Chardonnay: Get to know the flavours of this gorgeous grape



Get to know the flavours of this gorgeous grape

You’ve no doubt tried Chardonnay, the most well known of any white varietal and no doubt think it’s a wine you know. But in the Margaret River region you may discover a different side to this popular drop.

For the Margaret River Makers video series we caught up with some of the regions most respected winemakers. We asked them to give us the lowdown on what they think makes Margaret River Chardonnay such an icon of the region. Here’s a taster from three of our winemakers.

Virginia Willcock, Winemaker, Vasse Felix

“Margaret River Chardonnay has evolved significantly in the last ten years. When you drive through and taste Chardonnay from many different producers you have such an array of style, from the elegant tight lines of refined oak treatment, always complex; right through to the more powerful very full bodied, beautiful, deep, rich Chardonnay. So you’ve really got to find your producer.

It is one of the most complex and gorgeous varieties that takes on more of its environment. Many people talk about it as a “chameleon variety”. You put that chardonnay juice in an environment and it takes on the shape of that environment. Now the beauty of Chardonnay here is that it has that wonderful round shape, it has the beautiful texture of Chardonnay. It’s mouth coatingly beautiful. We have intensity, amazing power in our Chardonnay, yet we still have a beautiful elegance and line. So you get an elevated flavour sensation, yet its mouth coating.”

Vanya Cullen, Winemaker, Cullen Wines

“You have different flavours from different sub-regions. From Wilyabrup it’s more citrussy, a bigger style, with a little bit of dried pear and fig and then if you go further south you get a lot of grapefruit and a little bit of dried pear again. You’ll find a whole different structure and a lightness in the wine further south. A bigger style from here in Wilyabrup. But that varies too with the maker as well.

Traditionally we take our lead from Burgundy, because it’s on some level the Holy Grail. It’s about making that wine but with a sense of place here. I see that as being, in its best form a sense of the flower, the fruit and the earth and what comes in with that is the minerality. And the minerality is the acid. The acid line drives the flavour through your palate and gives that compatibility with food, particularly with chardonnay because it is a wine that can cross over red and white wine flavour profiles. It is one of the great wines of Margaret River.”

Bruce Dukes, Winemaker, Domaine Naturaliste

“The current style of Chardonnay in Margaret River is more based on a style and philosophy of farming the fruit, harvesting at quite moderate levels of ripeness, so that the grapes have beautiful perfumes, can attain their natural acidities and balances. This makes for quite soft, approachable wines. Part of the challenge is that we can pick at the right level of ripeness for their style and carry the wine through; carry the fruit through to the finished wine without having to overwork it.”

Author Max Brearley

Max Brearley is a food writer, critic, consultant and host working with The Australian, The Guardian, Halliday, Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Truffle Kerfuffle, Conde Nast Traveller and delicious. to name just a few. A passion for a good yarn and great produce has seen him forage for native foods in the north west of WA, follow abalone from ocean to plate in the south west and dig for black truffles in the towering Southern Forests. He’s also been known to cast a critical eye over a meal or two for The Australian’s annual Hot 50 Restaurants and delicous., as well as producing written, visual and event content for organisations across Australia and globally. Whilst a proud Yorkshireman; he’s been moving south for much of his life. Relocating from London to Perth in 2012, a move to the southwest soon followed, where life girt by sea and vines is more than agreeable. Instagram: @max_brearley / Twitter: @maxbrearley / Web:

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