TO GIN GIN OR NOT?
Chardonnay is one of the best known, and widely planted, grape varieties in the world. Its traditional home is Burgundy, France, but it also stands out in Margaret River.
The way Chardonnay is expressed around the world is varied, due to a number of factors including, what region and subregion it is grown in, the specific site, winemaking decisions including oak etc, and the actual clone of Chardonnay being used.
Clones, when we refer to them in ‘winespeak’, are a cutting or a bud from a ‘mother’ vine – and naturally the older the varietal, the more clones we tend to see. Clones become important when considering the site in which it is planted. Often clones are selected to suit a particular soil, or environment, or because of their resistance to certain diseases.
There are a number of clones of Chardonnay from around the world, including options from Burgundy (Dijon clones), America (Davis clones) and a very unique and special one in Western Australia, called the Gin Gin clone.
The original Gin Gin clones were imported from California in 1957 and planted in the Swan Valley research station. Vines were subsequently supplied to a vineyard in the Swan Valley, and one in Gin Gin. Vines from this Gin Gin vineyard were supplied to a number of Margaret River vineyards in the mid/late 70’s, and so the clone has proliferated.
There was always debate as to whether the Gin Gin vines were the same as the American Mendoza clone, with a general acceptance that it was. However, genetic sequencing done in 2018 determined the Gin Gin vines were a unique clone, and special to this wonderful region.
The Gin Gin bunches have what is called hen and chicken (or millerandage), which means it has lots of normal size berries, but also lots of small berries. The high number of small berries gives a more concentrated juice and wine, and this is reflected in the traditional Margaret River expression of Chardonnay.
In my time making wine in Margaret River, I have had the privilege of working with the Gin Gin clone, as well as the Dijon and Davis clones, from various vineyards, so I feel I have a reasonable understanding of what they all can deliver.
When you choose to plant a vineyard, you obviously get to make these decisions as to what varieties, and clones, to plant, a choice we faced when we planted our vineyard in 2008.
Well, we decided to go against the trend, and plant 2 Dijon clones, 95 and 96, in equal amounts!
Why was this our decision? Certainly, the Gin Gin clone does give wines great concentration and focus, traditionally of the Margaret River style. From my experience, I always enjoyed the more subtle and textural expression of Chardonnay that the Dijon clones delivered, particularly clones 95 and 96. I guess a part of this was my passion for white Burgundy. The decision was made, the vines were put in the ground, and this is where we now are. I certainly don’t regret that early decision.
I do think it really shows in the Flowstone expression of Chardonnay, being subtle, textural and nuanced, but still showing the great Margaret River signature.
Feel free to join me in this wonderful celebration of Chardonnay! I think it is my favourite variety.
Click here to learn more about my love affair with Chardonnay.