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Uncorked: Blass Chardonnay breaks from the Australian mold

A heavy hand was replaced by deft touch in the cellar. 

Creativity replaced the staid approach and the results show with the Blass Reserve Release Chardonnay 2016. Winemaker Chris Hatcher went to work in the cellar and a balanced wine with layers of intrigue was the result. 

But, at Blass, it’s not just the Chardonnay that is done right. Their Cabernet Sauvignon and red blend are flavorful, fresh and ready to open upon purchase.

Because all three wines retail for $15, they are a great bargain that pair nicely with any weeknight dinner.

Winemaker spotlight

There was a time when Chardonnay from Australia fit into a cookie-cutter mold; lots of oak and ripe fruit. But, the transition from the once-popular, over-oaked style has led to reserved, classy wines.

After a 36-hour cold soak, only some lots of fruit undergo malolactic fermentation, which adds depth, complexity of texture and a weighty feel to the wine. Acidity and bright fruit flavors are preserved by the portion of the wine saved from fermentation. And with 60 percent of the wine being aged in French oak, Hatcher has a wine with complementary parts.

It’s a paradigm shift he’s happy took place. 

“The change in Australian Chardonnay has been outstanding in the last 15 years and Wolf Blass has been at the forefront of the movement,” Hatcher said. “Our wines from the 1980s and ‘90s were heavily oaked, warm climate wines that lacked finesse and aging potential. Today, they are sourced from cool climates and the wines are sophisticated, balanced with great delicacy and style. Most importantly, they are great wines to drink on their own or matched with a variety of food styles.”

Blass Reserve Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($15) and the Blass Reserve Release Red Blend 2016 ($15) were dinner enhancers. Both seamlessly fit in with a weeknight meal. The silky smooth red blend and its blue fruit and spice rack flavors had gentle tannins and a fleshy finish that was like a bite into a ripe plum.

The Cabernet hits the classic currant and oak notes. It has flavors and tannins that are slightly firmer than the red blend, but still easy to pair with any meal. 

The marriage of food and wine is embraced by Hatcher. 

“One of the great challenges in winemaking is to make wines that can be enjoyed on their own as well as pairing with a variety of food styles,” Hatcher said. “The secret to me is to make wines that are balanced and driven by fruit flavors with minimal winemaking artifact. The Blass style is very much in this mold.”

• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for the Daily Chronicle. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him at​

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