Once & Well, Chardonnay 2017
It could be a case of unconscious bias, but I’ve never been keen on writing about the Dan Murphy’s or BWS stable of highly promoted and often, overhyped reds and whites. Leaving aside the big brands like Tyrells, Penfolds, McGuigan, Taylors and De Bortoli, many of the wines found in a Dans or BWS outlet are mass produced to a price point, rather than a level of quality. And if you suspect that many of their cheap and cheery brands are Woolworths or Coles owned and focused on margins, I reckon you’re probably right.
But one of the samples that recently arrived from a corporate PR company took me a little by surprise. Not only did its quality surpass my (admittedly low) expectations, but I discovered a back story which probably explains the pleasant surprise and goes to show that when it’s in the blood, winemaking comes easily!
The 2017 Once & Well Chardonnay is a single varietal wine from the Margaret River region in Western Australia. It’s made by Freya Hounen, the daughter of acclaimed Australian winemaker David Hounen; whose claims to fame include being a founder of Cape Mentelle in the Margaret River region and the now famous Cloudy Bay in the Marlborough region at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. Those brands are amongst the most recognised of their respective districts and are respected globally. So with that kind of pedigree, it’s unsurprising that Freya knows how to make a decent chardy! These days, Freya makes wines alongside her partner, Ryan Walsh, under the Walsh & Sons label, but it seems that the Once & Well chardonnay is an exception.
So named after a favourite expression of Freya’s famous father, the Once & Well has certainly done that – it’s been done and very well at that! Masterfully crafted in the style of a light to medium bodied Margaret River chardonnay, the wine has complexity, liveliness of fruit and nice acidity for balance. I won’t pretend that it’s the equal of a powerful Leeuwin Estate or mouth-filling Moss Wood, but at the $20 price point, you’d hardly expect it to be. On the nose there’s hints of lemon, lime and grapefruit, but once on the lips a hazelnut character emerges and dances with lychees and nectarines on the mid-palate before some seasoned oak melds through the conclusion. The balance is pretty good too with enough gentle acids to harness the fruit and restrain somewhat the pineapple pieces that seemingly impose themselves on the finish.
While it goes down well on its own, it’s an obvious partner for apricot chicken or Chinese lemon chicken dishes.
Given its freshness, the style isn’t really one which cries out for time in the cellar, but for value it’s certainly well above average. Well done Freya Hounen – I reckon you’ve made Dad proud!
Winery Website: www.onceandwellwine.com.au
Travis Schultz is a wine reviewer for the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Grape Hunter extend their thanks to the Sunshine Coast Daily for allowing re-publication of his reviews