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Friday, 8 October 2010

Croftwood Estate, Horseshoe Bend Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia, 2008 - a deconstruction

This classy Aussie Chardonanny is possibly the best of my "Discovery" wines from Laithwaite's - it's £5.99 plus delivery which I think is decent value. But first some history ...

Back in his 1999 wine guide, Oz Clarke writes about the then-growing number of old world wines dressing themselves up in new world colours - wines in angular bottles with arty labels calling themselves gully-this or creek-that but which, on closer inspection of the back label, turn out to be overpriced Romanian Pinot Noir or Loire Chardonnay trading on New-World chic.

That was then - if some of the recent Aussie wines I have been having are anything to go by, terroir is back in fashion and the people in charge of wine marketing are doing their best to conjure up a sense of place. Certainly the provenance of our food (and wine is a food - just ask Gianpaolo Paglia) is moving up the agenda for many people - my local Asda has had an East Anglian produce section for some time now.

An idyllic horshoe river bend
And so this wine declares itself to be from Croftwood Estate's Horseshoe Bend and only then shyly informs you that it's a Chardonnay, before finally letting you know that it is from no more a specific region than South Eastern Australia. You then have to turn to the back label and read through the tasting note before finally learning that it is produced by McPherson Wines, a family-run company begun in 1968, whose Shiraz (also from Laithwaite's) I tried a while ago.

But back to the front label where the Croftwood Estate name somehow conjures up the image of noble, honest-yet-rugged farming folk in an idyllic, pastoral setting by a lazily meandering river - I can almost hear the bird song echoing across the valley, the orchestra about to strike up Beethoven's sixth symphony.

A typical gastropub interior
The typeface is a slightly feminine, hand-written-style script suggesting both individuality and care - the coat of arms says "heritage" and the two-tone label design is clean, simple, unfussy and classy in a gastropubby sort of way - I'm modern and unpretentious, it seems to say, but I'm also sincere and I care about quality.

Classy, self-confident, individual - this seems designed to appeal to the discerning urban drinker, but one with an artistic streak, the kind of person who watches Grand Designs, say.

But what does the wine actually taste like ? Well, it's actually rather good in fact, and certainly good value - unusually restrained and complex for an Aussie Chardonnay, it has lots of toasty oak and crisp tropical fruits on the nose; there is a refreshing, smooth, mouth-filling and buttery palate, with more good, well-balanced ripe tropical fruit, some gingery spice and a good mineral backbone. Good length with a hint of residual fruit sugar, whilst the finish itself is dry and crisp with some gentle tannic grip.

The Laithwaite's website describes it as "ultra-fresh ... new wave ... crisp ... less oak-driven"; that strikes me more as the scribblings of someone who has sat in on a focus group and heard that nobody seems to like oaky whites any more than a proper tasting note.

Oaked Chardonnay of any sort is a great food match - this would work well with roast white meat, oily fish, pretty much anything in a creamy sauce as well as my all-time favourite match, Thai green curry.


Laithwaite's - http://www.laithwaites.co.uk/

McPherson Wines - http://www.mcphersonwines.com.au/

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