Yering Frog Chardonnay 2007


From €7, Aus$14.95, £7.99 and HK$119.41

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Yering Frog has to be one of the best-value labels anywhere. It's the diffusion line of Yering Station in the Yarra Valley, now recovering from those awful bushfires but source of some of Australia's finest cooler climate fruit and the 2007s were made by award-winning winemaker Tom Carson. Whenever a friend asks me which wines they should buy for a party, I very often steer them towards Yering Frog bottlings as they look good,  they are easy to find at £7.99 at Majestic in the UK, I respect the quality and value, I know they are made to be drunk on release rather than be cellared, and I know how useful screwcaps are for busy hosts.

I tasted the current Yering Frog range when I was in the Yarra Valley recently and was particularly impressed by the Yering Frog Chardonnay 2007. The 2007 vintage was particularly difficult in Australia, having been shrunk by both spring frost and drought, so they had to go looking for fruit outside the Yarra Valley, but instead of simply topping up with cheap Riverland stuff, they went to other expensive cool-climate wine regions, Adelaide Hills and Mornington Peninsula. So while this wine is often described as a Yarra Valley wine like most other vintages, it is in fact a blend of the three regions Adelaide Hills/Yarra Valley/Mornington Peninsula. (OK, this is a nerdy fact, but where would the Oxford Companion to Wine be without nerdy facts?)

This wine is a great-value example of what one might call New Australian Chardonnay with its beautifully delicate structure, fine acidity and smooth texture – utterly unlike the old stereotypical fat, oaky Oz Chardy. Some of the grapes were fermented and aged for nine months in French barriques. I can even tell you the yeasts – EC1118 and CY3079, it says on my tech spec. Malolactic fermentation was suppressed to keep it lively. Vines (clones P58, I10V3, 86 and 96 since you ask) were between eight and 13 years old and the yield was 2.5 tonnes/acre.

Alcohol, perhaps the most useful statistic for users, is just 12.3%. Yering Station are consciously making lower alcohol wines. One of the most impressive Chardonnays I tasted there was their Yering Station, Willow Lake Old Vine Chardonnay 2007 Yarra Valley, a particularly fine, Chablis-like wine with just 11% alcohol.

The Yering Frog Pinot Noir 2007, also part-sourced in the Adelaide Hills, was not as fine as some other vintages I remember – a bit raw and minty rather than particularly expressive of Pinot Noir – but is certainly not a bad buy at the same price as the Chardonnay. Better is the current vintage of their red blend Yering Frog Cabernet/Shiraz/Merlot 2005 Yarra Valley, which has some lovely maturity on it while retaining good freshness, although it is a full 14.5%. Proportions of the grapes are 65/25/10.They used to make a great-value Yering Frog Shiraz/Viognier but have discontinued it because it was just too difficult to make one that really justified the big price gap between it and the Yering Station bottling apparently.

Alas, I cannot find retail stockists of these bargains in the US, but it's interesting that the best price is in France, courtesy of the unusually eclectic Vins du Monde of Nantes.

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