Brown Brothers Chardonnay 2008 King Valley

28 Jan 2011 by Jancis Robinson

From 74 Danish Krone, £8.99, Aus$15.95, €12.70, 19.50 Swiss francs, 73.90 Malaysian ringgit, and 660 Swedish krone for six bottles

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Last week's annual Australian tasting in London at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea was extremely well attended. It did feel like a get-together of the more vibrant members of the British wine scene, and there seemed to be a few more representatives from Australia than perhaps there were last year - although this is an impression rather than a quantified statistic.

Hopping from importer to importer can give a disjointed view so I concentrated on some of the themed tables and then went to Andrew Jefford's presentation of terroir-driven Australian wines (all of which seemed to come from relatively cool spots).

And talking of cool spots, one of the most interesting tables was devoted to Victorian Chardonnays. I was asked on Twitter recently to nominate the most burgundian Australian Chardonnays I could think of and, off the top of my head, immediately suggested Curly Flat and Bindi (now imported into the UK by Caves de Pyrène, who have had a recent rush of Australian blood to the head), both fine producers in Victoria's chilly Macedon Ranges. What we were presented with at the Saatchi Gallery was a range of wines going upwards in price from, variously, South Gippsland, Mornington Peninsula, Goulborn Valley, Yarra Valley and King Valley.

I gave my highest score, 17 for what it's worth, to a couple of very fine wines from the cool, maritime Mornington Peninsula - Stonier Reserve 2008 and Yabby Lake 2008 - but they retail for well over £20 a bottle. (I see, incidentally, that a few of these wines were also shown in last year's blind comparison Australian Chardonnays v the rest in which the wines were pitted against some very respectable non-Australians indeed.)

The wine I kept coming back to - and gave the relatively high score of brown_bros_chard16.5 to - was the cheapest on the table, Brown Brothers Chardonnay 2008 King Valley. The old family company Brown Brothers showed two 2008 Chardonnays from the high-altitude King Valley, on the way to Victoria's ski country from Melbourne. The richer one, Banksdale, was well made and perhaps a little more like the robust Australian Chardonnays of old. But I thought the less expensive, less obviously oak-influenced wine which retails in the UK at £8.99 was absolutely delicious. Very clean, fresh and bracing in an almost Chablis style but with attractively maturing fruit and with great focus and zip to it. I see that they are currently selling the 2010 (pictured) on the Brown Brothers website but honestly this 2008 tastes as though it is in its prime and there is absolutely no hurry to drink it.

In the UK it's available at £8.99 from Grape & Grain, 51 The Broadway, Haywards Heath, tel 01444 456 217, and also here from Tanners of Shrewsbury, although confusingly Tanners also list the more expensive Bankside 2008 Chardonnay (at £10.45) - a wine that's also available from Waitrose Wine Direct. 

This wine of the week is also widely available in Europe according to wine-searcher.com, which lists stockists in Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Holland. Alas it does not seem to available in the US, although there is still some in retail distribution in Australia.

This wine seems to me to be admirably well priced evidence of the new slimline style of Australian Chardonnay that should last in bottle so much longer than its fatter antecedent. Go, Aussies. Except on the cricket pitch.

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