Study has been slow going, worse strangely for having had bigger blocks of free time I could be devoting to it. Somehow the panic that normally pushes me into serious study hasn’t quite hit yet, and so I go on slowly reading entry after entry but without that fervor and sadly without the retention that I enjoy when the times are really tight. No matter, things are roughly on track still even if I’m still just not feeling it.
Fortunately tonight we opened a very nice bottle of wine and that’s taken my mind off the material still not internalized. I cooked up a lemon and basil risotto and found just the wine to go with it. It’s the Wolf Blass White Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2003.
So Wolf Blass is more than a man, more than a winemaker, more than a businessman. He’s an icon. He has a personal story of surviving World War II as a child, learning to make wine, working in the trade and eventually arriving in Australia to see his fortune. It’s been told so many times that it’s almost reached the level of a creation myth. He built a successful company to the point that if you’ve been in a large wine shop anywhere in the world, you’ve seen his wines. To this day he continues to be a strong force in the trade, with controversial opinions on the state of wine industry and what it’s doing wrong.
Wold Blass has a huge range of wine, from the very affordable to the extremely pricey. They tend to be colour coded, from red at the entry level up through yellow and gold in the middle and grey, black and platinum at the high end. They’re all very well made, though obviously the more you pay, the better they get.
This wine is special in that it’s a White Label, which is sold largely at cellar door, though I’ve seen it on a restaurant wine list once or twice. I believe the theme of the White Label is that it is wines (Chardonnay and Riesling are all I’ve seen so far) that are released for sale after much more ageing than is typical. I bought this 2003 from cellar door this past year, which would make it 8 years old when it was sold. Not typical at all, particularly for a white wine, and especially not considering how massive the Wolf Blass operation actually is.
So while there’s wine the world round, this is the third wine I’ve featured from the Adelaide Hills. I’ve neglected much of the wine world, and look forward to getting through the rest of the syllabus, but the Adelaide Hills are near and dear to my heart, and they’re producing so many nice wines these days that I expect they’ll continue to feature prominently. I feel especially bad I haven’t tasted anything from New Zealand recently, so I’ll have to sort that out.
Anyway, this wine in particular is showing very well. Some wines are made to age. A reasonable drinking age for a decent Bordeaux is supposedly ten years. Vega Sicilia Unico is typically not even released until it’s ten years old, and has potential to age for far longer. Vintage Ports can go on for many decades. While a good Sauternes will outlive a person, most white wines though are less commonly thought of as candidates for ageing. Riesling certainly ages well, as do some Marsannes, but Chardonnay is a bit tricky. Some age well, while the vast majority are made in a “drink now” style. So the notion of selling a Chardonnay that already has 8 years under its belt is somewhat daunting – you have to be pretty sure it’s not gone south. This one certainly has indicators of age, but it hasn’t lost anything.
The colour has moved toward gold, which I think is a good thing. I think there’s a Pantone somewhere for what colour the industry thinks consumers want or expect a white wine to be. I think the WSET describes it as pale lemon green, or lemon with green highlights. It’s a fine colour, but boring when every white wine is the same colour. This one is a medium gold.
On the nose it’s clearly seen some oak, and there’s a scent for which I need another word. I smell it now and again on white wines, and the thing that comes to mind is cream of mushroom soup. Unfortunately, that’s not how it smells to anyone else. I think terms that are acceptable would be creamy, with a bit of cheese. I think it’s most likely malolactic fermentation results that I’m tasting, and while cream of mushroom soup is not the most pleasant way to describe it, it’s actually a very nice smell, along with plenty of oak and some zesty citrus.
The palate is equally nice – it’s full and rich, with lemon, oak, and butter. It’s slightly warming, though only 13.5%. What’s notable to me is that there aren’t any honeyed notes that I might expect from a wine this age. The colour is gold, but not tending to amber. It’s very fresh and crisp despite its age. This is a very good wine, and I’m glad I have some more.
Clear and bright, medium gold with thick legs on the glass.
Clean, and developing with medium-plus intensity. Notes of oak, citrus, cream, and a hint of cheese.
Dry, medium-plus intensity, medium acidity, no tannins, medium-plus alcohol, medium-plus body, with notes of lemon, cream, oak, limes, and some nuttiness. The finish is nutty with a medium-plus length.
This is a very good wine, with intensity of flavour and a very solid mouth feel. The age has brought out developed characters in the form of nuttiness, but not at the expense of the fresh, crisp citrus. It’s a very full wine, from the body to the flavour intensity to the alcohol, but the elements hold together well. Slightly higher acidity would have moved it into the exceptional category, but it’s still very good. I would say drink now, though it will keep and possibly develop some honey characters over the next few years.