Chambers of Rutherglen is not the first winery that springs to mind for its sweet white wines; fortifieds yes; VFM red wines, and obscurities (anyone for Gouais) perhaps? Australia has made botrytis-affected wines from many varieties, principally Riesling and Semillon, but there have been some adventures in Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and even Marsanne. Some of these were made deliberately, others where circumstances forced the winemaking decisions.
2011 was a pretty dire year for winemaking in Victoria, and much of Australia (although Margaret River fared well, and McLaren Vale reasonably well). There was unseasonal rain, making spraying difficult- tractors got bogged- and plenty of rot. Most red wines from Victoria lacked colour, and density. Matters were not so bleak with white wines, and there are some scintillating Chardonnays made that year in the Yarra Valley.
There have been a few late-picked or botrytised muscadelles from Rutherglen (Pfeiffer’s is known), so its not unique. Muscadelle is the variety used in making Australia’s sensational barrel-aged fortified Topaques (formerly Tokay). The late-picked style is cash-flow friendly too.
From my unreliable memory, Chambers has made this botrytis style before in 1996 and 2000, and perhaps in other years, so they have a track record, although those seasons were much kinder. I paid $15 for this half-bottle a few years ago.
Its an attractive glowing deep gold colour with a hint of amber. While the bouquet is vibrant ramshackle orange marmalade, tangelo and dark honey, botrytis has performed its magic fruit concentration role on the palate, and its clearer that that flavours fall into the “dark” orange marmalade, and marginally overripe apricot fruit spectrum. The botrytis has overwhelmed any varietal characters – no bad thing. There is some bitterness too, but not enough to dissipate the wine’s pleasures.
There is considerable sweetness, and while the acid is holding this together, I would recommend drinking soon, before the phenolics take over. No embarrassment to drink; the glass seems to empty of its own volition.
Score 89 points, drink to 2019.