.
Delicious on its own, or to accompany seafood, creamy risottos and pasta dishes, fresh salmon, soft white cheeses and chicken.
Alc 13%, pH 3.3, TA 6.3, RS 0