One dictionary definition of the word liberty is ‘freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction’.
On the label of Chestnut Hill’s Liberty Chardonnay sits a quote from the wine’s maker – ‘Liberty is a gift that we had never experienced in our homeland. We came to Australia and found it.’
In simple terms, the word liberty is about freedom on many levels and Ivka and Drago (call him Charlie) Javor of Chestnut Hill Winery found their liberty in Gippsland, Victoria and from that freedom have made some great wine.
When Ivka and Charlie arrived in Australia, from Croatia, in the late 1960s wine making wasn’t part of their plan nor had it been part of their past. They were already in Gippsland when they bought some neighbouring land they’d had their eye on for a few years and in 1985 they decided to start growing grapes after unsuccessfully trying to farm chestnuts – hence the label name.
‘Charlie read a lot,’ explains Ivka, ‘he got a lot of help from people and I know everything he reads,’ she says wryly, ‘ and we have land that’s so good for grapes – it grows them so well, it keeps us busy.’
They started with chardonnay and shiraz and then in 1994 planted some pinot noir and sauvignon blanc. The shiraz didn’t take to the area but the other varieties did and now they have a total of eight acres of vines: four acres of chardonnay, the rest being pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and 5 rows of nebbiolo.
Wine should be indicative of its maker and terroir – the soil, climate, sunshine and that little bit of magic that, when a wine is good, lifts it out of the ordinary – and Chestnut Hill wines have an elegant strength to them and a gentle resilience on the palate. If bold wines that punch your palate and are full of uncomplicated big flavours are not your thing then try some Chestnut Hill.
The chardonnay isn’t loud so much as suggestive, it has hints of oak that don’t overpower but carry citrusy flavours to the back palate. I’ve matched it with the whole King George Whiting with Sauce Gribiche from the Guide to Fish.
The sauvignon blanc has a lot more restraint than you would normally taste in a New World sauvignon blanc – herbaceous, yes, but overwhelmingly so, no. It’s a good drop. Goat’s cheese is a classic match for sauvignon blanc – I’ve included a goat’s cheese salad recipe below.
I like liberty…
For the Liberty Chardonnay:
Whole baked King George whiting with sauce gribiche
2 x whole King George Whiting
Heat oven to 180C.
Place a piece of alfoil, big enough to wrap around one whole whiting on the kitchen bench and on top of this put a piece of greaseproof paper. Place the fish on the top of this and pour olive oil over the whiting and season with salt and pepper.
Put in the oven and check after 20 minutes. Take out of the oven and open the alfoil and baking paper. Cook for a further 10 minutes open, to crisp up the skin a little.
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil
80 ml red wine vinegar
cornichons to taste (start with 6 and add from there if you wish)
2 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Hard boil the three eggs and when they’re done run them under cold water. Shell the eggs and then separate the yolks from the whites.
Mash the egg yolk into a paste, add the mustard and in a steady stream, pour in the olive oil as you would if making mayonnaise to finish add with the vinegar.
Finely chop the egg whites and cornichons; add to the sauce and season with salt and pepper, finish with the chopped parsley and stir through.
For the Sauvignon Blanc:
Goat’s Cheese Salad
250g goat’s cheese – Meredith Dairy goat’s cheese is lovely – chopped into a rough dice
2 beetroot – peeled, chopped, boiled and cooled
2 cups baby spinach leaves – washed
6 large basil leaves – torn
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)
40ml red wine vinegar
75ml EV olive oil
Place the beetroot, spinach, basil and walnuts (if using), into a bowl. Pour over the vinegar, oil, season with salt and pepper and mix together well. Finally, put the cheese over the top of the combined ingredients and mix thoroughly but gently so the cheese doesn’t fall apart too much.