De Bortoli, DB Reserve Chardonnay 2011 SE Australia

7 Mar 2014 by Jancis Robinson

From Aus$8.99, €9.60, £6.66

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Well, here's a surprise! An Australian Chardonnay from one of the worst vintages in living memory that I honestly think is great value. I wasn't very keen on the 2010 but this 2011 blend for
De Bortoli's DB ReserveDB_Reserve_Chardonnay_NV Chardonnay 2011 South Eastern Australia seems hugely much more sophisticated than the average wine carrying the generally lacklustre catch-all appellation South Eastern Australia.

Presumably that's because in fact only 44% of the fruit comes from (one particular vineyard in) the warm, inland Riverina region that qualifies for no appellation grander than South Eastern Australia. A good 37% of the fruit was grown in the relatively cool King Valley in Victoria and 19% came from the very smart Yarra Valley where Steve Webber (the last person filmed on the first video taken here just after the 2009 Yarra Valley bushfires) weaves his magic for De Bortoli - particularly for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

This particular wine was made at De Bortoli's rather unromantic Riverina winery in Bilbul, shown above and below - with particular reference to the solar panels that have been installed as part of a programme to reduce their carbon footprint. (This, incidentally, is where their famous sweet white De Bortoli Noble One is made.) In DB Reserve the Chardonnay was supplemented by 7% Sémillon ad 3% Sauvignon Blanc - not that I could tell when I tasted it as one of the wines in Majestic's 2014 spring offers. What I did write then was: 'Lots of leesiness and freshness. Much, much better and more interesting than most SE Australian Chardonnay. I'd love to know how they managed it. Is it really 100% Riverland fruit? Doesn't taste as old as a 2011 either…? Good Value'. I gave it 16 points out of 20 and recommend drinking it any time this year. 

As you can tell, I was really impressed by how tense and sophisticated this is considering that Majestic are selling it at £6.66 a bottle if two bottles are bought (the regular price is £9.99 a bottle which doesn't seem nearly such a bargain - 'twas ever thus). This is principally an export label aimed at Europe, including Scandinavia and the UK. It is not, alas, available in the US. But then poor old Australia is rather out of fashion with Americans (see my report on New York faddishness).

Bilbul_solar_installation_project_2013

Here's what De Bortoli have to say about the background to the wine: '2011 was a very difficult vintage with some of the largest rainfalls recorded in a growing season. However, the summer ripening period was cooler because of this rainfall. This led to long ripening periods and great flavour and acid balance, rarely seen in the Riverina region. All fruit is harvested in the cool of the night. No preservatives such as SO2 are added until bottling. Warm fermentation and extended lees contact are employed to give a wine full of flavour and structure. 14% of the wine has gone through malolactic fermentation naturally in barrel. 37% of the blend is fermented in American and French oak barriques for about two weeks. Wine is then left in barrel to mature on lees for 10 months. No new oak is employed. 12% of the blend was fermented with French oak staves.' Analysis is
13.1% alcohol, pH 3.35, total acidity 6.5 g/l.

I have a nasty feeling on the basis of past performance that this wine won't interest as many visitors to our website as our more obscure choices but I hope I am wrong as this wine really is a bargain.

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