2021 Stratus White, Niagara-On-The-Lake VQA, Niagara, Ontario, Canada (Alcohol 13.2%, Residual Sugar 0.4 g/l) Winery/website/Loop Line Wine & Food $49 (750ml “featherweight” glass bottle)

I still remember my very first taste of Stratus White. Charles Baker poured it for me in the early days of the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar, and that 2000 vintage certainly made quite the impression, as I had never experienced anything like it before.

19 vintages later, the 2021 Stratus White still stands alone, as there is nothing else quite like it, but over the intervening years, the wine’s style has ever-so-gradually evolved, going through tiny permutations with each and every vintage. The wine I am tasting today is still recognisable as having a lineage running back to that very first vintage; the pedigree of that estate fruit shines through.

In the glass we have before us a beautifully defined, fresh, taut, and an undeniably contemporary wine. With the 2021, J.L. Groux and Dean Stoyka have honed their art of assemblage to deftly create one of my favourite Stratus Whites yet.

I found the nose rather closed at first, but as it warmed up, it began to come into its own. Revisiting it two days later, the bouquet was gloriously expressive. Expect pungently fragrant tropical fruits and a beautiful florality reminiscent of hyacinths and magnolias on a humid summer night. And it’s only going to get more complex with time.

The palate is tightly wound, presenting a beautiful, silky texture in the mouth. There’s a subtle fruit delicacy here too, something I feel will develop with time in the bottle.

As with many of the better assemblage wines, it can be tricky to pick out what the different components bring to the mix as the varieties are so well integrated. After a couple of days, I was better able to parse the blend, with the 48% Chardonnay beginning to show its face, the boxwood/nettle element from the 44% Sauvignon Blanc becoming more prominent, and the 8% Semillon adding layers of texture to the mouthfeel. Getting air into this young wine made such a difference, showing the wine’s inherent potential for ageing.

Thinking back to that first vintage of Stratus White, I’m reminded of the oak component that was so integral to the aromatic and flavour profile. While the oak is certainly present here, it has been dialled back to a point where the deep, complex, pure fruit character can really shine.

It’s also worth noting that the 2021 is bottled in “featherweight” glass, part of the winery’s journey towards a more mindful footprint. This special lightweight glass comes in at less than 370g, less than half the weight of the original 790g bottle. Thankfully, the days of the best wine being in the biggest, heaviest bottles are in the past, at Stratus at least.

(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)