After 35 years in the Yarra Valley, guiding the fortunes of one of Australia’s biggest wine brands, De Bortoli chief winemaker Steve Webber still feels the pressure at vintage time.

“My goal each year is to make better and more interesting wine,’’ says Webber, whose team has just finished picking vintage 2024.

“You really have these three or four weeks of the year that determine what we’ll be drinking in the years ahead. We do think it’s looking to be a very good vintage – the pinot noir and chardonnay will be outstanding and cabernet looks very good as well.”

In wine, like most things, perfection remains an elusive quarry but De Bortoli has risen to the highest ranks of Australian wine under Webber’s watch.

As The Australian Wine Club president James Halliday says, De Bortoli has become “arguably the most successful of all Yarra Valley wineries, not only in terms of the sheer volume of production but also the quality of its wines”.

One of De Bortoli’s highest-rated wines from the brilliant 2021 vintage, the De Bortoli Section A5 Yarra Valley Chardonnay, stars in The Australian Wine Club’s lineup of four excellent chardonnays making up our dozen deal of the week.

While pinot noir is probably Webber’s favourite wine to drink, chardonnay is his favourite wine to make.

“Chardonnay is grown everywhere but to make it taste like the place that it is grown is challenging – when you do get it right, it is very satisfying,’’ he says.

De Bortoli’s A5 Vineyard, a southwest-facing block in Dixon’s Creek, is one of the oldest chardonnay blocks in the valley, having been planted in 1976.

“The 2021 in particular is really one of the best examples you’ll see of what the A5 produces,’’ Webber says. “I am often surprised at just how fine and delicate the wine from the A5 vineyard is – and the 2021 shows that.”

Webber began his winemaking career at Leo Buring/Lindemans in 1978 where he learnt from winemaking masters such as John Vickery, Philip Laffer and Karl Stockhausen. He moved to the Yarra in 1989 after marrying Leanne De Bortoli, granddaughter of De Bortoli founders Vittorio and Giuseppina. Together, Leanne and Steve manage the Yarra Valley Estate.

While the awards have been many over the years, including a revered Jimmy Watson Trophy and a Gourmet Traveller Winemaker of the Year title, Webber remains motivated by innovating and pushing boundaries.

“You’ve almost got to go too far sometimes to know where the equilibrium or the right place is,’’ he has said. “I don’t think we’ll ever make great wine unless we push ourselves to the edge.”

He also has a keen interest in developing lesser-know varieties such as gamay, a French varietal most notably grown in Beaujolais.

“People are looking for lighter red styles – full of flavour but a little lighter in alcohol,’’ Webber says.

“We also need to be innovating to look at what varieties will work well in the Yarra as some of our vineyards are getting a little warm for pinot. That’s what gets me excited. Trying new things and experimenting a little bit.”

De Bortoli Section A5 Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2021

This fine-bodied chardonnay entrances with a gentle bouquet of nectarine, yellow peach and jasmine with a hint of sea spray, brioche and struck match. Lovely bright fruit on the palate – yellow peach and citrus – and savoury, nutty notes with zesty acidity pulsing through. Oak influence is subtle.

Impressive wine; will cellar. 96 points from Halliday Wine Companion. 12.7% alc; RRP $55 a bottle.

SPECIALS $49.99 a bottle in any dozen; $25.99 a bottle in Chardonnay dozen.

Bleasdale Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022

From the Halliday Wine Companion’s Winery of the Year comes a beautifully balanced chardonnay, with fruit and oak in precise alignment. White peach and nectarines lead from nose to palate, with lemon and grapefruit melding with vanilla notes on the way to a fresh finish. Matured in new (25%) and used French oak for nine months.

Would work well with creamy chicken dishes and rich lobster. 96 points from James Halliday. 12.5% alc; RRP $35 a bottle.

SPECIALS $32 a bottle in any dozen; $25.99 a bottle in Chardonnay dozen.

Dandelion Vineyards Twilight of the Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2021

Creamy, nutty and ripe aromas of citrus, peach, nectarine and honeysuckle. Palate is rich but fresh. Toasty oak, citrus, stone fruit flavours and quince roll to a nutty, textural finish. Partially fermented in stainless steel and finished in new and seasoned French barriques.

Detailed winemaking. Red star for exceptional value from Halliday Wine Companion. 12.5% alc; RRP $30 a bottle.

SPECIALS $23.99 bottle in any dozen; $25.99 a bottle in Chardonnay dozen.

Jim Brand Yates Coonawarra Chardonnay 2022

Yellow peach, apricot kernel and hints of cinnamon and nutmeg aromas lead to grapefruit and pineapple on the palate, with hints of roasted cashew nuts and butter.

Bright acidity carries the flavours to a long, dry finish. 93 points Wine Orbit.

12.5% alc; RRP $30 a bottle.

SPECIALS $25.99 a bottle in any dozen; $25.99 a bottle in Chardonnay dozen.

CHARDONNAY DOZEN DEAL Three bottles of each wine above for $25.99 a bottle. SAVE $138 a dozen.

Order by simply clicking the links to our online store or telephone 1300 765 359 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm AEST. Deals are available only while stocks last. The Australian Wine Club is a commercial partnership with Laithwaites Wine, LIQP770016550. Stockhead is partnering with The Australian Wine Club on this offer.