Having proudly been part of several of Aldi’s previous tasting panels it was inevitable that at some point I would come across a wine previously tasted. The last tasting note was prepared a full year and a half ago in April 2016 and so we’re a couple of vintages further forward and any assessment is far from a regurgitation of my earlier thoughts.
The Limestone Coast in the south eastern part of South Australia is clearly named after its Limestone base, which is exactly the right ground on which to grow Chardonnay. The free draining soil allows the vines easy access to water whilst not allowing them to become water-logged or damp, therefore keeping a low PH level and a fresh vibrant acidity. It is the same combination that gives us both the world famous wines of Burgundy and Champagne.
The magic is clearly working here too as both Decanter and the IWSC have bestowed awards upon the wine’s 2014 vintage. With the ‘Exquisite Collection’ a flagship in the Aldi wine range, the bottle comes smartly presented with a royal blue neck brace and screw cap, nicely off-setting the green glass colouring.
The label is printed on nicely textured paper and is clear and well-presented, although it does contain my pet-peeve; the signature ‘approval’ from ‘someone somewhere’, in this case chief winemaker Adam Eggins.
The wine was bottled in South Australia by well-respected family run winery Taylors, and imported in to the UK by a subsidiary of Burgundian wine royalty, Louis Latour.
Exquisite Collection Chardonnay 2016, Limestone Coast, South Australia, 13.5%, £5.79
The backlash days of ABC (anything but Chardonnay!) are long gone but, as if still weary of the burden, the first word that the back label summary says is ‘unoaked’ and it did get me wondering if makers of Aussie Chardonnay still feel the need to distance their product from the cheaper, mass-produced offerings of the past.
In colour this is a pleasing medium yellow with golden tints, but the real fun starts with the nose which is rich and full with an almost gloopy quality. Led by the clean, well ripened tropical pineapple, there’s a whiff of stony apricot to back it up.
As suggested by the nose, the palate is rich and full with an oily texture, well balanced by an upfront mouth-watering acidity. The fresh fruit seesaws between the yellow notes of tropical pineapple and honeysuckle, over to pippy green apple and freshly squeezed lime.
In terms of weight the palate has a nice creamy, buttery, peppery spiciness and I can imagine it being a wonderful match for a similarly weighted dish such as pasta carbonara. The pepper gives way to some white grapefruit on the end palate which adds a drying, bitter tone which frankly, overstays its welcome.
Not recalling any bitterness in the 2014 vintage I decided to check my notes and, sure enough, the end palate was fruit driven and long-lived, and was something I raved about in terms of quality.
A quick check on the vintage reports for both 2014 and 2016 for the region show that 2014 was the better of the two years with good sunshine fully ripening the fruit. 2016 would therefore naturally have fruit that wasn’t as bright as before and would contain trace elements of unripe characters such as apple pips and bitter grapefruit. I also noted with interest that a fellow customer review on the Aldi website called it out for being drier and not as ‘outstanding’ as the previous vintage.
Followers of biodynamics believe that certain days are better than others for tasting a wine, and I did ponder whether the time of year may have something to do with the overall success of the tasting. Tasting the 2014 on a bright and sunny day in early springtime yielded a wine that I fancifully described as reminiscent of ‘blue skies’ and yet this tasting left an impression as brooding as the dusky autumnal evening I conducted it on.
In summary, whilst not as immediately satisfying as the 2014, this is still a rich, ripe wine that will pay dividends when matching up to food. Another thing definitely worth a highlight is that, in the time between the two tastings the UK has seen an increased level of wine duty as well as pricing fluctuations from the uncertainty of Brexit, yet there has been no price change for this wine.
That on its own is frankly remarkable.
A customer favourite scoring 4.6 out of 5 on the Aldi website, my thanks go to AldiUK for supplying the bottle used in this tasting.