Confessions of a Chardonnay Tragic

Wines Of Now
1 June 2019. Words by William Wager.

We asked seasoned hospitality and wine veteran William Wager, of The Collection Fine Wines, about some of the changes, for the better, that he’s seen in his 20-year-long career working with wine, and what really gets him excited about Australian wine right now.

Over my twenty-odd years working with wine, I’ve never been more excited by Australian wine. The diversity and energy I see today was motivation enough to set up my own wholesale business a few years back, with a portfolio of Australian producers only. The shift in wine style I’m most excited about is the result of the utmost care in the vineyards, with particular attention paid to the health of the soil in order to generate higher quality fruit. Growers and winemakers are then taking that fruit to make whites with texture and complexity, as well as lighter expressions of red wines, with a focus on balance. As one winemaker I work with stated that “It only takes one condom not to get pregnant,” a uniquely Australian way of saying less is more.

Of particular interest to me is Australian Chardonnay. I am stoked to see the return of an Australian classic done with precision and purity, however with the texture and richness that I love in ‘our’ Chardonnay. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend the superb annual tasting run by Western Australia gun winemaker Lance Parkin, from Houghton’s. Exceptional white Burgundies are painstakingly sourced for the tasting, which are presented in six brackets with Australian wines sprinkled throughout each. All wines are served ‘blind’, and time and time again the Australian wines sit well in the brackets, often at a fraction of the price.

The wine regions that we all know so well for Chardonnay are going from strength to strength. In Margaret River, Cliff Royle’s Flametree wines are standout examples of this, as well as being exceptional value for the quality – get yourself a bottle of the ‘S.R.S.’ Chardonnay, and if you can find the 2014, jump on it!

With its range of soil types and aspects adding complexity, the Yarra Valley excels, offering the trademark purity, delicacy and length that are expected of the region. A. Rodda’s 2017 from the Willow Lake vineyard is a perfect example, a stunning wine.

Beechworth. What a magic town. A beautiful place with an incredible concentration of great restaurants and exceptional wine producers. Like Margaret River, it has unmissable classics, like Savaterre and Giaconda, but look further and you’ll find a dynamic crew of younger local producers doing great things. Tessa and Jeremy from Vignerons Schmölzer and Brown have converted the Brunnen vineyard over to organics, and the results are striking.

Finally, I see many wines from New South Wales that excite me, with similar soils to Beechworth and twice the elevation, it’s not hard to see Tumbarumba producing exceptional quality Chardonnay. Overall, Chardonnay in this country has never been better, with classic producers excelling alongside newer players.

About William Wager – Working in hospitality to get myself through a Science degree led to an unexpected and very enjoyable career. Exposure to exceptional wine came through working at great restaurants – like The Ivy and Le Pont de la Tour in London, and Walter’s Wine Bar in Melbourne – and sales roles with wholesaler Red + White, and as sales and marketing manager at Torbreck, finally led to running my own wine distribution company, The Collection Fine Wines. All a long way from environmental site audits and remediation!

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