From £9.99, AU$17.99, €15.95, 18.50 Swiss francs, 4,287 Japanese yen
In keeping with the stories of seminal wines we have been publishing recently, here's one which is seminal for me.
It's not the bottle that first opened my eyes to the wonder of wine, nor was it discovered lurking in the cobwebbed cellars of a distant relative's country seat. However, it has been one of the most significant wines in my career, and I was delighted to find that the current vintage tastes better than ever.
The distinctive vine-leaf label caught my eye on my very first day working for Majestic Wine as a trainee manager in their Harrogate branch back in 2001. I remember picking up the bottle and thinking that the producer sounded like a cross between a kangaroo and a gorilla. Their Shiraz was always the best-seller, but it was the Chardonnay that captured my palate.
Back then, their Chardonnay fruit came from McLaren Vale, and consequently the style tended to be big and rich with tropical fruit flavours and plenty of sweet oak influence, as was the fashion at the time. Yet it was far more nuanced, concentrated and complex than the big brands such as Lindemans Bin 65, comfortably justifying its £8 price tag. It was in many ways my gateway wine because it convinced me that spending a little more on wine was worthwhile.
For seven years, I used it to convince hundreds of Majestic customers of the same thing. Six months after I left that job in 2007, I found myself driving up Kangarilla Road itself, heading to the winery for my first day as a cellar rat – an experience I documented on these pages, and which was to be the first step in my wine-writing career. Four years after that, it was the white wine served at my wedding.
Today, the style has evolved, in keeping with the current trend for more refreshing and restrained Chardonnay worldwide and, as I pointed out in The best Australian tasting ever?, Australian Chardonnay is currently at the top of its game. The fruit now comes from a single vineyard in the cooler Adelaide Hills region, and while there is still oak involved in the winemaking, it is decidedly understated on the palate. In fact, I was surprised to learn that half of the blend was fermented and aged in new French hogsheads, so subliminal is the kiss of spice.
At 12.5%, it is featherlight, yet still has plenty of flavour concentration, and the high acidity seems entirely natural and well integrated. In fact, it would wipe the floor with most Chablis at the price. Talking of which, it can still be bought for £10 in the UK, which makes it very good value indeed. It is an exemplar of modern Australian Chardonnay, at a fraction of the price of some of its competitors.
It's a wine I love for all sorts of sentimental, if not entirely seminal, reasons – but I can recommend it with complete confidence and objectivity. Whether or not you usually like Chardonnay, I think this 2017 vintage from Kangarilla Road has the purity, refreshment and sheer deliciousness to charm everyone and anyone – plus it has that great label, a good price and a name that sounds like a cross between a kangaroo and a gorilla. Win win!
Wine-Searcher lists retailers in Australia, Switzerland and Japan for the 2017 vintage, and several other countries for earlier vintages, including the US, while the Kangarilla Road website has a list of distributors covering 13 countries. In the UK it is exclusive to Majestic Wine, who currently sell it for £13.99, or £9.99 when you buy any six wines.