Make Mine A Double

Wine Review: Domaine Naturaliste Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon

Just in case you were thinking that these wines might have something to do with a nudist colony, no, it’s nothing like that. But, if you want to drink them in the buff then go ahead! This pair of wines are from Margaret River in Western Australia, so first a little reminder about the region, then an introduction to the producer, and finally notes on the wines themselves.

Margaret River

Margaret River Map
Credit: Domaine Naturaliste

Margaret River is not the only wine region in Western Australia but it surely ranks as the most important. It was famously founded as a wine region due to its climate being so close to that of Bordeaux, still a yardstick globally. As you can see from the map above, Margaret River is in the south west corner of the country, on the coast by the Indian Ocean and not too far from the chilly Southern Ocean.

The wines which MR is best known for include red and white Bordeaux blends, plus varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. There’s very little – if any – bulk wine made down here. In 2009 it was reported that, although Margaret River only produced 3% of Australia’s wine output by volume, it accounted for 20% of its premium wines.

Key producers to look out for include Leeuwin Estate, Cape Mentelle, Vasse Felix, Cullen Estate and Moss Wood.

Domaine Naturaliste

Domaine Naturaliste is located close to Cape Naturaliste, just seven kilometres from the Indian Ocean. The vines are 20 years old and surround the winery building. The firm is headed up by Bruce Dukes, a WA local who has earned his winemaking spurs around the world. From their website:

With intuitive flair based on decades of experience, Bruce strikes a tender balance between taste, fragrance and texture. His passion for agriculture, respect for process and true artistry makes for an exceptional drinking experience, each and every time.

There are three quality levels in the Naturaliste portfolio, with the most interesting (to me) being the two different expressions of Margaret River Chardonnay in the Flagship range:

  • Flagship: Artus Chardonnay, Purus Chardonnay, Morus Cabernet Sauvignon, Le Naturaliste Cabernet Franc
  • Direction: Floris Chardonnay, Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Rachis Syrah, Rebus Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Discovery: Sauvignon Blanc / Semillon, Chardonnay, Tempranillo Rosé, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

The wines in blue and bold are currently available in Ireland from O’Briens. So now to try two of the wines:

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Chardonnay 2019

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay

Fermentation and maturation of the Chardonnay grapes for this wine took place in French oak, albeit mostly second use or older. After fermentation the wine spent seven months on fine lees. Both the use of old barrels and time on lees gives a creamy texture to the wine and interesting additional notes.

In the glass it’s a bright lemon, but not the glowing gold of the oaky Chardonnays of yore. The nose eases tangy grapefruit into the conversation, promising freshness. There’s also a touch of exotic pineapple and mango, orange blossom, butterscotch and brioche. It really is perfectly poised between the steely (Chablis) and rich (Meursault) styles of Chardonnay. Those fruits reappear on the palate, which is gently tangy and fleshy.

This is a wonderful wine, and just based on the contents of the bottle I’d price it at €20 – €25 on the Irish market. That it costs less than that – significantly less on offer – makes it a joyous bargain.

  • ABV: 13.0%
  • RRP: €18.95 down to €15.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

Domaine Naturaliste “Discovery” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon

This Cabernet is from the same Discovery range as the Chardonnay above, and is similar in philosophy: it’s a fruit forward, accessible wine where the variety is given a chance to shine through judicious and restrained winemaking. A slight different from the Chardy is the extended maturation in French oak, twelve months versus seven for the white. I suspect the proportion of oak that is new is slightly higher for this wine as well – it can handle it.

When poured the wine is a little lighter than I’d expect from a new world Cabernet, and that’s reinforced by the nose which has as much red fruit as the black which Cab is better known for. The fruits are a mix of both fresh and compote, fresh but cosseting. Mocha and spice add interest. The palate is also aligned stylistically; it’s medium bodied rather than being a bruiser, with the oak adding toasty vanilla to the ripe berry fruits. It all comes together well a touch of tobacco and clean acidity on the finish

Cabernet Sauvignon is my favourite black grape, on its own or in a blend. While this doesn’t have the refinement and elegance of Coonawarra’s better offerings, neither does it have their price tag

  • ABV: 14.0%
  • RRP: €19.95 down to €16.95 from 1st to 25th September 2022
  • Source: sample
  • Stockists: O’Briens stores and obrienswine.ie

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