First saw wine made at age 7, became a Master Gardner and now my favorite plant is Vitis vinifera. Published wine reviewer, teach wine appreciation at the local school district. And at my old age completed some WSET levels just because I love all things wine. I pour wine for various distributors, have worked with chefs pairing wine and food at corporate events and do private home parties too. Between events, I meet with winemakers in various states and countries.
perceives differences; genius, unity”….. William Butler Yeats
Recently, I had an opportunity
to meet with Neil McGuigan of McGuigan Wines from Hunter Valley, Australia.In addition to the “Mc” prefix of his last
name, I was drawn to his wine being from Australia because it was from Australia.Fact is, with such famed areas as Margaret
River, Yarra Valley, McLaren Vale, Barossa Valley, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra,
Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Hunter and others, what’s not to like about the
potential of Australian wine?
But it can be found. A sufficient
amount of head busting plop became popular here from that country (and no, I
will not mention label or labels). Enough
so, that it turned me off to the wines in general, though I should know better
and do.Some of the best Cabs and Syrah (Shiraz)
in the world have come from there. So has some delightful Riesling. But I’m not
alone in that experience.
Then too is the reality that
I’m an “old world” guy.That’s not to be
admitted by wine reviewers, but I value truth over popularity and maintain that
we all suffer, to some degree, by that benchmark that first impressed us as to
what constitutes the makings for “quality” wine (see http://www.winemizer.net/2014/12/wine-reviews.html).
Australia is the innovative capital of
wine production after all.From
viticulture, to closures, to label design, Australia is the current “first” in
things. Enough said.Hopefully,
intellect and reason triumph over emotion and I can freely admit that it did so
upon tasting this 2016 Chardonnay “The Plan”.
I feel compassion for any
winemaker who takes on Chardonnay to begin with. After all, with people so divided over and
absolute about their preferences, I don’t feel much guilt over those of mine
already admitted. Oaked, not oaked? All
stainless with no malolactic? Stop
it! Chardonnay itself is rather a
neutral grape and benefits from some degree of coaxing. Besides, there should
be room for different styles because you will undoubtably be required to match
different styles with different meals.
McGuigan hit a bullseye on the
balance target with his Chardonnay. It works, for me, as a versatile wine that
can be enjoyed on so many different occasions. The wine shows elegant stone
fruit and a touch of creaminess, or as McGuigan says, “all part of the
plan”. Without knowing the price point,
I tasted the wine and was impressed by its aromatic complexity: quince, kiwi,
lime crème. Tropical and floral aromatics, lemony acidity ….. a creamy palate,
and all in one glass. Just a touch of
vanilla oak, more like a grace note, in the background balancing the citrus.
Some of the wines sampled at the tasting. Oh, the sacrifice!
100% Chardonnay, about 25%
undergoes malolactic fermentation.
Extended lees contact contributes creaminess. And “light use of oak”
means the use of staves, not new French oak barrels. But before the snobs among
us recoil, I suggest they taste this wine because, ultimately, it’s what’s
produced, what is in the glass that matters.
My take is that McGuigan has zeroed in on preferences for balance, but
not via compromise. Everything about
this wine bespeaks finesse, delicacy and subtlety. McGuigan explains that it’s all about
“oxidizing sulfur.” I get his point, but
it’s simpler to just trust my taste buds. They told me the wine is fresh, but
not overly acidic. Among us older folk,
that means you won’t get “reflux” after a second glass. And a second glass is easy to want. It’s creamy but not heavy. It’s offers fruit and texture but is not too
weighty or forward.
Apparently, I’m in good
company in this assessment. “The Plan”
Neil McGuigan (l) and The Mizer
wines are among the best-selling wines in Australia with four expressions:
Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and a Red Blend. McGuigan has been awarded “International
Winemaker of the Year” four times (a record) by the International Wine &
Spirits Competition in London. Additionally, McGuigan Wines has been awarded
the “Australian Producer of the Year” in 2009, 2011 and 2012. A red, produced by McGuigan, is the #1
selling wine in Australia. And now,
McGuigan wines has come to the States.
Many a good Chardonnay is made
around the world and I wouldn’t purport to opine which is “best.” All palates, as I have often said, are
personal and right for the owner of that palate. But I can say that not many a Chardonnay
offers all that McGuigan’s “The Plan” does and certainly not at a suggested
retail price of $11.99. Perhaps Yates
would approve. The “Plan” Chardonnay has found a common ground that just might be
able to unite the Chardonnay camps.
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