The Interview Series #7
In this Interview Series #7, Tasting Room Manager Alex Camatta chats all things Chardonnay with Joint CEO and Chief Winemaker, Adam Wadewitz.
Adam, you’ve received many awards for Chardonnay over the years. Can you tell us more about your interest in this variety?
Prior to starting at Shaw + Smith, I was the senior winemaker for Seppelt, based in the Grampians at Great Western. The exciting part of working there for me was a vineyard in the South, in the Henty region, called Drumborg which was planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling. It is one of the coolest mainland regions in Australia. My interest in Chardonnay was really piqued at this time so I’ve long been a Chardonnay tragic.
While working for Seppelt, I remember having a chance to see wines from all around Australia and the ones that really stood out to me were Adelaide Hills and Tasmania. It’s quite serendipitous that I have now spent the last 9 years working with Adelaide Hills and Tasmanian fruit. It’s been a fascinating journey to be on.
What do you think makes the Adelaide Hills so well suited to Chardonnay?
It’s the one variety for me that is a real match made in heaven. Not often in new world places, and particularly in Australia, do you find such balance.
Often in cold places you end up with high natural acidity, but you don’t always see weight. What you see in the Hills is a mid-palate weight which gives shape to the wine and is beautiful. I feel there’s a real attraction and affinity of Chardonnay with (parts of?) the Adelaide Hills.
We’ve seen considerable changes to our viticulture practices over the last few years, including entering the process of organic conversion. How impactful are our vineyard practices on the final wine?
We take a holistic approach which informs everything we do. It starts with doing the right thing by the soil. And when you’re doing the right thing by the soil, you’re also doing the right thing by the plants and the microbes that are living there. As a result, we have more resilient, healthier plants. We sometimes see less fruit, but that’s ok when you have more balance.
Ultimately, it’s about the place and the attributes of that place. There’s certainly lots you can do with Chardonnay; you can shape it to be a better version of itself. For us, it always comes back to where it’s from, and when we finally get the fruit in the winery, we like that there isn’t much we need to do.
Is there a particular vintage of Chardonnay you have made at Shaw + Smith that stands out for you?
There’s a few. I remember the 2014 vintage was an amazing year because it was so cold and there was a lot of flavour intensity. I remember sticking a flag in the ground and saying that we’re not going to see a better vintage than this! While I’m not sure we have, when 15 rolled around it was also a stand out.
The thing about chardonnay is that there is some malleability to it. You can like a chardonnay in two very different seasons for different reasons. In the warmer seasons you get opulence and in cooler seasons you see acidity and fineness.
If there is one wine that leaves me thinking more than most, it is the yet to be released 2019 Lenswood Vineyard Chardonnay. It’s a special wine.
The 2014 M3 Chardonnay has been made available in a Chardonnay Wine Flight for Chardonnay May. Book your tasting here.