Getting the opportunity to taste new releases is something we used to take for granted – there are more trade events each year than you might believe, that afford us a chance to taste widely in London without the necessity to travel to each region. Under lockdown we have had to adopt a more pragmatic approach and as a consequence we have requested samples of specific wines of interest, or wines whose development we have been following for a number of years.
The M3 Chardonnay from Shaw + Smith is one such wine. I have had the chance to assess this Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills in several vintages, and while I saw potential, I hadn’t opted to purchase previously. It was certainly clear over the last few vintages that the style was evolving, but I didn’t predict such a great showing from the 2018, offered here at £125 per 6 in bond.
I know the story of Shaw + Smith, as Michael Hill-Smith is a fellow Master of Wine and fellow Bollinger tasting medal winner. He formed Shaw + Smith with his cousin Martin Shaw shortly after completing his MW studies in 1989. Today, they own around 55 hectares of vineyard in the Adelaide Hills in Lenswood, a vineyard previously devoted to sparkling wine production as it provided fruit with high natural acidity, and in Balhannah. It is the Lenswood vineyard that is almost entirely devoted to Chardonnay production. The vineyard is essentially brown loam over clay, with ridges where broken shale and stone surface – it incorporates some steep areas and rises to 500 metres in altitude at its highest point. It is a strikingly beautiful vineyard.
The aim with the M3 Chardonnay is refinement…the wine is made from Chardonnay harvested just a fraction early to retain acidity. The estate’s winery, built in 2000, presents the opportunity to press whole bunches chilled; given the temperatures that can be reached during harvest, this enables a more delicate release from the skins and preserves fresh aromatics. This is very much in line with the preferred style at Shaw + Smith; producing high-class Chardonnay involves a whole host of decisions that shape the resultant style of the wine, perhaps more so than other white varieties such as Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc. Wild yeasts are used for the fermentation to impart greater complexity of flavour and texture. Malolactic fermentation is limited to retain acidity and the practice of batonnage (stirring the fine lees/yeast deposit in the barrel) is seldom employed, in order to retain tension in the wine. Tinkering with all these various aspects to maximise potential and deliver the style you want takes time, and that is before we add into the mix any of the complexities of the growing season. With the 2018 M3, Shaw + Smith have made an exceptional wine, certainly their best M3 yet, and the vintage was not all plain-sailing; January was notably hot, but February and March enabled the fruit to ripen well and evenly under dry and sunny conditions.
Wine shows are big news in Australia and the 2018 M3 Chardonnay has scooped its fair share of awards; it won the Francois De Castella Trophy for Best Young White Wine at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards as well as the Consistency of Excellence medal (awarded for winning Gold medals in three consecutive vintages). The judges commented on the ‘amazingly complex nose with citrus spice and plenty of complexity. Some smokiness shows through with a nice creamy mid palate and succulent core. Very concentrated and overall a very tight package with a long finish.’
Please see my note below.
2018 Chardonnay, M3, Shaw + Smith
£125 per 6 bottle case in bond
Taking a little time to open, the aromas offer smoky, mineral, gently flinty nuances with bright fruit behind. This is a juicy, clean-cut Chardonnay with terrific tension – notes of white peach and ripe nectarine are underscored by a lively, limey acidity. This is a fine, focused cool-climate Chardonnay; it comes in at just 13 degrees of alcohol. It is long, pure and stylish, showing a rare sense of precision and clarity as well as the merest hint of creaminess on the palate. It walks the line perfectly, never losing its way by being too lean nor too blousy. That smoky, mineral nuance persists long into the finish. This just kept getting better with time in the glass. A stunning Adelaide Hills Chardonnay that highlights why the Lenswood area ranks so highly. Drink 2022-2030. (SL)
As Adam Wadewitz, head winemaker at Shaw + Smith, says, ‘there has never been a more exciting time for Adelaide Hills Chardonnay from my perspective. It’s so suited to our area and it’s just great to have a heap of people understanding their sites and getting the best from them.’ He can count himself comfortably among their number…
Please let us know of your interest. We expect stock to be available within two weeks.
All the best,