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Details for Sandalford Unoaked Chardonnay, Margaret River

Margaret River
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AppellationMargaret River
Sandalford Wines
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Margaret River

Today the most famed appellation in Western Australia, Margaret River has a remarkably short history as a wine region.  The first significant plantings here were in the late 1960s.  Growth has been spectacular: there are now around 200 producers, with more than 5000 hectares under vine.
Cool by Australian standards, the climate is Mediterranean with significant maritime influence; most vineyards are only a few miles from the Indian Ocean.  Perhaps inspired by the west-facing coastal location, Bordeaux varieties are the stars here.
Cabernet Sauvignon is the most planted black grape, with Merlot coming a close third to Australia’s ever-present Shiraz.  The region’s reputation was built on the quality of its Cabernets and red Bordeaux blends.
Surprisingly then, there’s actually more land planted with white grapes.  In keeping with the Bordeaux influence, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are the main ones, with Chardonnay coming a close third.  Semillon/Sauvignon blends are a particular speciality, and some of Australia’s best Chardonnay comes from here too.

Sandalford Wines

Sandalford Wines have about as long a history as an Australian wine producer can.  They were founded in 1840 in Western Australia's first wine region, the Swan Valley.  In 1970 they were pioneers once more, when they became one of the first three producers to plant grapes in Margaret River, now Western Australia’s most prestigious region.
Today they produce wines from both Swan Valley and Margaret River. Swan Valley fruit goes into their value ranges, called Element and Winemakers, while their three premium ranges Margaret River, Estate Reserve and Prendiville Reserve come from their 300 hectare Wilyabrup vineyard in Margaret River.
They are one of the largest family-owned wineries in Australia, though it hasn’t been the same family throughout their 170+ year history.  In 1991 current owners the Prendiville family bought Sandalford from the descendents of the original founder, John Septimus Roe.

about this wine About this wine

Margaret River is a young region, but it’s the prime location for Chardonnay in Western Australia.  Sandalford were pioneers here, planting their first vines in 1970.  The company itself is one of the oldest in Australia, founded in 1840.  So it is perhaps appropriate that this Chardonnay, made from some of the oldest vines in Margaret River by the oldest producer, should end up being the oldest wine we’ve ever featured on Decanting Club.
It’s also, rather surprisingly, our first Chardonnay.  I’m slightly ashamed of that!  While twenty years ago Chardonnay ruled the world, its fall from favour has been so dramatic that today it counts as one of those unfairly neglected, once trendy but now deeply unhip wines that we love to champion here at DC.  Their fall from grace means that usually only the best producers are left, and they tend to be great value.
Chardonnay’s rise came as the pendulum swung away from light, delicate, aromatic whites like Muscadet and Liebfraumilch towards bigger, stronger, full-flavoured wines.  Chardonnay is naturally full-bodied and fitted the bill nicely.  It isn’t very aromatic but it does have an affinity for oak, and the oak could provide the scent.
Lots of Chardonnay was planted all around the world, often on unsuitable sites, and the wines got ever bigger and oakier until everyone decided they didn’t like Chard anymore, and what they really wanted was a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc.  What they had really grown tired of was fat, over-alcoholic wines that tasted of nothing but oak.
Meanwhile, to the north of Burgundy, one of the best-known but probably least-drunk wines in the world continued unchanged.  Chablis is the original unoaked Chardonnay, and it tastes so different to those oaky, hot-climate monsters that newcomers often refuse to believe it’s made from Chardonnay at all.  Following its example, producers in cooler climates around the world started to shift to unoaked Chardonnays.  This wine is one of them, and I hope it will challenge your prejudices if you’re one of the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) brigade.
The 2008 vintage in Margaret River saw a hot summer followed by a much cooler but storm-free autumn, allowing slow ripening with no disease issues.  Several vineyards contributed to the blend, and they were picked at the end of February and the beginning of March, depending on the site.  As is usual for Australia, picking was by machine and took place in the cool of the night, with the grapes being transported to the winery in refrigerated trucks.
There they underwent a slow, temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel, with each batch using a different strain of yeast.  Yeasts do influence flavour, and this is a clever technique for adding complexity to the finished blend which seems to work particularly well with Chardonnay.  Following fermentation the different batches were then blended and cold-settled, before being filtered and bottled under screwcap in May 2008.

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