New World White Wine of the Year 2007
|Our Correspondent||Aug 24, 2007|
New World White Wine of the Year 2007 Shaw & Smith M3 Chardonnay 2005 Adelaide Hills, South Australia Winery Profile Shaw & Smith is a family-run partnership between Brothers Mathew and Michael Hill-Smith (M.W.) and Cousin Martin Shaw, hence the name M3; no pun intended to BMW. Winemaker Martin Shaw is likened to Jeffrey Grosset for his uncompromising precision craftsmanship, augmented by the wine industry adroitness of Michael Hill-Smith, Australia's first Master of Wine (www.masters-of-wine.org). Building an enviable reputation with their benchmark succulent and racy sauvignon blanc they have also conquered chardonnay, arguably producing one of the finest in Australia. Incisive, pristine and restrained style oozing share class and easily mistaken for Grand Cru Chablis as far as structure and minerality if tasted blind. It merits 'New world white wine of the year' stylistically as the touchstone contemporary chardonnay, authentically expressive of its terroir as well as achieving outstanding price-quality rapport, outclassing many white burgundies and Californian chardonnays at two or three times the price. Terroir (=total vineyard environment) & Vintage Synopsis The high-altitude (around 600 meters) and cool growing conditions of the M3 vineyard, situated at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills underpins this wine, reflecting a much more austere and elegant style of chardonnay by comparison to other Australian regions. Illustrating this, the Adelaide Hills is significantly cooler — on average 4°C during the day and 8°C at night — than the Barossa and Eden Valleys to the north. Synergistic with great wines, this marginal climate and unique diurnal temperature extreme is pivotal to the substantially enhanced natural acidity, conjointly dry summers and autumn ripening conditions produces grapes with ideal fruit composition and concentrated flavor. Preceded by a cool, dry summer, followed by a long cool and dry autumn the 2005 vintage is excellent. Taking root in 1995 the M3 single vineyard is close planted with low yielding and exciting new Bernard clones from Burgundy, in soils comprising a sandy brown loam over red-yellow clay with some underlying shale. Winemaking Chardonnay begins its life as a wine of many parts, greatly influenced by the winemaker. In this instance both the primary and secondary fermentation (malolactic) including some wild yeast components, take place exclusively in small French oak barrels, 35-40% new, 60-65% one to two years-old. Weekly batonage (stirring) of the lees (yeast cells) and 10 months further maturation in oak contribute to a fuller, creamier mouth-feel and buttery and nutty flavors. Tasting Note An alluring bouquet of grapefruit, lemon-peel and citrus, hint of apricot, fresh cut apple amongst abstract secondary aromas of toasted almond and nougat-like elements, subtle oak nuances and intriguing caraway seed and cardamom spice, against a background of flinty graphite. Coiled tangy, zingy lemon edged entry to palate, very Chablis like structure, tightly bound then fleshing out more on the mid-palate with apricot and subtle peach flavors; seductive barrel ferment characters of buttered toast with cone honey and light creamy texture buildup with spicy oak yet, perfectly restrained, poised and seamless. Lingering intense citrus aftertaste and spice with flinty, impelling cold steel acidity (impressive 6.8 g/l acid) finishing savory, chalky and bone dry with protracted gravelly minerals.
Serving & Food Pairing
I would suggest serving this wine a touch cooler than other chardonnays to make the most of its vibrant acidity, around 8 degrees Celsius (47 Fahrenheit) particularly if alfresco. Use a wider bowl glass and allow plenty of time to breath opening a good 30 minutes prior to serving. The vibrant acidity and alacrity of this wine engenders an extra versatility and compatibility to spicy Asian cuisines where many chardonnays would not. No hesitation in pairing with Indian spiced poultry, seafood dishes, or deep-fried appetizers; Thai and Malaysian sweeter yellow curries with seafood, heavenly I would think with crayfish and Sri Lankan style yellow curry. Also tempting to experiment with Japanese cuisine, strong raw fish and miso stocks. At the risk of a cliché, I would be most happy sitting down to freshly-chucked oysters with this wine and envisage it would match to an almost infinite number of European influenced creamy, seafood and poultry dishes.
Longevity & Price Point
Consistently requires a minimum of two years bottle aging to show well and achieve harmonious integration of its aromas, flavors, wood tannins and yeasty characteristics, allowing fruit and minerals through. It is clearly crafted for the long haul, augmented by being sealed safely under screwcap and would easily see out 10 years in good cellaring conditions, building in complexity as it gains more bottle age. Fortuitously, Asia is generally a year or so behind current releases and there are stocks of 2005 still available. If the 2006 is released in your market, it is equally meritorious although ideally broached in 2008. At HK$225 bottle retail
in Hong Kong, S$53 in Singapore this represents outstanding value for money, given the vineyard provenance and artisan qualities. It would also be an intelligent choice on restaurant wine lists.
China: Palette Wines, Beijing, Tel: + 86 (10) 6585 3372 firstname.lastname@example.org
Hong Kong: Kedington Wines, www.kedwines.com
Indonesia: Commodore Trading, email@example.com
India: Brindco Sales, www.brindco.com
Japan: Farmstone, www.farmstone.com
Malaysia: Albert Wines & Spirits, Tel: 603 6276 3993 firstname.lastname@example.org
Singapore: Culina, www.culina.com.sg
Taiwan: Chateau Wines & Spirits, Tel: 886 2 2506 5875 email@example.com
www.shawandsmith.com. Shaw & Smith winery and cellar door is only 30 minutes drive from the city of Adelaide, the region is strikingly beautiful with its patchwork of vineyards, forests, beef and dairy farms, apple and pear orchards.
Curtis Marsh, The Wandering Palate
"Life is filling in time between meals... and a meal without wine could only be breakfast!"