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Sunday 2 June 2024

Hill-Smith Family Estates Chardonnay Tasting

I recently had the pleasure of joining an online tasting of Chardonnays from across the Hill-Smith Family Estates portfolio, joining winemakers Heather Fraser (Ringbolt & Yalumba), Marc van Halderen (Heggies Vineyard) and Clive Jones (Nautilus Estate) along with other invited wine media.


Each wine was selected on the basis of representing the Terroir from which the fruit is drawn. Each at a similar price point, around the $30 or so mark. One observation I made - and refer here - is how little oak was mentioned with respect to being a significant to winemaking, instead the fruit being allowed to shine - reflective of that desire to exhibit wines of terroir.


Yalumba Samuel's Collection Eden Valley Chardonnay 2022 2022 $28 13%
I noted during the tasting that the wine sees 50% stainless and 50% oak, the former to demonstrate leanness for a wine made in a deliberate and laid back style. Fruit is from an established vineyard, some twenty years average age.

Pale straw, fig and spice. Supplemented with stonefruit and subtle vanilla notes. An easy going and approachable Chardonnay from a mild and even vintage. 90


Heggies Vineyard Estate Chardonnay 2023 $36 13%
From a vineyard planted to Chardonnay and Riesling (2/3rd 1/3). The Chardonnay is predominantly Mendoza clone (for those inclined) along with a good mix of other clones. Winemaker Marc van Halderen offered that as a brand they're seeking to bring a revival back to Heggie's Chardonnay.

Residual oak showing, not heavy handed. More overt and textural, broader in profile - certainly in comparison to the leaner Yalumba Samuel's Collection. There's a generosity of appeal; partial lees stirring occurs every 4-6 weeks to build an element of texture.

Citrus, vanilla bean and a doughy edge here. Gentle cleansing, grapefruit acidity through the finish. 91


Nautilus Marlborough Chardonnay 2022 $36NZ 13%
Clive Jones has been the winemaker at Nautilus for 26 years. Fruit is from a vineyard purchased in 1993 (the fruit having first been contracted in 1989).

This is the only Chardonnay made by Nautilus, some 80 barrels in total. Fruit is picked by clone, across 3-4 different picks. It's entirely barrel fermented, a little lees stirring once dry.

Grilled nectarine with an underlying nougat element. Spiced, with a vibrancy to the wine, an energetic expression. Creamy expression through the mid-palate, custard apple like, before a spine of refreshing acidity. 93


Ringbolt Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2023 $36 13.5%
After the long-held asociation with Cabernet Sauvignon, winemaker Heather Fraser was keen to explore Margaret River Chardonnay. a long
standing grower had some Chardonnay fruit. It's drawn off two blocks: 50% Burgundian 96 - seeing 100% Malo in barrel - and 50% GinGin (AKA Mendoza) - seeing no Malo. The finished wine is composition of everything produced.

Ripe stonefruit, nougat and toast. Delicate citrus cascading, initial palate flow. Peach, nougat. It sees
- 10% new oak; balance is 1-5yo French Barriques. Slight briny, minerally edge on the lead-in to the palate; bitter lemon and grapefruit zest. Lovely drying length. 92

With thanks to Hill-Smith Family Estates (Lauren Hampel, Heather Fraser, 
Marc van Halderen, and Clive Jones).


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