The McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay is a complex beast that might polarise opinion, but will reward patience
McGuigan Wines, from Australia’s Hunter Valley, produce some of the most ubiquitous wines in the UK. The Australian white section of my local Sainsbury’s, for example, is almost exclusively populated by McGuigan wines.
McGuigan are chiefly known for their mass-market versions of popular varietals like Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauv Blanc and Merlot. But they also do a premium, individually numbered “Shortlist” range, which includes a GSM blend, a Semillon, a Riesling and this Chardonnay, from the Adelaide Hills.
Now, I drink quite a lot of traditional French Chardonnay, so this one (described as a “modern style”) took me by surprise. On the nose, it kicks off with an unusually powerful (almost pungent) smell of smokey oak. It’s like somebody struck a match under my nose. It’s also immediately obvious that it’s had contact with the lees, because it has an undeniably bready aspect. Sourdough bread, if you want to get nerdy about it.
Bread and oak are all very well — except when they overpower the fruit. And at first this seems to be the case. If I were sampling this wine at a tasting event I might have marched off disappointed.
But I’m not at a tasting, and as I have just this bottle to devote my attention to, I soon discover that this is a wine that demands patience. After a few minutes of coaxing (ie “swirling about”), it opens up to allow the apple, pear and citrus scents to escape. And it’s all the better for it.
The McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay will pair well with a hearty, creamy seafood pasta, but is likely to overpower more delicate dishes. I generally prefer more fruit-forward whites, but if you take yours oaky and smokey (Pouilly Fumé, for instance), this could be one for you.