‘Do not expose Blanc II to bright light. Do not let Blanc II get wet. And under no circumstances should you feed Blanc II after midnight’
That’s the wonderful Gremlins reference on the back label of this new Chardonnay from Punt Road. Once again, I dip my lid to Tim Shand and the Punt Road team. You’ve done it again.
It wasn’t always that way, mind you. A few years back Punt Road seemed like just another small/medium Yarra winery, sourcing fruit from all over the Valley and making good wines without really pushing the boundaries. That’s all changed within the last year or so, with Punt Road returning to purely estate-grown fruit (as of 2015 vintage), whilst pushing for a new era of experimentation and innovation at the same time, all leading to an absolute golden era for the winery.
Winner, Most Improved Winery : Punt Road.
For this Punt Road Airlie Bank Yarra Valley Blanc II there was no shortage of boundary pushin’ either, the fruit sourced from one of Punt Road’s oldest Chardonnay blocks with the 3 tonnes of grapes split between two different parcels. One lot was destemmed and fermented on skins for 3 months, with no plunging or ‘cap immersion’, just natural ferment before basket pressing to old oak. The other parcel was fermented as whole bunches for two weeks and then basket pressed to old oak, with both parcels eventually combined and bottled without fining or filtering…
Actually, it’s worth quoting winemaker Tim Shand’s background notes here as they’re really interesting:
‘We have come a long way (and put in a lot of hard work) on bunch/skin fermenting whites. 2015 – with its unique phenolic ripeness across skins, seeds and stalks (due to an unusual cool spell in January), provided the perfect raw materials for this winemaking style. The mild season led to retention of a reasonable acid (especially malic). These wines often become very broad and flabby, so good to see line as well as texture. For the first time in our experience, the wines are savoury and elegant first, and bunchy/skinsy a distant second. Hopefully a wine where the bottle disappears into the glass, rather than acting as a conversation piece.’
For all that work this is susprisingly bright and vibrant, the style more about skin contact than oxidation. It smells of butter cake, old lemons and mothballs, leading to a palate showing an ever changing array of flavours ranging from honey lemon butter right through to grapefruit, the pithy, tannic finish complementing the surprising acidity nicely.
I do love that tannic drive, and even though this is polarising, the layers of flavour, length and complexity make this seriously interesting and enjoyable. The second and third glass satisfy, which is always the kicker with a challenging wine. It could do perhaps do with a little more fruit power, but otherwise this is utterly convincing (and very well priced). Best drinking: 2016-2020. 17.8/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $22. Would I buy it? Oh yes. Only problem is that it is only available from Blackhearts & Sparrows or Prince Wine Store.