A set of older chardonnays compared and contrasted

I recently tasted a set of older chardonnays upstairs at Cumulus in Melbourne.  The same grape from three different very good producers from three different years and climates.  The result?  Actually, it was a little mixed.  Chardonnay can, but does not necessarily, age well.  The youngest wine in this bracket was 14 years old, the eldest 22 years old.

Mount Mary Chardonnay 2002
I last looked at this wine back in 2011, and liked it my only quibble being price.  Mount Mary is a leading producer in the Yarra Valley, with its vineyards near the town of Coldstream.  Their website does not reveal much about soils, but others have referred to Mount Mary’s grey-loam soils (Max Allen, Yarra Valley Wineguide, 1999) and a north facing slope above river flats.  Tasted in 2016, 2002 Mount Mary chardonnay is considerably more developed, with aromatics that are neutral and saline, with light citrus and orange peel aromas and a bread like character.  The palate is delicate and minerally, with its acid seemingly haven fallen away a little, and the citrus and bread characters continuing.  The finish is reasonably long.  Appearing to be at the tail end of its drinking window, I do not expect this wine will improve from here.  Search out well stored examples.  Good to Very Good

Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 1994
Domaine Bonneau du Martray has 9.5 hectares in Corton-Charlemagne in the Côte de Beaune.  Again, I find myself turning to Clive Coate’s  guide (The Wines of Burgundy, 2008) for a bit more detail.  There are 160.19 hectares of grand cru land on the Corton hill, and 71.88 hectares can produce Corton-Charlemagne in theory.  Chardonnay is planted on the upper slops in a marl with high clay content and a limestone base.  I’ve perhaps said a bit here, because the wine in the glass unfortunately was well past its best and so leaves less room for comment.  Toffee apple, caramel, earth and sherried aromas are predominant.  The palate offers glimpses of life, with some fresh acidity and good length, but the flavours resolutely reminded of earth and decay.  Not rated 

Bass Phillip Premium Chardonnay 2001
Bass Phillip is an exception in many ways.  Situated in south Gippsland in southern Victoria with rainfall exceeding 1,000mm per year and deep, silty loam volcanic soils, this is prime dairy rather than vineyard country.  But work it does, and I have had some fabulous wines from Bass Phillip.  In this sense, the 2001 Bass Phillip Premium chardonnay presented in a slightly disappointing manner, seemingly both past its best and also with some balance issues.  Deeply golden in colour and a little cloudy even, it has aromatics of honey, lemon, minerals, smoke and an aldehydic note.  The palate is full bodied, with smokey cedar and earth characters.  The acidity is however quite pronounced -fiendishly so – giving a hard malic impression and affecting my perception of the wine’s balance.  Acceptable

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