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Australian Chardonnay: striking value for money & regional diversity

Matthew-Jukes-100-Best-Australian-Wines-Report-2015-282x400

Matthew Jukes Best 100 Australian Wines (revealed last month) featured some fabulous Chardonnays in a category which is firing on all cylinders at the moment.  An aspect of that is signposted by the first of my pick of the bunch from Jukes’ selection, McWilliam’s “Appellation Series.” Appellation or, as the Australians usually say, regionality, has become more pronounced and I was struck by the impressive diversity of Chardonnays shown.  I’ve listed my highlights by order of (rising) price, on which note I was also struck by what fantastic value for money Australian Chardonnay offers.

McWilliam’s Appellation Series Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2014 (New South Wales)

My last post on Australian Chardonnays focused Tumbarumba – Eden Road’s excellent wines and McWilliam’s-owned winery Barwang’s Tumbarumba Chardonnays have also featured in these virtual pages before now.  So, as you can guess, I’m a fan of this mountainous cool climate region’s Chardys.  Apple blossom, subtle sourdough hints and snappy green apple make for a delicate, slightly wild (attractively so) profile with a taut, well-focused structure.  Mouthwatering and long.  Wears its oak very lightly.  13%  RRP £15

Howard Park Miamup Chardonnay 2013 (Margaret River)

JEFF AND AMY BURCH

When I caught up with Howard Park’s Jeff and Amy Burch last year I remember noticing that Howard Park Chardonnay (the 2012 vintage) had evolved into a very fine swan indeed.  I thought it was down to Great Southern fruit but clearly Amy hit the nail on the head when she attributed it to winemaker Janice McDonald’s skill with this variety (the 2012 was the first vintage for which McDonald was responsible from vine to wine), because Miaump comes from Margaret River!  It’s a cool, flinty, crisp Chardonnay – very fine-boned, with the region’s persistent lemon and grapefruit Gin Gin clone citrussy drive.  13% RRP £16

Coldstream Hills Chardonnay 2012 (Yarra Valley)

A richer, weightier Chardonnay with well judged oak, intense white peach, lemon, cashew and sourdough layers; just lovely mouthfeel – not creamy, but round, silky even.  Slipping down all too easily, it’s beautifully balanced, long and resonant.  13%  RRP £16

Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2013 (Tasmania)

The last (2011) vintage which I tasted over-played the cordite/gunflint for me.  So I was delighted to discover that the 2013 is a quite different animal.  Much more of a piece, less strident, yet utterly compelling.  As Tassie can do so well, it’s crisp, very taut, with icing sugar dusted green apple and fleshier golden delicious on the attack, lovely purity.  It reveals subtle smoked hazelnut going through and an undertow of slatey minerality.  Great line and length.  Really impressive.  I’d have been hard put to believe it’s one of the higher alcohol of the Chardonnays such is its prescion and focus.  13.5% £22

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Chardonnay 2013 (Yarra Valley, Victoria)

Strangely, or not, because they come from the same northerly, Yarra Valley floor vineyard (Dixon’s Creek), this firm, dry, mineral Chardonnay put me in mind of the de Bortoli’s Yarra Valley Reserve Release Pinot Noirs which I showed earlier this year at a Wine Australia Pinot Noir masterclass.  It’s textural, but in a dry, chewy way (when I say mineral, I meant sandstone, so I’m thinking a rub of mica crystals and sand)!?!  Anyway, this cat did not get the cream and carries not an ounce of extra weight – a very grown up Chardonnay which seeks neither to flatter nor deceive.  13% RRP £20

Giant Steps Sexton Chardonnay 2013 (Yarra Valley)

Giant Steps' Phil Sexton at the Sexton Vineyard, Yarra Valley

Giant Steps’ Phil Sexton at the Sexton Vineyard, Yarra Valley

And that word, chewy, comes up again.  I only hope I’ve managed to convey some idea of what I mean by that!  I suppose you might say dry extract, but big picture, it’s about not relying on the fruit to give the wine palate presence. Rather, bringing grape and yeast solids from the fermentation process, seasoned oak and minerality (a controversial issue I know) into the equation.  As for Giant Steps Sexton. it’s a savoury, richly textured Chardonnay with a very sensual, swooping palate of super-subtle stone fruit, citrus (the slope) and uplifting struck match.  Crushed quartz minerality lends a shimmer – shards of light – to the savoury, long finish.  Terrific.  13% RRP £23

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (Mornington Peninsula)

A funky yet precise Chardonnay with pronounced, savoury sour dough, bosky, wetland and mineral notes.  Again, it has a dry, chewable texture.  It makes for a very involving, salivating palate with a slap and tickle of acidity to keep it rock and rolling for a very long time.  Plenty of back palate resonance and gravitas.  12% RRP £35

Paringa Estate Chardonnay 2012 (Mornington Peninsula)

lindsay mccall paringa

Paringa’s owner/winemaker Lindsay McCall in the vineyard

This Chardonnay, one of my June Wines of the Month took me back to a lunch at Paringa Estate with owner/winemaker Lindsay McCall (pictured) – it would be perfect with my wild mushroom and truffle dish.  McCall is a huge fan of Burgundy and I couldn’t agree more with Jukes that his wine “offers a Prestige Cuvée flavour at half the price of its competition.”  Handpicked fruit was whole bunch pressed directly to French oak barrels (30% new), where it was fermented (with c 30% indigenous yeast) and aged on the lees for 10 months with batonnage.  It reveals toasty, spicy oak and white peach to the nose – rich and enticing.  In the mouth these flavours mingle deliciously with fresh grapefruit and apple close to the core (no malo a good thing), which makes for a beautifully balanced yet very involving, very persistent palate.  Demanding even – like a number of the Chardys in Jukes’ line up (watch this space for my notes) it has almost a chewy savouriness to it which I loved.  It is most certainly a wine to savour.  Terrific.  13.5%  The RRP is £39; contact Hallowed Ground for stockists.

 

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