Australia’s Big Brands tasting & a favourite immodestly produced Marsanne

Last week Wine Australia hosted two tastings in London.  A Big Brands Tasting which invited tasters to ponder whether big means bad.  And a Landmark Tasting (presented by me) themed around aromatic whites.

I didn’t have time to taste all the big brand wines before my presentation but, scaling the rungs of Hardys’ ladder brands, Hardys Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2012 (£25) and Hardys HRB Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (£18) – the latter an unusual blend of Coonawarra and Margaret River fruit – offered plenty of class in the glass for the money.

The opposite could be said of many of the Chardonnays selected from the biggest international brands by volume in the UK (listed in full below).  Australia fared pretty well, fielding my pick of the line up in Jacobs Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2012 from Adelaide Hills (RRP £10).  There were some disastrously developed 2011 wines from elsewhere, while the residual sugar in Australia’s Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2013 seemed way over the top.


The Landmark Tasting, on the other hand, reinforced what interest and value for money you can get for around a tenner when you stray just a little bit off the beaten track.  To Nagambie Lakes, Victoria to be precise.  Tahbilk has produced Marsanne in this small wine region for over 100 hundred years (pre & post phylloxera).  The Rhone variety flourishes here, producing stone and citrus-fruited, gently nutty, ageworthy wines from vines, the oldest of which were planted in 1927.

Apparently Tahbilk’s 38.4ha of the variety represent the world’s largest (and oldest) single planting of the variety. A fair chunk of Australia’s Marsanne too – the country has a measly 192 (versus 25,491 hectares of Chardaonnay)!

I presented three vintages, the Tahblik Marsanne 2010, 2006 and 2002, all very good. For winemaker Alister Purbrick the variety – which remains Tahbilk’s biggest seller – is tremendously consistent.  The citrussy, particularly persistent 2006 was my personal favourite.

If you fancy conducting a vertical yourself, Jeroboams are selling Tahblik Marsanne 2008 (£9.95), 2009 (£12.20) and 2010 (£12.20).  The peachy 2010 is also on deal at Wine Direct at £10.95.

The UK’s biggest international Chardonnay brands by volume:

J P Chenet Colombard Chardonnay 2011, Vin de France £5.99

Kumala Colombard, Chardonnay 2012, Western Cape, South Africa £6.99

First Cape 1st Selection Chardonnay 2011, Western Cape, South Africa £4.99

Blossom Hill Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay 2012 £6.99

Echo Falls Chardonnay 2011, California, USA £5.99

Gallo Family Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, California, USA £5.99

Oyster Bay Chardonnay 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand £10.99

Isla Negra Reserva Chardonnay 2011, Valle Centrale, Chile £5.99

Casillero del Diablo Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Casablanca & Limari, Chile £7.99

Banrock Station Premium Selection Chardonnay 2013, Riverland, SEA £10.99

Hardys William Hardy Chardonnay 2013, South Australia £8.99

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Chardonnay 2012, Adelaide Hills, SA £10.00

McGuigan Wines Reserve Chardonnay 2012, South Australia £9.99

Oxford Landing Estates Chardonnay 2012, Riverland, SA £7.99

Wolf Blass President’s Selection Chardonnay 2009, Barossa Valley, SA £12.49

[yellow tail] Chardonnay 2013, South Eastern Australia £7.99

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  1. Tony

    Hi Sarah,

    Many thanks to you and W/A for the enjoyable & informative Masterclass. All five verticals were intriguing; I found the Yalumba Viogniers especially delightful.

    Re: BigBrands Tasting and [YT] there are, of course, many consumers who like RS in their wine … My own thoughts on the tasting http://ow.lATy/rtL2S

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