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Wine of the Week for week ending 21 May 2006
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Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004
Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

I think it is a good thing to taste wines blind from time to time. It keeps the winetaster honest and makes sure there is no prejudice for or against a wine based on the name of the producer on the label. So not surprisingly a blind tasting of a line-up of Chardonnays earlier in the week produced a different result based on the rankings I would have given the wines if I ranked them by the hype associated with the producer. It just goes to show, it is what is in the glass that counts.

Top wine on the day was Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004 made from Mendoza clone grapes grown in Hawkes Bay. Lincoln is not a name that I would associate with the Top Ten chardonnay producers of New Zealand. I wouldnít even place them in the Top Twenty. So based on the label one might dismiss this wine from the outset. But based on sight, smell and taste, the wine in the glass could quite easily fill one of those positions. In fact it did just that at the Royal Easter Wine Show Awards judged in February when it was one of only 13 Chardonnays awarded gold.

So why doesnít the name Lincoln immediately set the bell of quality Chardonnay ringing? Perhaps because Lincoln has an association with the olden days, the days when Lincoln Road in Henderson, after which the winery is named, was the heart of the New Zealand wine industry and vineyards flanked the road on either side. Lincoln Vineyards was established in 1937, which makes it one of the oldest wineries in New Zealand still operating from the same location where it was established. But these days Lincoln Road is in the heart of suburbia - a busy thoroughfare choked with car fumes and traffic jams with shopping centres and petrol stations, industry and housing now established where grapevines once grew. Today there are no grapevines around the winery - the last of them were pulled out in 1998 - and grapes are sourced from elsewhere, such as Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough.

Another reason Lincoln doesnít ring the bell of Chardonnay quality is perhaps because of their marketing. I really donít see the hype associated with this winery that there is for much newer producers, some who have just come onto the scene.

However looking back through recent show results, it isnít really a big surprise that the Lincoln Chardonnay tastes so good because this is the 3rd vintage in a row to win a gold medal and there are a string of silver medals too. Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004 differs from the previous gold medal winning wines, though, because in 2002 and 2003 the grapes were sourced from Gisborne. In 2004 the grapes came from Hawkes Bay.

Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004 is bright, clean and clear in the glass with the hue of a heliodor gemstone. It smells complex and inviting with its sweet-fruited peachy scent enhanced by delicately toasty oak and savoury yeast lees. In the palate there's lots of oak but it is in perfect balance to the peach and melon fruit flavours with the addition of pineapple as it builds to a buttery creamy finish where butterscotch lingers on the long, savoury aftertaste. A very smart wine that is delicious either on its own or with food. We accompanied it with spicy fresh salmon kebabs that were melt in the mouth tender.

Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004 is made from 100% Mendoza clone Chardonnay grapes grown in one of the best seasons of the 21st century. The hand-harvested grapes were fermented in French oak barriques, of which 50% were new. After malolactic fermenation the wine remained in oak on its frequently stirred yeast lees for 12 months and then the best barrels were selected to produce this wine. It carries 13% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap.

It will cost in the vicinity of $27 a bottle. Lincoln do not sell in supermarkets but do sell to fine wine stores and obviously you can also buy this wine from Lincoln Vineyard's cellar door at 130 Lincoln Road in Henderson. They are open from 9am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, 9am to 12 noon on Saturdays and 12 noon to 5pm on Sundays. Find out more from Lincoln Vineyards website.

On Sunday, at a social gathering, I was lucky to taste the Black Barn Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2004, a trophy winning wine from Hawkes Bay. It immediately reminded me of the Lincoln Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2004, so if you like the Black Barn style, you'll love this.

© Sue Courtney
14 May 2006

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