Howard Park – Chardonnay Rising

Howard Park Janice McM
Janice McDonald, Winemaker

By Fergal Gleeson

Burch Family Wines are one of Western Australia’s largest family owned wineries, making wines under the Howard Park, Madfish, Mon Tout and Marchand and Burch labels.

Janice McDonald, their Chief Winemaker was reflecting on the fact that she is now making 9-12 Chardonnays across their ranges. If you want a yardstick for Chardonnay’s resurgence, when Janice joined in 2011 they were making four.

“Back in 2011 we were making an excess of high quality Chardonnay,” she says. “Now we are planting more Chardonnay in southern Margaret River to meet demand.”

They start at (RRP $18) for the Madfish range through to super-premium offerings,

Howard Park Chardonnay grapes
Chardonnay grapes

I’ve tasted the Burch Family Chardonnays from Howard Park Miamup (RRP $28) right through to the gorgeous Howard Park (RRP$58) and Allingham Chardonnays (RRP$89). They capture the underlying fruit power of the region but it’s melded into something elegant and precise. These wines are some of the best Chardonnays being made in Australia.

Janice remembers tasting her first Chardonnay. It was the Leeuwin Estate Art Series at the Canberra National Wine Show in the late 1980s. “It was causing quite a few ripples,” she says. A harbinger of how significant the region would become in Chardonnay production.

Howard Park Miamup
Howard Park Miamup

Her style of making Chardonnay is to build layers and complexities using different techniques. “To use oak or not? How much time on lees?” she asks. “I like the fruit to be prominent. Wine is made of grapes and they should be the primary component. Everything else must supplement but not override. I don’t mind being old fashioned and using malolactic fermentation with the proviso that it’s not over doing it.”

Malolactic fermentation (malo) is a process where tart malic acid is converted into lactic acid which gives the wine a softer, creamier taste and reduces the acid.

The incredible intensity of the flavours is the defining characteristic of Margaret River Chardonnay for Janice. “The climate generates a lovely ripeness leading to unique Chardonnay and Cabernet which are the signature grapes of the region.”

This is a modified excerpt from an article that appeared in the spring edition of Your Margaret River Region Magazine


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