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Wine of the Week for week ending 15 April 2007
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Vavasour Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
Marlborough, New Zealand

How often is wine chosen solely by its label? Quite often, I imagine. More often when a bargain price is attached. Buying wine based solely on the label is like judging a book by its cover - and I, for one, have done that more than once. A book with a catchy title and fabulous graphics will draw in the eye. So you pick up the book to read the precis and the glowing reviews on the back cover. If that appeals then you open the book and read the first paragraph and if it is a good one, itís a hook that catches you, reels you in and makes you want to read more. You buy it (or borrow it if you are at the library) and start reading. Does it live up to expectations? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. But you know when you have found a good one and you will make sure you seek out more by the same author.

It's the same with wine, so often selected by the catchy name, the colourful graphics and the mouthwatering description on the back label. That's clever marketing. But you could be passing by a much tastier, classier wine in a not so eye-catching package. A wine where the real beauty is within. A wine with a taste you will remember, a wine whose name you will bookmark for future reference.

Vavasour bottle

Vavasour Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 is one of those wines. It doesnít leap out at you on the wine shop shelf. You will know it is Chardonnay, that part stands out, but the producer's name fades into the mustard-coloured background. Unless you know from past experience - or hearsay - that Vavasour makes brilliant Chardonnay, you have to get the wine into a glass and have a swirl, sniff and sip. One taste, though, and you will be hooked - because this is one mighty fine Chardonnay.

It's light lemon gold in colour with aromas of meal biscuits, stonefruit and spicy oak that carry through to the rich fat palate. It's a mouthfilling style, quite bright and tangy with citrus, tropical fruit, hints of pineapple and that underlying spicy, mealiness from the yeast lees combining beautifully with the lightly toasted oak. Then butter caramel emerges on the finish. It's smooth and creamy, powerful and long.

Unfortunately, when it comes to wine, not everything you read on the back label is true - most often in the taste description statements. In this case, however, a small error on Vavasour's part has the back label saying the Chardonnay is made from Awatere and Wairau Valley grapes. That was true of the previous vintage wine but in 2005 the fruit is 100% Awatere Valley, all hand-picked from a low yielding crop - low because of cool weather at fruit set time. A combination of Clone 95 (60%) and Mendoza - which adds that seductive richness - the grapes were whole bunch pressed and the juice transferred to French oak where 'indigenous' yeasts were allowed to carry out the fermentation. After 9 months in oak, with weekly stirring of the yeast lees, the wine was prepared for bottling.

Vavasour Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 adheres to the quality set by its predecessors, a five star wine to seduce the palate. It has 14.5% alcohol by volume, it's sealed with a screwcap and has a recommended retail price of NZ$26.

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© Sue Courtney
9 Apr 2007

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