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‘Anything but Chardonnay’ days are over

The “Anything but Chardonnay” days are over according to one boutique Australian producer who believes the once unloved variety is firmly back in fashion.

Larry Cherubino

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent trip to London, Western Australian wine pioneer Larry Cherubino said: “People say it’s Shiraz, but I think Chardonnay put Australia on the map.

“The variety has become trendy again in Australia – a lot of producers are reviving it and consumers are getting into it all over again – domestic consumption is on the up as people tire of Sauvignon Blanc.

“A lot of Australian winemakers are experimenting with Chardonnay at the moment. The wines are moving away from being big and buttery to more textural and with higher acidity.”

Cherubino Chardonnay

Cherubino, owner of eponymous wine brand Larry Cherubino Wines, admitted that Chardonnay vines need a decade before they settle down and start producing decent wine.

“I’ve always liked purity and texture and try to stay in that camp with my Chardonnays. A winemaker friend of mine is working with clones from Montrachet and I’ve never seen texture like it from an Australian Chardonnay before. The clones will soon find their way into my wines,” he told db.

In search of “clarity rather than artifice”, Cherubino gets his barrels from a Burgundian cooper and shuns both malolactic fermentation or battonage. His Chardonnays do spend an extended time on their lees however.

“Chardonnay lovers like flavour and texture and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think the Chinese will go wild for Chardonnay in time,” he predicted.

During lunch at the Sea Containers restaurant at The Mondrian hotel on London’s South Bank, Cherubino spoke of his desire to push WA wines in the UK.

“Western Australian wines are underrepresented everywhere in the world as only 10% of them are exported, but I’m working really hard to push the wines in the UK our other key export markets,” he said.

He also spoke passionately about working with the right clones in order to make high quality, characterful wines. “The Australian wine industry really suffered from massive expansion. Up until recently, we didn’t have a sufficiently stocked Cabernet and Shiraz clonal bank to work from, but we’ve built it up in order to build complexity in our wines.

“Aussie Shiraz suffered due to a lack of high quality clonal material. I’m now working with clones from Hawkes Bay, Hermitage and the Côte-Rôtie and am starting to get brilliant results from them and lovely texture and aromatics from the wines.

“We’ve got the biggest up-to-date clonal vineyard for Cabernet and Syrah in WA. Our Cabernet clones come from Bordeaux’s Left Bank. The grapes don’t need to hang as long on the vines now and they have much more colour and flavour,” he told db.

“It’s not about getting your foot in the door anymore, it’s about being the best you can be. Cloning is the key to Australia’s success in the future. It’s expensive to take vines out of production but it’s worth it,” he added.

Having worked at Hardy’s for over a decade, ten years ago Cherubino branched out and started his own label, which has several tiers including the entry-level Ad Hoc brand, the single vineyard and single varietal focused The Yard and top tier Cherubino range, of which only around 100 cases of each wine are made a year.

“It was a desperate time for the Australian wine industry ten years ago. It was the best and worst time to start my own venture but I got lucky,” he admitted. Cherubino’s wines are represented in the UK by Hallgarten Druitt.

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