Get a group of friends together and open a Yarra Valley Chardonnay next to an Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc to compare and contrast the aromas and flavours.
Australian wine has come of age. Time has indicated that certain grape varieties thrive in certain climates, soils and a confluence of other factors therewith. With that, producers are fine-tuning wine styles inflected with the personality of regions and their synergy with the best suited grape or grape varieties. In other words, winemakers are becoming more specialised and attuned to what grows best where.
Classic examples include Yarra Valley and its mineral-clad Chardonnay; Adelaide Hills and its zesty Sauvignon Blanc. It is next to impossible to mention one without the other, so inextricably intertwined are the identities of these regions and varietal expressions.
Chardonnay in much of Australia was once buxom, golden of hue, creamy and clad in heavily toasted oak. Today it is a different story. The grape is expressed across higher tones, with lower alcohol, a more sensitive use of oak and varying degrees of leesy complexity, often accentuated with the funk of natural yeast fermentation. Yarra Valley Chardonnay is at the vanguard, with a 'less is more approach' well suited to the cooler climate. One can expect delicate stone fruit aromas, a lively freshness and a dollop of high quality French oak for focus and a lick of spice.
Australian Sauvignon Blanc, too, was once starkly different from the higher quality expressions found today. Adelaide Hills' cooler, upper reaches tend to accentuate the zesty, herbaceous notes of the grape, bringing an energetic refinement to the wines. These mingle with aromas of greengage, mint, quince and tropical fruits. Oak is generally avoided to ensure a lively voice from soil to grape to glass.
Guest post by Ned Goodwin MW. Ned is a Sydney based sommelier, educator, show judge, consultant, TV wine show host and wine writer.