Byrne Ballarat Chardonnay 2012 (Ballarat, Vic)
13%, Screwcap, $38
Do you know what comes to my mind when I think of Ballarat (this week at least)?
Road cycling specifically, for Ballarat is home to the Australian Road Cycling National Championships, held in the beginning of January every year (the Mens Criterium starts in 10 minutes or so).
For any serious/diehard cycling fan (ie me), the ‘nats’ are the most important Aussie cycling races of the calendar (alongside the TDU), which is why my thoughts are trained in a Ballarat direction this week.
There’s more to ‘The ‘rat’ (as the locals call it) than just decent annual bike races though, as there are a few handy local wines around too. Admittedly it’s still early days for the region, but with a climate sitting somewhere between Hobart and Launceston – and a growing network of skilled vignerons in town – there is much promise.
This Byrne Chardonnay comes from the 20 year old Myola vineyard, located at Coghills Creek on the northern edge of Ballarat and planted exclusively to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Alex Byrne – who plies his trade with Ray Nadeson at Lethbridge – is the man behind the Byrne label, cheekily noting on the Byrne website that he ‘only has two wines. This is enough, you can’t drink two at once. Certainly don’t mix them – that would be silly.’
Speaking of cheeky, the label for this Chardonnay is wonderfully clever too – a close inspection revealing that within the little blue swirls lie pictures of lemon, lime, wheat and oysters in a subliminal hint of what this tastes like (and what to drink it with).
No shortcuts on the production either, the grapes whole-bunch pressed and fermented wild in a mix of 1-4 year old barrels. After fermentation it was racked off its gross solids and returned to barrel until Feb 2013 when it was bottled.
I tasted this alongside the Long Road Chardonnay and gee what contrasting wines. The colour alone here is more golden, the nose and palate richer, fuller and thicker. You’d swear that the two wines had come from different planets…
In fact this may be a little too worked to be brilliant, with full malo, notably yeastiness and plenty of solids influence – it’s full tilt, almost old school Chardonnay in weight, the acidity tying up what is quite a big wine. Thankfully it is more trim through the finish than expected, the middle carrying all the real chunky bits, finishing quite clean and really rather long.
Ultimately this is a pretty impressive Chardonnay, even if I wish it was a little more trim. Bodes well for the future (of both Alex and Ballarat).
Score: 17.6/20, 92/100
Would I buy it? A one glass proposition.