This was the pick of the Chardonnays last year and it’s certainly in the mix again in vintage 2021. Clay, as opposed to stainless steel, is porous and helps the must/wine breath during the fermentation process. In terms of how that translates into the wine, it seems airy and lifted and not as coiled and tightly wound as the other wines, especially at a young age. It’s an experiment that Giant Steps are seeing some great results with, having been at it for a few years now. In the 2021 release, the wine is layered and deep. Waves of meal and nut, dough and salt make up a mid palate that is succulent and expressive. Acid is moderate and flavours are in the white stone fruit realm. No oak is used in the ageing process, resulting in a transparent and pure Yarra Chardonnay. - Ches Cook, FWC.
The 2021 Clay Ferment Chardonnay is a wine that's made in small quantities—and perhaps difficult to get outside of Australia—however, it's an interesting proposition and one that goes some way toward revealing the importance of "subregional" DNA. There is one clay egg of each of the single vineyards, where the wine was vinified separately and then blended together prior to bottling. The eggs behave like oak barrels in terms of their micro-porosity and fermentation kinetics, however they leave no flavor artifact, making it a perfect vessel to understand the individual vineyard sites. This is slightly cloudy in the glass, with low sulfur at bottling, and via the unfined nature, it retains all the good phenolic texture and grip that can make Chardonnay so excellent. This has really good persistence of flavor in the mouth: power from Sexton, green olive and caper brine from Tarraford, savory white miso/from Applejack and pork crackling from Wombat Creek. This all alongside the white orchard fruit, of course. This is a fascinating wine that will titillate the purists to no end. An interesting side note: The clay eggs are handmade in coastal New South Wales. They're very delicate, so much so that the team brings them to temperature with filtered water prior to filling, so that when they're "loaded up" they don't go into thermal shock and crack. They really are handled like eggs. Drink 2022-2029. 94 Points. Erin Larkin, The Wine Advocate.