French elegance meets Aussie style at Chalkers Crossing.
We hear so much in the wine world about the influence of a new wave of Australian and other New World winemakers. Refreshing, then, to meet a diminutive French, female winemaker working in the cool climates North-West of Canberra and further south on the border with Victoria.
After initial training in the vineyards of Bordeaux, Parisian Céline Rousseau left France for opportunities in the great expanse of the Australian wine business.
15 years ago she landed at Chalkers Crossing, a small producer of exceptional wines from the cooler climates of New South Wales. Starting with the 2000 vintage, Céline began crafting wines of unusual elegance, utilising the cool, hilltop growing conditions that felt almost like those from her time in Bordeaux.
The 31DOVER.com team recently met Céline in London, where we tasted a group of her highly-regarded wines - they've won awards including the Qantas Young Winemaker of the Year.
We were blown away by the delicious tropical fruits of her Tumbarumba Chardonnay (£12.99), that whilst typically Australian also had many of the characteristics of restraint and elegance found in the best Chardonnays of France, like Chablis.
The Hilltops Cabernet Sauvignon (£12.99) was a real treat too. Whilst the high 14% ABV is certainly due to an incredible year for fully-ripe grapes, there was none of the over-bearing alcohol taste that some drinkers don't enjoy. This wine had really concentrated blackcurrant flavours along with a little hint of the 'lead pencil' minerality that is usually associated with the Graves region of France.
In both cases oak maturation of the wines was limited, in order to produce extremely elegant and balanced wines, while showcasing the effects of the climate and the soils of the elevated vineyards. Australian wines are usually pretty oak-heavy, which results in the full-bodied, rich vanilla flavours we're more familiar with.
It's rare to find such skilled winemaking and quality at this price point, but in Chalkers Crossing and Céline Rousseau we have found just that.