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Chardonnay: A drink of two rivers


Posh Chardonnay? Whitey compares two 2016 releases: one from WA’s Margaret River wine region and the other from alongside Tasmania’s Derwent River.

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Moss Wood Wilyabrup Margaret River Chardonnay 2016
($65; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

Toasty and roasted like cinder (or honeycomb) toffee, this aroma seems unlikely for a wine of such junior age and modest alcohol with a big number like that on the most important little sticker. It also has a hint of rubbing alcohol, or a liniment approaching wintergreen, and Lucas’ Papaw Ointment.

If there’s an obvious fresh fruit, which there isn’t, I suspect it’d be along the lines of ripe pineapple or jackfruit, but while it reaches in that direction, it never quite gets there. Then again, maybe this train already passed that station, in which instance it went too quick. To drink, it’s gooey and gloopy. If you don’t like acid, this could be a reassuring, perhaps even comforting wine. It’s soft. Caramel.

Unless you’re talking of the stripes in the ticking cloth of the old feather mattress cover, it’s not what my colleagues would call linear wine, but more like the feathers and fluffy down inside that sack. It’s a sort of dry wine for the sweet wine lover or the Yellow Chartreuse fetishist or Strega nut. It doesn’t make me hungry, but it handled well the eggs of some Mensa-level Rhode Island reds fried runny with melted tart cheddar, grilled botrytis-infected tomatoes, fresh tarragon and Trinidad scorpions.

The poor thing was unlucky in that while I tasted it a bottle of Domaine La Serre Languedoc Picpoul de Pinet 2015 sat open in the fridge. This unoaked south-of-France slice of flesh seemed to be all the things the Moss Wood didn’t quite achieve and it’s $12 a bottle at Vintage Cellars. Grrrrr.

Stefano Lubiana Tasmania Chardonnay 2016
($48; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap)

This is a fine linear wine: clean, bright, tight and Chardonnay-like. It has the acrid dusty reek of smashed bluestone and dry hempen theatre flies. It prickles the nose and makes it twitch. It has hints of pear and white furry peach, very lightly poached and drenched in pale zabaglione with fresh juniper berries.

It is a dainty, pointy, determined drink of a finesse scarcely reached by this variety anywhere outside of Burgundy. It has the appropriate corset of fine French oak, supportive, but only just on. It makes me think of lots of food, like yellow squid curry, kedgeree, big wild chicken in cider with shallots and tarragon, or fresh marron whole on the coals. It makes me dribble.

That’s the bouquet. The swallowing part is all that, with a neat little puddle of butterscotch and barley sugar left sitting innocently in the tiny dub in the middle of the tongue, while the sides of that lovely muscle twitch and ooze with the tickle of the acid. I love a tickle of acid. And then there’s the faintest hint of a dry-ish marmalade of cumquat, bergamot and ginger lurking around so furtively you can’t resist taking another modest slurp just to make sure. Yep, they’re all there. There, there.

This wine is certified organic but Steve and Monique Lubiana apply biodynamic principles and methods to pretty much everything they grow, make and ingest there in their heaven on the Derwent.

If this came from Burgundy, you could double or treble that price. She’s a baby, but a bewdy.

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