As the name suggests, here are 10 of the better Chardonnay to have passed the Australian Wine Review desk in recent weeks.
I tried to keep this as a ‘Top 10’ list purely for brevity. But a gaggle of Chardonnay wasn’t far behind and deserved mention. But, of course, that’s also ignoring some of the super Chardonnay from the Sydney Wine Show tasting here.
Interesting to see the evolution of style evident in many wines here. While ripeness is up a smidgen, I’m still seeing wines from fruit picked early and built up in the winery. I get the push for freshness, but they don’t consistently deliver the satisfaction to make you want to finish more than one glass – or maybe it’s just my stylistic preferences. A glance down at the alcohol levels is often the riper, more full wines that I gravitate towards.
What do you prefer?
Plenty of enjoyable wines in this assortment, covering a plethora of styles too.
Heggies Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2018
Really benefiting from some more bottle age. This is the top Heggies Eden Valley Chardonnay and very smart. From the T Block, spends 16 months on lees. Still teeters on the edge of leanness, but it works with the bottle age to make something genuinely impressive. Greenish, concentrated lemon fruit, the palate has power to it, super tight and lemony, but with these layers of lemon balm and marzipan and citrus. Surprisingly powerful and compressed and quite engaging with those cascading layers! Best drinking: good now, but will have five years left without problem. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12%, $50. Heggies website. Would I buy it? Yes, I definitely would.
Moorilla Muse St. Matthias Vineyard Chardonnay 2019
From Moorilla’s Tamar Valley vineyard. Cool, but golden Chardonnay with some light funk and clay on the nose, tight palate manages to be compact and tight yet not hard, and it unfurls in glass with a lovely grapefruit tang. So pretty and perfectly weighted, it just oozes style and cool. Yum. Best drinking: good now, will look good in five years if you want (but drink soonish, really). 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.3%, $44. Moorilla website. Would I buy it? Yes.
Oakridge Vineyard Series Barkala Vineyard Chardonnay 2020
Always a pleasure when the Oakridge wines land on the doorstep/at the fucking post office because it’s all too hard. This Yarra Valley Chardonnay is often my favourite of the Vineyard Series, although it is locked up pretty tight this vintage. There’s a flash of oak, some white peach, marzipan, and clay. But it’s a watch-and-see sort of wine too, unfurling nicely. The lovely shape below – is crystalline and pristine with some oyster shell sort of saline freshness, but the palate is dense too, so it’s not unbalanced. The score is as much a nod to now as the future. Best drinking: probably next year. Probably even better the following year. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.4%, $45. Oakridge website, Would I buy it? Definitely.
Ross Hill Pinnacle Series Chardonnay 2019
I often think this is the best Ross Hill wine from a region underrated for Chardonnay. With whispers of butterscotch, mandarin juice and lemon barley, the palate sings with tangy, moreish acidity, framing what is a perfectly ripe palate. Coolness, yet framed by the joys of the lightly golden flavour of ripe fruit. Very good and very enjoyable. Best drinking: over the next five, But the acidity ensures this will still be good in a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.4%, $40. Ross Hill website. Would I buy it? Also yes.
In Dreams Chardonnay 2021
Anthony Fikkers wines are almost uniformly interesting. They don’t always work, but they’re always interesting. This Chardonnay comes from the Upper Yarra. It plays a great game, too – there’s this nutty golden Sao richness, but a tight palate offsets it. High quality, if just a little lean, the overall effect is modern yet with flavour width. 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $30. In Dreams website. Would I buy it? Super value at this price, so yes.
Juniper Cornerstone Karridale Chardonnay 2019
Cornerstone is part of the top end of Juniper’s range and all single vineyard gear. This Chardonnay spent ten months in 40% new oak, no malo. It smells delightful, all golden honey nut. There’s also some lovely vanilla bean on the palate, though it’s a pretty bracing finish. It’s a smidgen up and down through the finish but a neat wine. Sexy oak too. The nose smells perfect, and I think bottle age will give more cohesion to the palate. Undoubted quality. Best drinking: next year. 18/20, 93/100. 14%, $70. Juniper website. Would I buy it? I’ll drink your bottle but not buy mine yet.
Juniper Cornerstone Wilyabrup Chardonnay 2020
From the original dry-grown vineyard in Wilyabrup. Handpicked, wild fermented, and spends ten months in oak—a best barrels blend. Nougat, lemon citrus custard, and the oak gives a little grip on the finish. Quite an oak imprint, but it also adds to the impact, which is fresh to finish. Quality fruit too. It still feels unformed – a baby with much more to give when it can express itself better. Best drinking: you heard the man. At least another year. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $70. Juniper website. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Dalrymple Cave Block Chardonnay 2019
Great name. The spooky cave block! Let’s do ghost tours! Yellow straw coloured, this Tasmanian Chardonnay has plenty of funk on the nose. Still, it’s only a minor element, with a palate that dips into tropical pineapple and peach before tightening up into something milky yet fresh. It’s a bit raw and singular in flavour – I want a bit more. Only just medium-bodied and very fresh. Patience is needed, I think. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 13%, $48. Dalrymple website. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Soumah Hexham Vineyard Chardonnay 2021
Often a light touch with these Soumah Yarra Valley Chardonnay wines. Wild ferment in barrel, where it lay for a further eight months. Some malo. Golden, buttered popcorn nose, and it packs some Intensity – golden, nutty, with a little hessian and lemon balm. The finish is nicely fresh to counterpoint, though it’s pretty soft, all things given. It’s not especially long either, but plenty of generous flavours here – easy to like and appreciate, if something of a mid-palate wine. Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $40. Soumah website. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2020
Class, yet it feels a step behind compared to the usual Voyager mark. I think it’s the tricky vintage and the oak – it’s pitchy, sawdust oak feels toasty and a smidgen sweaty. It’s so ripe and almost mandarin too, with a nutty edge, the oak and fruit fighting each other a smidgen. Time will be kind based on past results, but it’s only a good silver rather than the usual gold medal wine. Best drinking: Wait a year or so and let’s talk again. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $50. Voyager Estate website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Castle Rock Estate Diletti Chardonnay 2020
Plenty of style, but just picked too early. Nutty sulphide nose, crisp and nutty vanilla bean, oak and sulphides palate. There are fresh and nutty vanilla bean layers, but there isn’t enough palate weight for higher points – it’s like sparkling base. Best drinking: this will live and enrich for years. Maybe wait a year or two for starters. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12%, $36. Castle Rock website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Juniper Three Fields Chardonnay 2020
All Gingin clone, nine months in 30% new oak. No mlf but some lees stirring. Golden honey nut nose and palate, but the palate finishes rather tart. It feels like an abrupt full stop of grip and grit. I like that palate entree, but the back end is hardnosed. This has flavour throughout to lift to a solid silver, however. Best drinking: in a year or so. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $32. Juniper website. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Voyager Estate Coastal Chardonnay 2021
I don’t know where this label sits in the Voyager hierarchy, but a more entry-level wine. Golden yellow hued. It doesn’t necessarily smell ripe, yet there is a lovely golden peach character that drives this. A fruit character with just a touch of barley sugar. The expanse of fruit, a tight chalky finish. It’s not profound, but that generous yet not overdone palate is easily appealing. Best drinking: nowish. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $28. Voyager Estate website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Heggies Estate Chardonnay 2018
Bottle age has helped give this rather lean Chardonnay some depth, with the stony palate driven more by sulphur characters than fruit weight. But it’s still not in the same league as the reserves, tending towards grapefruit, unripe melon, and a whiff of lanolin. But not enough else besides acidity. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 12%, $35. Heggies Estate website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Meerea Park Alexander Munro Chardonnay 2021
From the Casuarina Vineyard. Spends ten months in 60% new oak. Golden yellow, honey toast and straw. Very much in the forward, old-school Hunter style. Low acidity, vanilla oak sweetness, lots of yellow peach fruit. Old school, but there’s a hessian character that I don’t love, and it pulls up flabby. Not my bag, even if I can acknowledge the intentions. Best drinking: right now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $50. Meerea Park website. Would I buy it? No.
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I’m with you Andrew, I’m not often tempted to have another glass.
Whilst reductive notes are great they can be overdone and a lack of development in the glass leaves me deciding to move on. Without a great base structure to work with bottle ageing is a waste of time.
Getting the fruit/oak balance right can be a guessing game and in trickier vintages even harder.
If you talk to winemakers they often hedge their bets with several different components being produced in parallel followed by blending.
Not always possible with second tier products/labels but premiums are being made this way more and more.
3 out of 10 being OK to purchase is a relatively high ratio for both you and me…