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2020 M3 Chardonnay, Shaw + Smith - a word to the wise : well worth loading up

January 2022

2020 M3 Chardonnay, Shaw + Smith
£130 per 6 bottle case in bond

 

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offer - lenswood


I consider myself a fan of the M3 Chardonnay from Shaw + Smith. Among a whole host of Australian Chardonnay it stands out for its quality and its value. Yes, I think there are perhaps finer or more complex examples made in Australia but, unfortunately, they don’t come in at an incredibly reasonable £130 per 6 bottle case in bond.
 
The 2018 was outstanding and I wish I had bought more. I tasted the 2019 last year but found it looser-knit and decided to skip that vintage. I am pleased to say, having tasted the 2020 vintage just recently, that it is much more in the style of 2018, perhaps just a little bolder, but it captures the same purity and precision.
 
I know the story of Shaw + Smith well, 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 Balhannah and in Lenswood, a vineyard previously devoted to sparkling wine production as it provided fruit with high natural acidity. 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.
 
According to the estate, the 2020 vintage was challenging at times, bringing about very low yields, and thereby wines of great concentration, yet the cooler conditions towards harvest resulted in a Chardonnay with both intensity and balance. I think that really comes through in the glass – as I mentioned above, it is that little bit bolder than the 2018, but it is that tension between fruit and acidity that I found in the 2018 that is on show once more in the 2020.
 
Please see my note below.


2020 Chardonnay, M3, Shaw + Smith
£130 per 6 bottle case in bond
 
With a little air, mineral, smoky notes emerge to add complexity to the juicy white peach and grapefruit aromas. The fruit on the palate is glorious – so pristine and pure, with lively citrus notes melding with juicy stone fruit characters. The peach and nectarine notes are enlivened with a touch of mouth-watering lime. The fruit is expansive and intense, but underscored by a lively acidity. This is perfectly balanced, with just a hint of creaminess and background toast; all so subtle but adding interest and framing the wine beautifully. It shows terrific intensity on the finish, which lingers incredibly well. This is another knock-out M3, and I can’t wait to see how it will evolve, given the chance that is! Drink 2022-2032. (SL)


98 points, and Special Value Star, Tony Love, James Halliday Wine Companion 
Sourced from 3 vineyards in Piccadilly, Lobethal and the estate’s high-elevation Lenswood block. Whole-bunch pressed, fermented and matured on lees in French barriques and puncheons. The first thing that strikes you is an elegance that is so fundamental to the style and respectful to the elite fruit within. The faintest of oak lifts adds a complexity to start, but the energy and concentration of the fruit become the prime focus on the palate. It's all about chardonnay's finest flavours and a vibrant acidity to drive it long into the future. Drink to: 2030.
  
When I taste M3 vintages of this calibre, I can’t believe how favourably-priced this wine is. It is well worth loading up – I know I will. After all, it barely exceeds the price we have become accustomed to paying for a respectable Bourgogne Blanc.
 
Please let us know of your interest. We expect stock to be available within three weeks.
 
All the best,
 
Simon 

 
ss-m3-chard1-IYPEEA
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Atlas Fine Wines Ltd. 

Atlas House, 1 King Street
London, EC2V 8AU
T: +44 (0) 20 3017 2299
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