Stella Bella 2014 Chardonnay and Castle Rock 2014 Diletti Chardonnay are available for circa $30 a bottle in Australia. Respectively, from Margaret River and Porongurup, each is distinctly different. Both are clearly superior to a lot of more expensive Australian Chardonnays.
Most Australians who enjoy Chardonnay are well aware that Margaret River produces many fine examples.
Porongurup’s Chardonnay is still pretty much “off the radar”, although a rapidly-growing number of Riesling lovers are “discovering” this ancient range.
In WA’s Great Southern, Porongurup is more than 300 kilometres from Margaret River, but just a 45 minute drive from Albany.
At first sip of the two wines under review, I suspect, the Stella Bella is the one more likely to “wow” the taster – it really leaps out of the bottle.
Very intense, vibrant and persistent, its tang is more “citrus” than “stone fruit”; its “citrus” is more “blood orange meets grapefruit” than “lemons and limes”.
High quality French oak is definitely present, perhaps a tad overly so, but the fruit still sings and zings.
The Diletti is Castle Rock’s top Chardonnay and it also deploys obviously high quality French oak.
If it were first-sipped immediately after your first sip of the Stella Bella, the Diletti may at first appear the lesser wine.
Keep sipping, and you may change your mind.
The Diletti is, I think, the more harmonious, subtle and satisfying wine.
It inclines more to “stone fruit”, the oak is better integrated; the Diletti’s “parts” are less “spectacular” than Stella Bella’s, but the Diletti amounts to the lovelier “sum” – especially as you near bottle’s end.
Both wines have a quite opulent, slightly viscous mouthfeel, but are dry, refreshing.
If I had tasted them “blind”, I would have assumed that the Diletti was at least a year older than the Stella Bella.
I suspect another couple of years would do the latter a favour and I’m confident that neither wine will fade, any time soon.
If you are new to Stella Bella, this is a winery worth exploring; if you are partial to Tempranillo with structure/depth, seek out their 2012.
Castle Rock is one of my favourite labels; their Rieslings are reliably superb, astonishingly cheap, always age-worthy. The 2015 “standard” version is utterly lovely right now, but will be sublime in the 2020s.
If you imagine that WA does not or cannot produce delicious, refined, age-worthy Pinot Noir, Castle Rock should change your mind…their 2012 is superb current drinking, and has not yet peaked.