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Wine of the Week for week ending 5 May 2002
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Mystery Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2001
Waikato, New Zealand

I seem to be going against the trend. The trend of ABC. Everyone else seems to be saying they are members of the 'Anything but Chardonnay' club yet I find I'm drinking more and more of it.

A couple of years ago many chardonnays tasted the same to me. It seemed like the winemakers had been to the same school, had been taught how to make chardonnay to the same recipe and were then using that recipe. They were using the same oak regime, the same maturation regime, the same barrel lees stirring regime. The fruit was not speaking. The winemaking statement was too powerful.

But now I'm tasting the chardonnays from the new millennium - the chardonnays from the 21st century. And I'm, enjoying them. It is due to the better weather during the growing season, perhaps? Is it due to more individualistic style, perhaps? Is it due to my changing tastebuds, perhaps? It sure is a mystery to me!

The wine I'm drinking is a mystery too. Mystery Creek bullrush label It's the Mystery Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2001.

The mystery is in the name of course, as the vineyard site borders Mystery Creek Road near Hamilton airport and the Mystery Creek Events Centre, about 10 kilometres south of Hamilton city.

There's also a mystery in the bullrush design on the label. There are no bullrushes at the Mystery Creek Vineyard.

And perhaps it is also a mystery why chardonnay grows so well in this previously untested region of the Waikato. But there is some horticulture in this traditional dairy farm area - these grapes grow right alongside persimmons.

The Mystery Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2001 is rich and mouthfilling without being overpowering. It's warm and leesy with toasty oak that interweaves with preserved lemon peel, pawpaw and toasted pineapple then a smoky savoury character - like that you get from prosciutto - lingers with pear and melon on the long and spicy toasted finish.

Mystery Creek owner Garry Major made the wine, selecting the best barriques for his "reserve label", using about 80% French oak and 20% American oak, a mix of old and new. It underwent full malolactic fermentation and has 13% alcohol by volume. It costs $24.95 and the quantities are tiny as a late frost and rain at flowering affected the yields - as it did in most of the North Island for the 2001 vintage.

Garry Major's debut wine, the Mystery Creek Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2000, won gold at its first show outing. There something special about the Mystery Creek site, I feel.

Find out more from the Mystery Creek website.

© Sue Courtney

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