So this sample turned up with a bag of Easter eggs. Yes, Easter eggs. Literally a bright orange box, with a bottle of wine and an array of chocolates.
While that sentiment is nice – the bottle turned up Easter week – it’s also ethically questionable. A chocolate bribe, if you want to look at it like that. Or am I reading to much into it? I know that Jancis (Robinson) has mentioned activities like this as a grey area. Unnecessary at the least.
What’s more annoying is that the press release in the box has minimal details of any usable kind. No RRP. No winemaking notes. Scant info, especially given this is a brand new label.
Speaking of the label – well, my picture doesn’t do it justice. It’s bright orange. Not quite hi-vis, but certainly traffic cone orange. It’s distinctive, but quality wine it does not scream…
Also, proudly stamped on the front of the label of this Marko’s Vineyard Chardonnay is the word ‘oakless’, which is clearly a proclamation that this didn’t see an oak barrel of any kind, tapping into a perceived consumer distaste for oak barrels.
But hasn’t that ship sailed? Have we suddenly been transported back to 2001, when dull unwooded Chardonnay from the likes of Goundrey was unreasonably popular?
Whatever the intention, it’s a bizarre move in 2016, when ‘subtle oak’ is most likely cited on a back label. Even basic AC Chablis – the hero of unwooded Chardonnay – sees a barrel or two in the modern era, largely in a bid for texture.
Stylistically, this is very much in the vein of the better unwooded Chardies (which could be an oxymoron), the developing nose showing white peach and some tropical fruit, the lean palate lifted up by clear lees work to give some flavour, the acidity a freshener on the finish.
It’s not a bad wine, even if simplicity is the name of the game. Indeed that’s the biggest issue with unwooded Chardonnay – it’s not exactly complex. This at least has some leesy weight, though there isn’t that much going on beyond that (and developing quickly).
What really bites about is that this could be so much better. The fruit comes off the Hill Smith family vineyard, planted in ’94, that used to be the main Shaw & Smith M3 vineyard. Having tasted the M3 Chardonnay over the years it’s quite obvious of the possibilities with a little more winemaking, and the acidity feels spot-on.
Ultimately then this is a frustrating wine. The raw material is clearly quality, but the execution – including the unwooded bent and the packaging – seems completely incongruous.
I hate ‘putting the boot in’ when it comes to new labels and producers, but this just doesn’t work. Best drinking:2016-2017. 15.5/20, 85/100. 13%, $27?. Would I buy it? No.