The Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – The Future Star of the Adelaide Hills

The Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – The Future Star of the Adelaide Hills

If you ask the Adelaide Hills locals, they’ll likely tell you that the local Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the best varietals produced in their region. After all, it’s been producers like Martin Shaw of Shaw and Smith who have made Adelaide Hills Sauvies Australia’s answer to the ever-popular Marlborough versions. And it’s Ashton Hills with their reserve Pinot that has given the mainland a pinot that can compete with the best from across the Bass Straight and even the Tasman Sea. But as good as their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot may be, I’m firmly convinced that it’s their Chardonnay that will prove to be the star of the Adelaide Hills over the next 20 years.

Just like Orange in New South Wales, the Adelaide Hills elevation means that it is well placed to adjust to climate change in coming years. The cooling breezes from the southern ocean create microclimates in many of the valleys and gullies through the Hills, and these pockets have proven themselves to be ideally suited to Chardonnay, especially in places like the Piccadilly Valley. The warm days in summer and cooler nights are perfect for Chardy as the fruit is able to ripen well and develop intensity of flavour, yet preserve the natural acidity that provides balance and structure. If we see temperatures rise by 2 – 3 degrees in the coming decades, I suspect that Chardonnay will cope relatively well, while sauvignon blanc and Pinot might find themselves calling for an ice bucket and a wet towel!

During a recent visit, I was struck by just how cold the place can be in winter (at least for a Queenslander). Thank goodness spring is just around the corner! On a chilly August Friday afternoon on which the mercury was only able to manage 10 degrees, it was The Lane Vineyard at Balhannah (near Hahndorf) that offered respite from the chilly mountain air. Their range includes everything from sauvignon blanc to pinot noir, and shiraz to pinot gris. But it was the range of Chardonnay that saw my oenological radar lock on like a surface to air missile!

The Lane’s vineyards extend over about 40 hectares, which they say “sit on ancient gravelly soils estimated at 500 – 870 million years old, with limestone and calcium silicates and dotted with ferrous pebbles throughout.” Having spent time there, it’s easy to see how there can be such variation between paddocks and even rows in the vineyards, given the undulating nature of the terrain and the varying aspects of individual plots. A very pretty place!

Pleasingly, head winemaker Turon White is a “chardophile”, like me. According to White, “no other white grape has the purity, freshness and brightness, but also the depth and complexity”. I reckon we’ll get on well!

The “entry level” The Lane Chardonnay sells at $30 cellar door but is only $22.50 if you join their club. The current vintage is 2022 and is fresh, lively and quite mineralic. If you like your Chardy with a citrus blossom nose and granny smith and pear on the palate, then this may be just right for you. 

The next step up sees you pouring The Beginning Chardonnay 2022 – selling at $55 at the cellar door, with a discount for club members. This little gem is likely to appeal to those who like a chardonnay of poise, grace and elegance. It’s a prima ballerina! Nectarine and cashew nut on the nose becomes peach, rockmelon and nougat through the middle. French oak exposure balances the natural acidity through a lingering finale; I’m guessing that you’ll find it difficult to resist the temptation to pour another glass!

If hedonism doesn’t offend your personal values, the jump up to the Heritage Chardonnay 2022 ($100) is more like a flight of stairs than a single step. They tell me that it’s only made in exceptional years and the 2022 vintage was one of them. This small batch wine is made from the fruit of the oldest vines on the vineyard and rests for ten months in the best French oaks barrels that the Chassin and Gillet cooperages supply. The good judges have scored previous vintages highly – James Halliday gave the 2021 vintage 97 points and the 2020 version a very respectable 96 points. Those scores put it up there with the best Chardonnays in the country!

Chardonnay remains a divisive wine – Australians seem to either love it or hate it – but if the varietal is on your shopping list, you won’t go wrong with one sourced from the Adelaide Hills region. And you’re in for a real treat if the bottle you take home is wearing The Lane’s logo!

As published in The Courier Mail.


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