Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2011

To be cruel for a moment, this is most unpromising on paper. Mixing Chardonnay, affordability and more than one region doesn’t usually get the wine lover’s heart racing, with some justification, at least historically. And before you get excited, this isn’t Giaconda Chardonnay hiding out in the McLaren Vale. However, it’s a good example of the sensitivity with which this sort of mainstream wine ought to be made, and makes a case for the relevance of cheap Australian Chardonnay in a world where such wines are the very definition of undesirable.

Its trick is to combine relative restraint with a certain flow and softness. This is a watercolour wine, one whose definition is hazy but whose colours are quite charming in a lazy, easy way. On the nose, some fresh citrus alongside soft peach and rockmelon. There’s a bit of nougat oak too, and perhaps some caramel. Complexity isn’t a word that springs to mind; there are several flavours but to see the wine on these terms is to miss its point.

The palate has such a relaxed flow over the tongue. It’s quite voluptuous and mouthfilling in a breast implant sort of way: fleshy but also a tad hollow. The fruit lacks sufficient intensity to fill out the wine’s ambitious dimensions, and one is left tasting flavour at the edges and a slight absence of such in the middle. The flavours that are here, though, are balanced and easy, with more white peach and nougat, and just a hint of butterscotch. It’s far from the perfect wine and undoubtedly made to a price point. There’s a sophistication of approach underlying this wine, though, which is easy to miss. How many cheap Chardonnays show vulgar dimensions, a lack of freshness, easy oak, or a reliance on malolactic fermentation? This wine avoids all these pitfalls and, in so doing, manages to be a very pleasant, pretty wine.

Not bad at all.

Chapel Hill
Price: $A16
Closure: Stelvin
Source: Sample

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