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Howard Park Chardonnay 1998
Jeff would spend hours surfing on his long board, resembling what the locals call a “shark biscuit”.
Also a lover of golf, Jeff Burch admits he is “still trying to work out how to run a wine business from the golf course”. As some form of consolation he has built a golf hole right outside their Margaret River winery. As well as having a lot of fun, Jeff and Amy work very hard and together inject a great deal of passion into Howard Park. They have recently breathed some new life into the brand with a stunning redesign of the labels. The new labels depict a serpent in the “Tree of Life” and better reflect the truly prestigious nature of the wines.
The founding philosophy of Howard Park is to acquire the finest possible fruit from various distinguished growers from the Margaret River and Great Southern regions of Western Australia. The wine is then made with minimal input in order to reveal the character of the fruit. The key element in this simple philosophy is that premium wines can only come from excellent fruit. The sourcing of this fruit from specific vineyards, and in many cases specific blocks on the vineyard, is the single most important factor in the production of the Howard Park wines. As a result, the riesling, chardonnay and cabernet merlot produced are only ever available in very small quantities, but are noted for their rare balance of elegance and power and a proven history of rewarding ageing with increased complexity and interest.
Howard Park was one of the original pioneers in Western Australia’s Great Southern region and was originally based in the coastal town of Denmark since its conception in 1986. Denmark is a beautiful area where the forest meets the sea and the Howard Park winery there hosts one of the most impressive cellar doors in the Great Southern region, situated on an historical 100-acre property known as “Parkhead”.
The Burches recently constructed their second state of the art winery in Margaret River. The building is surrounded by tall marri and jarrah trees and is a unique presence in the Margaret River region. It was built using the Chinese principles of Feng Shui and has since been awarded by the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture.
Michael Kerrigan is chief winemaker who oversees production in both Margaret River and Denmark. His most recent achievement is the launch of a brand new wine into the Howard Park stable. The new Leston Shiraz is the first single vineyard wine and it exhibits all the hallmarks of quality and regional characteristics you can expect from Howard Park.
A large, climatically diverse country producing just about every wine style imaginable, Australia is not just a source of blockbuster Shiraz or inexpensive wine with cute labels, though both can certainly be found here. Australia has a grand winemaking history and some of the oldest vines on the planet, along with a huge range of landscapes and climates; it is impossible to make generalizations about Australian wine. Most regions are concentrated in the south of the country with those inland experiencing warm, dry weather, and those in more coastal areas receiving humid and tropical, or maritime weather patterns. Australia has for several decades been at the forefront of winemaking technology and has widely adopted the use of screwcaps, even for some premium and ultra-premium bottles.
Shiraz is indeed Australia’s most celebrated and widely planted variety, typically producing bold, supple reds with sweet, jammy fruit and performing best in the Barossa and Hunter Valleys. Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with Shiraz, and also shines on its own particularly in Coonawarra and Margaret River. Grenache and Mourvèdre (often locally referred to as Mataro) are also popular, both on their own and alongside Shiraz in Rhône blends. Chardonnay is common throughout the country and made in a wide range of styles. Sauvignon Blanc has recently surged in popularity to compete with New Zealand’s distinctive version, and Semillon is often utilized as its blending partner, or in the Hunter Valley, on its own to make complex, age-worthy whites. Riesling thrives in the cool-climate Clare and Eden Valleys. Sticky-sweet fortified wine Rutherglen Muscat is a beloved regional specialty of Victoria. Thanks to the country’s relatively agreeable climate throughout and the openness of its people, experimentation is common and ongoing, and there are a vast array of intriguing varieties to be found.
One of the most popular and versatile white wine grapes, Chardonnay offers a wide range of flavors and styles depending on where it is grown and how it is made. While practically every country in the wine producing world grows it, Chardonnay from its Burgundian homeland produces some of the most remarkable and longest lived examples. As far as cellar potential, white Burgundy rivals the world’s other age-worthy whites like Riesling or botrytized Semillon. California is Chardonnay’s second most important home, where both oaky, buttery styles and leaner, European-inspired wines enjoy great popularity. Oregon, Australia and South America are also significant producers of Chardonnay.
In the Glass
When planted on cool sites, Chardonnay flavors tend towards grapefruit, lemon zest, green apple, celery leaf and wet flint, while warmer locations coax out richer, more tropical flavors of melon, peach and pineapple. Oak can add notes of vanilla, coconut and spice, while malolactic fermentation imparts a soft and creamy texture.
Chardonnay is as versatile at the table as it is in the vineyard. The crisp, clean, Chablis-like styles go well with flaky white fish with herbs, scallops, turkey breast and soft cheeses. Richer Chardonnays marry well with lobster, crab, salmon, roasted chicken and creamy sauces.
Since the 1990s, big, oaky, buttery Chardonnays from California have enjoyed explosive popularity. More recently, the pendulum has begun to swing in the opposite direction, towards a clean, crisp style that rarely utilizes new oak. In Burgundy, the subregion of Chablis, while typically employing the use of older oak barrels, produces a similar bright and acid-driven style. Anyone who doesn't like oaky Chardonnay would likely enjoy its lighter style.