Australian Chardonnay – from zero to hero – Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A 2009 crowned Champion White wine of the International Wine Challenge

Last night Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A 2009 from the Adelaide Hills, South Australia was crowned Champion White wine of the International Wine Challenge (click here for all the results).  For IWC Co-Chair Tim Atkin MW, this multi-award winning, multi-layered wine is symbolic of Australia’s Chardonnay revolution.

Coincidentally, earlier that day I’d attended a seminar with leading Australian producers in which the panel (John Duval, Vanya Cullen & Tim James) discussed how Australian Chardonnay has undergone perhaps the greatest evolution of any Australian table wine since it made its official debut a little over 30 years ago.

Fascinatingly, Duval (ex Chief Winemaker at Penfolds) revealed that when Penfolds embarked on the so-called “White Grange” project in 1992 (from which emerged flagship Chardonnay Yattarna, also Reserve Bin 09A), there was much debate over whether the company’s top white wine should be a Riesling, Semillon or a Chardonnay.  I reckon they’re feeling very comfortable with their decision to run with Chardonnay!

Here’s my July tasting note of the International Wine Challenge’s Champion White plus notes on two more great examples of Adelaide Hills Chardonnay from yesterday’s seminar, which was hosted by Liberty Wines.  All three wines reinforce this region’s great affinity for the variety.

Penfolds Reserve Bin 09A 2009 (Adelaide Hills)

Though like the 2008, there’s plenty of toast and flint to nose and palate, this is less Puligny more Meursault  with its relatively ample, deliciously corpulent palate of roast hazelnut and white peach deftly balanced by lemony acidity.  Great depth, layer and length to this multi-award-winning wine (38 trophies in 3 vintages).  Very good.  £42 at Majestic

Shaw & Smith `M3`Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills)

A rich, ripe Chardonnay with plenty of texture to its rich, ripe layers of white peach edged with nougat and honey.  The hill’s trademark backbone of acidity brings structure and length; finishes long and savoury.

Grosset `Piccadilly` Chardonnay 2009 (Adelaide Hills)

No surprises that Riesling guru Jeff Grosset is behind this leaner, finely honed Chardonnay.  Delicate yet intense with great purity to its white peach fruit and a lick of cinnamon ‘n cedar oak, it’s possessed of great line and length. Lovely salty/mineral mouth cleansing finish.

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