It’s not cheap, exactly. But the marvellous flavour and the story behind this wine might place it in a more agreeable perspective. First of all, Mike Traynor is a smart farmer and gifted tinkerer in the winery with a passion for natural, minimal-intervention techniques, among other things. Second, this chardonnay was made with special and rare grapes. In 2017, some of Traynor’s chardonnay vines became infected with a “good” fungus known as Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot. During periods of excessive moisture, when the fungus attacks grapes, it pierces their skin and slowly promotes water evaporation, concentrating sugars and enhancing flavours in the berries.
Many dessert-wine producers, notably in Bordeaux, take this opportunity to craft exotically flavoured sweet wines such as Sauternes. Traynor’s chardonnay fruit, however, had been destined for a fine, dry, skin-fermented table wine called 5th Element. Rather than using the Botrytis-affected fruit for that purpose, he performed a cull in the vineyard, harvesting the raisin-like fruit to make a separate wine. And instead of leaving a ton of sugar in the tank, he let the wine ferment all the way to dryness and a balanced level of 13.5-per-cent alcohol.
The result is very special. Golden in colour and ever-so-slightly hazy from contact with the lees, the wine tastes – what’s the word? – wholesome in the manner of the best natural wines. Medium-bodied and delectably fleshy and ripe, it offers up pronounced tropical-fruit flavours of mango and grilled pineapple along with popcorn, brown butter, brioche and toasted nuts. A new Canadian icon wine (let’s just hope the Botrytis keeps coming back to Traynor’s vineyard). Available direct in extremely limited quantity, traynorvineyard.com.
- Year: 2017
- Region: Prince Edward County
- Varietal: Chardonnay
- Price: $50