La Meilleure: Q&A with Winemaker Liam McElhinney

La Meilleure: Q&A with Winemaker Liam McElhinney

In 2020, Chief Winemaker Liam McElhinney was inspired to create an ultra-premium Tasmanian Chardonnay, which culminated in the La Meilleure.

We sat down with Liam to hear about his philosophy behind this new Lowestoft icon wine.

When did you decide that this wine could sit alongside La Maison?

We had some really nice parcels of Chardonnay from the 2021 vintage that, for no good reason, essentially had no home. I was having a random walk around and taste in the cellar one day and threw a bit of a blend together to put in front of my team...It was an absolute ripper!

We knew the components were good wines, but when blended together, something pretty special evolved, and hence the La Meilleure was born.

Is there a style of Chardonnay around the world you would consider as a benchmark?

When we first put this wine in front of some colleagues to taste, they thought it was French, from Meursault. And actually, it does look quite French in style.

We really love the great Chardonnays of Margaret River, but Tasmanian Chardonnay doesn't have the power and fruit intensity. We showcase a more mineral edge, with salinity and tension, more citrus in style.

What clone(s) are the Chardonnay vines?

P58, I10V1 and 95.

What do you think fruit from the different regions impart to the final wine:

  • Coal River Valley: This gives the wine a strong fruit core.
  • Tasman Peninsula: Acidity, tension and drive.
  • East Coast: Structure and texture.
  • Tamar Valley: Aromatic complexity.

Does this wine undergo malolactic fermentation (MLF)? How does this vary between vintages?

We definitely get some spontaneous MLF occurring in a few batches, whilst others have additions made to encourage MLF. It’s a useful tool to use, but there will certainly be vintages where very little MLF is required.

For the 2021, we knew we needed some MLF top help soften the acidity, but I didn’t think the whole lot needed MLF. We also wanted to lock in some of the flinty, pithy aromatics with early sulphur addition.

What are your thoughts on wild fermentation?

We get our best results with wild fermentation in Chardonnay. The combination of yeast solids, warmer temperatures, and a touch of the great unknown all add up to deliciousness in my experience.

What do you love most about this wine?

I love the way that this wine completely catches people off guard. Many often comment that it’s unlike any other Tasmanian Chardonnay they’ve tried before.

This wine is a reflection of two coastal vineyards in Tasmania, both of which have significant deposits of fossilised seashells throughout the soil profile. It truly captures the coastal elements of the fruit, with lifted minerality and a lovely saline/salt spray influence.

Shop the La Meilleure Chardonnay online here.

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