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Chardonnay is back in fashion

Chardonnay is back in fashion

Michael Cooper’s Best White Wine Buy of the Year - Spy Valley 2011 Chardonnay

‘Chardonnay is back in fashion,’ says Blair Gibbs, general manager of one of Marlborough’s most successful family-owned wineries. Given the top quality and stunning value of Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2011, it certainly deserves to be.

In Michael Cooper’s 21st annual Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines it states that for its modest price, this is an unexpectedly refined and elegant wine. The bouquet is highly fragrant; the palate is fresh and finely poised, with strong, ripe citrus-fruit and peach flavours, hints of nuts and butterscotch adding complexity, good acidity and a long, harmonious finish. At $22.95, it’s a steal – and if you visit the winery cellar door, you can snap it up for $19.95.

A gold medal winner at the Spiegelau International Wine Competition 2012, judged in Blenheim, Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 is enjoyable now, but also a definite candidate for the cellar. Gibbs describes it as ‘a very fresh and vibrant, tightly structured wine with lovely acidity. The vintages back to 2001 and 2002 are still looking good.’

Spy Valley’s top Chardonnay, labelled ‘Envoy’ ($40), is a Burgundian style, very elegant and minerally, with impressive structure and intensity. ‘The grapes for both wines are grown to the same standard,’ says Gibbs. In the 2011 vintage, some of the barrels earmarked originally for the Envoy label have been blended into the mainstream Spy Valley bottling, elevating its complexity and richness.

The grapes were estate-grown at two sites – the sweeping Johnson Estate Vineyard in the lower Waihopai Valley, and the densely planted Outpost Vineyard, on a steep, west-facing hill slope in the Omaka Valley. Under the guidance of viticulturist Adam McCone, the fruit was all hand-harvested in ripe condition with high natural sugar levels in the berries (23 to 24.5 brix).

At the winery, Paul Bourgeois – Spy Valley’s chief winemaker since 2007 – and Kathy-Lee Sowman fermented and matured the Chardonnay for a year in French oak casks, with some use of indigenous (native) yeasts. They describe the bouquet as possessing ‘a sweet mix of ripe citrus and blossom notes, oatmeal and oak spice’. On the palate, ‘the texture shows off the fine acidity and ripe citrus-fruit flavours from vintage 2011. Barrel influences impart a creamy texture.’

Spy Valley Wine suggests drinking this very classy, bargain-priced Chardonnay now, or cellaring it for up to five years. Gibbs enjoys it by itself (‘it’s pretty tasty’), or with chicken and fish dishes with rich sauces.


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