WINE REVIEW: Jules Taylor Wines 2020 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($20)
by Andrew Chalk
This is not a winery that I had heard of but one that I suspect I will be hearing a lot more about in the future. It was started in 2006 by the husband and wife team of Jules Taylor and George Elworthy while she was Group Senior Winemaker at Kim Crawford. She handles the winemaking, he handles sales and operations. Born in Marlborough, in 2021 Jules won New Zealand Winemaker of the Year from Gourmet Traveller of the Year.
Their focus is on long-term commitments to the same growers year-after-year. This engenders a close relationship with them and provides them with a deeper knowledge of specific vineyards. Jules makes the crucial picking decision on taste, not instruments.
Although Jules has a special affinity with Sauvignon Blanc the winery now makes a full range of wines including the (obligatory in Marlborough) sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot gris, and grüner veltliner. Late harvest sauvignon blanc and rosé of pinot noir expressions augment the range. The winery also appears to run two brands. The other one is called OTQ for On The Quiet, although it maybe could be interpreted as ‘Our Top Quality’, priced one-third to one-half higher than the ‘Jules Taylor’ brand.
New Zealand winemaking has been a hotbed for independent thinkers since the country defined a ‘third’ model of sauvignon blanc in the 1980s. Their racy pinot noir and refined chardonnay wines have continued to define that. This chardonnay has the French oak of its European or American counterparts, is part barrel-fermented in French oak barrels, undergoes a full malolactic fermentation like the style of Californian chardonnay, and emerges with fruity flavors of peach and mango, nuances of vanilla in the nose, and good, but not racy, acid. ‘Food friendly’ is an overworked term in wine but it applies here in that nothing in this reasonably-priced wine is out of whack.