Janice McDonald has earned a second nomination as a finalist in Australia’s Winemaker of the Year with Burch Family Wines where she has worked since 2013. The judges have been very impressed by the quality and distinctiveness of wines at all pricepoints under the MadFish, Howard Park and Marchand & Burch labels.
She has overseen the development of three sparkling wines from the Mount Barrow vineyard under the Jeté label: vintage, NV and rosé, which is now a 7,000 case range. In 2017 the NV Howard Park Jeté Brut Blanc took out the prized award for Australia’s Best Sparkling Wine at the World Champagne and Sparkling Wine Championship in London. Not bad, considering the strength of the class in Australia at the present time. The wine itself – a chardonnay-dominant blend with pinot noir – is delicate, fine and gentle in the mouth with a crisp, clean, long finish that zings.
Howard Park’s winery in Denmark has been decommissioned and the tanks and equipment moved to headquarters in the Margaret River. The size, complexity and possibilities of the winery here have been further enhanced by the addition of equipment from the former Fonti’s Pool winery in Manjimup. Taking advantage of economies of scale, however, requires careful planning, vision and attention to detail as well as a cohesive and motivated team of winemakers. Janice McDonald makes it all happen.
Senior winemaker Mark Bailey helps with the administration, and takes responsibility for budgets and contract winemaking. Winemakers Poppie Jachmann and Izzy McDonald (no relation) supervise the laboratory and winery respectively. The tight-knit team taste together constantly and are all involved in the blending, and share an understanding of procedure and what is important in winemaking. They each spend at least two hours a week working in the cellar, bonding with those who carry out the seemingly never-ending and thankless tasks of the cellarhand.
Janice McDonald makes eight chardonnays for Burch Family Wines, including the 2017 MadFish, which is clean and restrained with fresh white peach. The 2016 Howard Park Flint Rock is tighter, has less fruit with hints of creamy oak. The 2017 Howard Park Cellar Collection (from Karridale) is fine, bright and intense with good weight and some mineral notes. She collaborates with Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand on the ethereal 2016 Marchand & Burch Chardonnay. This has wonderful finesse, poise and schisty minerality to finish. The 2016 Howard Park Allingham is intense with power and weight, restrained oak handling, richness and complexity. An impressive portfolio of chardonnays.
A major preoccupation for Janice McDonald in recent times has been to push the boundaries at the top end of the Howard Park range. Two wines have emerged from this, both to be named after the maternal line of the Burches. There is Howard Park ASW Cabernet Shiraz (named after owner Amy Burch’s parents Annie Sheila Wee and Alex Stephen Wee), rightly positioned above the Scotsdale and Leston reds. This is sourced from key parcels on the Leston vineyard. Tiny quantities of Howard Park AB29 (for Amy Burch) Cabernet have been made to sit in quality terms above the Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon; targeting the high-end Asian market. This has been a collaboration between Janice and long-term chief viticulturist David Botting who has isolated the best balanced vines from the Leston vineyard’s Block 29 (dry-grown since its 2004 planting) and is selectively picked ‘to capture the best expression of Margaret River cabernet.’ I believe that they have succeeded with the 2016 and 2018. These are restrained cabernets with marvellous deep black fruit flavours, juicy, velvety texture, and incredibly fine, bright tannins. Built for the long haul.
Janice McDonald is an outstanding winemaker: demanding of herself and others; thoughtful; rigorous; painstaking in her attention to detail. The wide range of wines under the Burch Family umbrella reveal they are well-made, distinctive and, when the occasion allows, show the winemaker’s flair.
REGION | Margaret River & Great Southern
YEARS IN THE INDUSTRY | 28
ANNUAL CRUSH | 4,000 tonnes
STANDOUT WINES | Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon; Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay