Impressive Patina whites

The vineyard, established in 1999, is at a lofty 930 metres altitude and owner Gerald Naef (pictured) supplements the fruit with grapes grown elsewhere in the region. (Photo: Patina Wines)

Patina is a micro-boutique winery in the Orange region whose white wines have been impressing me recently, especially the 2015 chardonnays and 2016 rieslings.

“I don’t think there is another region in the world that necessarily produces better chardonnay than Orange, there are just stylistic differences.” – Gerald Naef

The vineyard, established in 1999, is at a lofty 930 metres altitude and owner Gerald Naef supplements the fruit with grapes grown elsewhere in the region. He also makes shiraz from his father-in-law’s vineyard at Mudgee.

The Patina name is a good one, especially for a winemaker whose wife Anji is an artist. Patina evokes the idea of layering, patination on metal sculpture being the residue of oxidation of the metal. With wine, we can imagine the layering of bouquet and flavour brought about by ageing, or by winemaking interventions such as barrel maturation, malolactic fermentation and lees contact – characteristics introduced by the winemaking to add layers of complexity to the fruit.

One of the features of Patina chardonnays is that they usually have a buttery note, which I assume comes from malolactic but which most Australian winemakers seem hell-bent on avoiding these days. Like a lot of chardonnay drinkers, I love a hint of butter or butterscotch in chardonnay. Too much can be overpowering and the wine can become mawkish, but a trace of it adds to the wine’s charm and complexity.

The two 2015 Patina chardonnays, regular (AUD $35; 94 points) and Reserve (AUD $45; 95 points), impressed in my recent chardonnay tasting, and the prices are very reasonable for wines of their calibre. They also have the bonus of a little extra age, which is a plus for slow-evolving cool-climate wines. Many wineries are already releasing their 2017s.

The Patina rieslings are also on song at the moment. I enjoyed the two 2016s – the Scandalous Riesling (AUD $25; 94 points) and regular dry riesling (AUD $25; 93 points). If you haven’t already twigged, Scandalous refers to the residual sugar which puts this wine into the halbtrocken or semi-dry bracket. Gerald explains that in Australia, unlike Germany, residual sugar in riesling is regarded with suspicion: not a sign of a serious wine – as if it might be covering up some deficiency in the wine. He disagrees (so do I), and this wine is his retort.

I’ll give Gerald the last word about Patina, as he is a steadfast believer in the Orange region, despite being born and raised in California where he spent the first 26 years of his life.

“I don’t think there is another region in the world that necessarily produces better chardonnay than Orange, there are just stylistic differences,” he says.

“The basalt soil of Orange grows many grape varieties well but more importantly our high elevation is what makes the region stand out. With less atmosphere above us at 900m above sea level, we experience greater UV light intensity.

The grapevines deal with this by thickening the grape skins and, since all the flavour and colour come from the skins, we naturally produce wines with more flavour. This culminates well with chardonnay, making it the premier white variety for the region.”

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