By Fergal Gleeson
Juniper Estate is one the original six vineyards planted in Margaret River. Mark Messenger the Chief Winemaker makes two Chardonnays the Juniper Estate ($40/93 Jordan points) and Juniper Crossing ($25).
Mark says “I’m looking for something with fragrance and floral lift, white stone fruit with some citrus but not too linear.”
Mark uses what he calls “free range” yeast for fermentation. “You get a little more complexity not just pure fruit but the wines are still bright. I also use the character from solids to give texture and mouth feel. It brings another element to the wine,” he says.
“The Estate comes off the best blocks that I’ve identified and observed over the years,” Mark says “It’s handpicked and whole bunch pressed. It sees more new oak and spends ten months ageing in barrels. The Estate is released as an older wine. It could age for ten years easily. It’s more of a thinking wine. It wants to engage you!”
“The Crossing is made in a modern fresh style for earlier drinking. It’s more fruit forward. Not a wine to think about it’s a wine to drink!
You might be familiar with putting a Cabernet or a Shiraz in your cellar for a few years and watching as it develops tobacco leaf flavours. I asked Mark how a good Margaret River Chardonnay would age over five years.
“You shouldn’t see any oak. It has mellowed to a hint of toasty honey. At five years the wine should be entering it’s sweet spot. Still expressive fruit wise with a seamless texture. Still minerally with a mouth-watering finish. But everything should be in it’s place. I’d say ten years is the outer limit for most Margaret River Chardonnays. The wine will have lost some of the primary fruit flavours. There will be a stronger honey, waxy notes and some nutty characters.”
What are the characteristics of Margaret River Chardonnay versus from other Australian regions?
“We have a fruit power,” he says “In the last decade winemakers are picking earlier retaining acidity so there is a lovely finesse and drive to it but it still has the fruit.”
“It’s a winemakers wine. 15 years we ago used to throw everything at it- oak, malolactic and lees stirring. Now there’s more respect. Chardonnay is a very rewarding variety that pays it back in spades. Worldwide, it’s the premium white grape.”
This is a modified excerpt from an article that appeared in the spring edition of Your Margaret River Region Magazine