Picardy Chardonnay is a traditional Burgundian style wine with excellent fruit and structure. Made to drink now, preferably with food, it will also cellar well in the medium to long term.
Picardy Chardonnay is made from grapes grown from four clones imported from France. These clones were selected from several hundred grown in a decade long trial conducted in Burgundy.
In 1998 Picardy produced a single barrel of Chardonnay from the new clones, originally planted in 1994. The wine possesses the floral and fine grassy (sour sob/ oxalis grass) characters expected in a young Burgundian Chardonnay. This wine has great texture and structure with high acid and extra ordinarily low pH whilst retaining perfect balance.
The 1999 Picardy Chardonnay shares these same qualities as well as exhibiting minerally flavours, with the refinement and length of the great Burgundies. Given this wines structure and fruit intensity it will live for many years.
History of Picardy Chardonnay
The history of Chardonnay at Picardy began when Bill and Sandra were fortunate enough to meet M. Vincent LeFlaive (being of the famous Puligny Montrachet Domaine) during his visit to this country in 1989. He intimated that the characters he looked for in Chardonnay were floral characters on the nose, and fine, grassy flavours on the palate. He felt that Australian Chardonnay tends to have oily characters which he found unattractive.
LeFlaive's comments then raised questions as to whether the presence or absence of certain characters in a wine are primarily influenced by clone, climate, soil or winemaking techniques. Believing that the Pemberton climate would be ideally suited to production of refined styles of Chardonnay, Bill decided to research the situation with respect to clones.
The clone most readily available in Western Australia is Mendoza. This tends to have highly irregular low yields and tends to produce wines with the oily flavours described by M. LeFlaive. Next Bill looked at the four Californian selections which were then becoming available. From his experience at Smithbrook and from the experience of others elsewhere, these clones seemed to yield masses of fruit with very little flavour.
During Bill and Sandra's involvement in Burgundy in the ëeighties', they became aware of a very large clonal selection trial, which had been carried out for more than a decade. Several hundred clones of Chardonnay selected from around Burgundy had been trialled and four of these had been selected (76, 95, 96 and 277). These clones were selected on the basis of the quality of wine which they had produced, and not yields. Most significantly, the tasting notes for wines produced from these clones placed heavy emphasis on floral characters.
Having made the decision to plant these clones, friends in Burgundy advised Bill and Sandra to plant a mix of all four to increase the complexity of the resulting wine, in much the same way as they had done with Picardy's Pinot Noir. Bill has since been back to Burgundy and has seen new plantings of these four clones, most significantly in the worlds most famous Chardonnay vineyard Le Montrachet. This gave the Pannells further confidence that they will continue to produce the style they seek.
In 1993, Bill managed to locate a source of these Burgundian clones and twenty cuttings of each were imported into Western Australia in August of that year. These were held in quarantine for the growing season 1993-94 and planted out in the vineyard in the spring of 1994. Picardy now has in excess of a thousand vines of each clone. Observations to date suggest that there is considerable variation among the four clones with respect to growth habits, bunch size, yields, flavour and wine structure.