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12.22.2008

2007 Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay, Mudgee, Australia

In this day and age of farmers markets, boutique stores, and micro-breweries, it's easy for the upwardly mobile wine lover to forget that there are a lot of great wines on the market that are made in quantities well north of 5000 cases. There are big wine companies that make great wine, and big wine companies that make lousy wine. And some that do both.

I've had mixed luck with Rosemount Estate wines throughout the years. I've had some wines that were everything I wanted them to be, and others that sent me running for the hills. In particular I have fond memories of sipping Rosemount Chardonnay on the quay in rosemount_mudgee_chard.jpgSydney with a friend on a sunny afternoon. In truth, I've not had one of their wines in three or four years, so when I got a box of samples from the winery the other day, I was excited to taste through the lot.

Rosemount Estate is one of Australia's most well known brands. As a winery name it has existed for more than 100 years, but its modern history and incarnation came at the hands of pioneer Bob Oatley, who began growing grapes in 1969. Forty years later, what started as a family farm is now one of the largest wine producers in Australia.

In many ways, though it may be a weak comparison, Oatley can be looked at as an Australian Robert Mondavi. (Oatley and Mondavi actually collaborated on several wine projects over the years).

As part of the Southcorp/Fosters wine empire (which owns some of Australia's other mega-brands like Penfolds and Lindemans), Rosemount produces somewhere north of 5,000,000 cases of wine each year, split across five confusing tiers of wine at different price points.

This wine comes from a series of wines labeled Show Reserve, which was one of the original lines of wine produced by the estate when it was in its infancy. A couple of Rosemount Show Reserve wines were responsible for vaulting the winery into the spotlight after they won several international wine competitions.

This particular wine is sourced from a sub-appellation of the New South Wales wine region known as Mudgee, which lies on the other side of the Great Dividing Range mountains from the better known Hunter Valley. In the Aboriginal language, Mudgee means "Nest of Hills", an accurate description of this basket shaped river valley ringed by hills.

Mudgee, apart from its self-evident role as one of Australia's smaller wine regions, also has some special significance viticulturally speaking. Grapes were first believed to have been planted in Mudgee around 1858, including what are believed to be the first Chardonnay vines on the continent. Indeed, much of Australia's Chardonnay has been propagated from this original block. Despite continuing to be a source for high-quality Chardonnay grown on older vines, Mudgee is better known for red wine these days, with only about 17% of its 8000 or so acres of vineyards planted to Chardonnay.

Rosemount owns about 1000 of those acres, which are planted mostly to Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, as well as the parcel that produces this wine.

I know very little about the winemaking for this wine, other than what I can assume based on its flavor profile. I'd guess that only part of the wine goes through malolactic fermentation and it is aged in a combination of steel and oak, or in a mix of new and used oak barrels.

The Rosemount Show Reserve portfolio of wines is a solid tier of good quality wines (no real duds) but this one in particular left me thinking that I ought to go out and buy half a case, which is always a good reaction to have to a wine.

Full disclosure: I received this wine as a press sample.

Tasting Notes:
Pale yellow-gold in the glass, this wine has a very pretty nose of cold cream and buttered popcorn. In the mouth it is smooth and mellow, with flavors of cold cream, lemon curd, and nice mineral notes, lit from the side, as it were with the faintest rays of oak. Good acidity, nice balance, and a sunny disposition make this a winner. Not complex, but quite tasty.

Food Pairing:
I'd be happy to drink this wine alongside pasta in a cream sauce with smoked salmon.

Overall Score: between 8.5 and 9.

How Much?: $14

This wine is just about to be released into the US market. The 2006 vintage is available for purchase on the Internet.

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