Import Selection: Chardonnay, 1992. McWilliams Hanwood

McWilliam’s has been a maker of fine wines since 1877, when Samuel McWilliam first planted his vines at Corowa in New South Wales, Australia. It was his son, John James, who subsequently founded McWilliam’s Hanwood vineyard and winery at Griffith (from which this month’s selection comes), paving the way for the dy­nasty that was to follow. Five gen­erations later, McWilliam’s Wines maintains the distinction of being the largest family owned wine company in Australia. Currently, oenology trained (U.C. Davis) Doug McWilliam is the compa­ny’s Production Director.

McWilliam’s exhibits a typical pattern amongst “Old Firm” vol­ume wine producers: It is not one winery; it is six separate wineries! Quality levels are sustained through specialization at each unit. Their Robinvale Winery in Victor­ia, for instance, is the source of one of Australia’s most famous wines, McWilliam’s Cream Sher­ry. Beelbangera, located in the Riverina district, is their specialist red wine winery. Yenda, also in the Riverina, is the facility which houses their sparkling wine, vint­age port and brandy operations. The winemakers at each facility en­deavor towards perfection in their respective specialties.

McWilliam’s led the trend away from trying to copy France. It concentrated on producing wines, like this Chardonnay, with characteris­tics proudly Australian.

The Chardonnay vine is origi­nally from France’s blustery Bur­gundy district. It’s the current grape of choice, internationally, from which to produce dry white wines. When transplanted outside France, Chardonnays maintain their basic characteristics, but they-tend to adopt a flavor and a style reflective of the local terrain and weather conditions. Due to fre­quent inclement weather in Eu­rope, grapes attain full ripeness there less easily than in agricultural regions abroad. For this reason, many Australian Chardonnays far more resemble California versions than they do French examples.

This one has a green/gold color, with a rich aroma of green grapes, green plums and vanilla. Medium-bodied, yet mouth-filling, it is very smooth. Excellent acidity enve­lopes the texture like a fortress, en­suring longevity. Fruit flavors fol­low the nose faithfully and continue into the aftertaste.

Serve chilled with jumbo shrimp in the shell or mahi-mahi fillets.

Cellaring Notes: Drink now and through 1994.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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