#ChardoMay is over. Bring out the red wine!
Seriously though, It’s been a pleasure to up my Australian Chardonnay levels this month, if just to remind how good we have it for Chard in this country. I’ve barely scratched any sort of surface (and there are more wines I didn’t get to in the sample pile), of course, even after opening at least 25 current vintage Adelaide Hills wines alone.
Speaking of Adelaide Hills, tonight I’ve bookended the month with a quintet of the region’s best, all opened up in a head-to-head battle for Chardopremacy.
This collection didn’t disappoint either, even if they were uniformly too young for drinking now (hot tip: open the 2021s or older and wait for the ’22s). Picking a hierarchy was tough because they’re different styles, but if I had to choose any of these wines to drink tonight, it would be the M3, closely followed by the Tiers 1.5m and the Lyndale. For the long haul, the straight Tiers wins by a margin (it’s just a long way off).
Maybe I’ll do #springintoGrenache in September next?
Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay 2022
This a great M3, albeit in a rather tightly focused cool year style. It’s only going to get better and better too. Barrel fermented and spends nine months in oak this vintage. Excellent expression is what wins the race for me here – a little nougat, a little milk bottle reduction but fruit, too, complemented by vanilla bean oak. It doesn’t feel ungenerous, even if the palate has a little youthful rawness. Cool, in the just-ripe white peach mode, with these perfect lines, the palate growing and growing, even if the acidity feels a bit abrupt (a little more malo wouldn’t go astray). Classy, superb Chardonnay regardless. Best drinking: next year, and for a decade no problem. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $55. Would I buy it?
Tapanappa Tiers 1.5m Chardonnay 2022
There is little difference quality-wise to the M3 & the Tiers 1.5m, and separating them was just hair-splitting. This is even more linear and coiled than the M3, and I suspect it will be longer lived. Doesn’t feel as open, though. Sourced from a block of tightly spaced vines on the Tiers vineyard, the 1.5m is a rather different wine to the Tiers below, too – more modern and more approachable. Again, cool and coiffed cool Adelaide Hills style, with that just ripe white peach mode and stony back palate. There isn’t the nectarine flourish, but there is this unspoken, almost chewy power to it too. I’d still like a bit more width – the back palate acidity feels a bit grainy (a higher proportion of malo wouldn’t be unwelcome again here), but that just contributes to the energy. A seriously fine modern Chardonnay. Best drinking: from next year and over the next decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $59. Would I buy it? Yes.
Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay 2022
As ever with Tiers, this needs a few years to see its full potential (as this vertical showed). And this 2022 release feels achingly young. Too young for now. On the first pass against the rest of the wines in this bracket, I wasn’t impressed tbh. ‘Unbalanced’ said my note. But I came back an hour later and wanted a bottle of this in the cellar instead. The structure marks this as a superstar, with a chewiness that reminded me of the 2014 vintage (which was also a late vintage, FWIW). Interestingly, compared to the other wines in this bracket it smells like a much riper, more voluminous Chardonnay – there are these hints of orange and toast on the nose that is so different (and bigger). Robust. But the palate is so very tight, with the cool year (fruit picked two weeks later than normal) giving this such chewiness, with the Riesling-like pH of 2.97 saying that. At the moment the oak (1/3rd new) isn’t integrated either. sitting alongside that fruit power. But I can’t deny that all the elements are there for it to be great, and the persistence was arguably a step above anything in this quintet. My score then is almost a placeholder. Best drinking: Give it two years for a start. Then drink over a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 13.8%, $110. Would I buy it? I’d love a bottle for the cellar.
Orlando Lyndale Chardonnay 2021
Adelaide Hills fruit here, from unspecified vineyards. Barrel fermented and spent 8 months in barrel. Excellent nose – so cleverly worked. Orange rind, a bit of bacon fat and this nectarine fruit fullness. It’s a superstar, showstopping nose and immediately more welcoming than either the M3 or the Tiers 1.5m The palate fulfils so much of that destiny too with lines of creamed peach fruit fullness with this filigreed white butter mode. Delicious. For all that expression, what is missing here is some generosity to finish, with the tail a bit grippy and lean. I want that expression to keep going, rather than getting all tight and modern. The extra year in bottle definitely helps that welcoming character, and I can guarantee this will win wine show medals on the nose alone. Really smart. Best drinking: good now and for five years at least. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $49.99. Would I buy it? Also yes.
Tomich Icon Q96 Chardonnay 2022
This is Tomich’s top Chardonnay and all q96 clone. It’s another cool and classy wine too, though it looked a bit underdone in this company. Still, a really finessed style, the nose all whipped butter and a little milk bottle reductive character. Cool and slightly bony palate, again with just-ripe white peach, milk chocolate and a slightly sour but long finish. The finesse is there, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was too early picked and relied upon reduction for flavour. Time will be kind, however. Best drinking: come back next year, and drink over plenty of years after that. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 12.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.