Off to Adelaide in Southern Australia for this months’ tasting note, and to sample the Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise 2013 Chardonnay. The vineyards were originally established in 1894, but the modern day story starts in 1969 when two cousins (Greg and Roger Trott) re-built the abandoned winery from scratch, and produced their first wines in 1972.
Wirra Wirra takes its name from a local tribe who built a viewing platform (nicknamed The Jetty) to look over the majestic Scrubby Rise vineyards below (which are ironically flat and bereft of scrub). The charming front label artwork by Andrew Baines takes its cue from the fact that The Jetty overlooks a sea of vines as opposed to a body of water, and depicts a bowler-hatted man rowing a red boat through the vineyard.
The Scrubby Rise range are the entry level wines for Wirra Wirra, and I was drawn to try this Chardonnay in part due to the fact that they are clear to state that this is an unoaked version. Although heavily oaked Aussie Chardonnays are now firmly a thing of the past and to do an unoaked version is hardly the latest trend, if it’s clearly stated on the label as a taste cue, I find it interesting to see how the producer fills out the palate.
Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise Chardonnay 2013 – Adelaide, Australia 12.5% – £8.49
The colour of the wine is an inviting pale lemon, with slight green hints to the rim. The nose has a medium intensity of dense yellow tropical fruits, and I can pick up smoky tones and a buttery richness which lets you know that this is Chardonnay through and through.
The palate has a decent medium weight to it, and feels extremely round and mouth-filling. Chardonnay is a well-known neutral grape variety, and the fruit notes do indeed play second fiddle to the weightier butter and oil. This gives it a rich and full quality but it hits you first and slightly drowns out the clean lines of the fruit. What fruit I do detect is a continuation of the yellow tropical, such as melon and dried pineapple, along with the generous flesh of stoned fruits such as nectarine (the official notes say white peach, but I’ve never had one, so couldn’t say). There’s a slight touch of lemon citrus in the mix, and I will say that the juicy fruits and refreshing acidity counter balance the richness well.
The end palate and finish are then infused with touches of brown spice and a whiff of smoke. As the acidity drops away, a slight sour grapefruit note comes through, and indicates that this is a wine that is the sum of its parts, as opposed to a clean varietal. The finish is commensurately fairly long and brooding.
This is an interesting wine and if I didn’t know better, would have said that it had seen at least some older cask ageing. The official tasting notes state that this is a fresh and clean wine, but the net result to me based on this tasting was that the producer had carved a wine that is less about the fruit and more about the tertiary characters (not necessarily just woody notes, but also the rich cream from lees ageing, and the touches of nutmeg spices). Strange.
That said, this is an enjoyable entry level wine, with perceptible complexity for the (slightly above) entry level price, and potentially better with food (alas, I tried it on its own). Anyone looking for unoaked Chardonnay in the French style (even accepting the differences in climate) may, however, be disappointed.
Many Thanks to Tesco, Wirra Wirra and Gonzalez Byass for the opportunity to taste this wine.