Chardonnays to drink now or wait

A while back now the lovely folks at Palliser down Martinborough way sent me some wine and amongst them two Chardonnays – the top tier Palliser Estate ($39) and the Pencarrow sibling ($17). But as so often happens, the wine that shows better in the blind tasting is the cheaper one. So what do we decide when taking price and quality into account?

First of all let me explain I tasted these in December – the start of the long hot dry summer we had.palliserchards

The 2011 Pencarrow Martinbrough Chardonnay is immediately attractive – and that’s not surprising because it is made in a ‘drink now’ style. It has a fresh lemon biscuit scent and there’s a spicy zesty freshness to the flavour with textural complexity making for a very pleasing mouthfeel. It has a juicy brightness with tropical fruit on the finish. Perfect when chilled for a couple of hours. Perfect for drinking in summer.

The notes on the Palliser website says this is made from Mendoza clone Chardonnay grapes (yes, I do get pineapple in the array of tropical fruit), with barrel ferment in both French and American oak, remaining on lees for 9 months.

The 2011 Palliser Estate Martinborough Chardonnay, on the other hand, has all the bells and whistles. The tech notes say, ‘a blend of 85% Clone 96 and 15% Mendoza grapes, barrel fermented (oak not mentioned but probably primarily French), half of the ferment was spontaneous from the winery’s indigenous yeasts, 11 months in oak, with 32% of the barrels undergoing malolactic fermentation (to soften acidity)’. Reading these notes, it was rather surprising to me that ‘malo characters’ came foremost to mind on first tasting – there’s only 32% after all. But I got that creaminess, the slightly milkiness and the intertwined citrus. It’s a savoury wine with smoky nuances and roasted nuts and while tight and compact at this stage of its life the delectable stonefruit and nectarine in the background hint of what’s going to unfurl with a little more time.

I love the Palliser Estate chardonnays with age, I’ve been privileged to taste a vertical and I see from elsewhere on my website, I’ve usually tasted the new release several months more down the line.

Back in December when I tasted these wines and wrote my notes, I thought it should be popped away until winter at least. Well, winter is now here but on checking the Palliser website, I see the 2012 has now been released. If it is like the 2011 it won’t be ready yet so see if you can gets your hands on a back vintage – probably in a retail store somewhere – and serve alongside chicken or pork.

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