It’s been quieter here at Australian Wine and Drinks Review over the past week, with a continued sprinkling of chaos introduced into the daytime projects to make my life fun/entertaining/shithouse.
That challenge was tempered with a rare, child-free Hunter Valley sojourn last weekend for 36 hours of eating and drinking. More on that later.
In the meantime, today is World Chardonnay Day, and because we’re also deep into #ChardoMay23, this is a great excuse to roll out reviews on twenty Chardies (and one not review) that have passed the desk in the past week or so. We’re casting the net wide here too, with wines that span from magic to meh, and everything in between.
Let’s get stuck in!
Michael Hall Chardonnay 2022
Michael Hall has one of the more unique backstories in Barossan wine, and I always think about how his context makes for more interesting wines. This precise 2022 Chardonnay is deeply impressive too. All Piccadilly Valley fruit sourced from Bernie Swaby’s block up near the Mount Lofty Botanical Gardens. Nice part of the world. In the winery, this saw 30% new oak for 11 months, and 80% of the blend went through malo. A lovely expression of classic Chardonnay, too – figgy, nutty peach fruit, almost chewy acidity yet so cool and composed. An intellectual wine, but not lacking in flavour, with a certain peachy boldness thanks to slightly riper fruit and more malo. It’s delicious, too, with acidity that feels complimentary. Great wine and already approachable (unlike some 2022 Hills Chardonnay). Best drinking: now and for five years as a start. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13.3%, $60. Would I buy it? Yes.
Barratt Uley Vineyard Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2022
From the Uley Vineyard. We’re in the Piccadilly Valley here again, and a vineyard better known for Pinot than Chardonnay, but I like both from the Barratt Vineyard. Interesting that the handling is closer to Michael Hall’s wine, with 11 months in 30% new oak and full malo. A good formula for this calibre of Piccadilly Valley fruit eh? The nose is a bit lean – straw and vanilla bean – but there is this layer of chunky custard powder lactic richness below the surface like a whale shark. A line of grapefruit acidity finishes things off nicely on the palate too. I love the contrasts here – it’s at once taut and tight, with some marzipan funk the only escapee. But the next glass is bold and golden. Yum. Best drinking: good now and for five years+. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $42. Would I buy it? Yes.
Ten Minutes By Tractor Judd Chardonnay 2021
A caveat: I wrote tasting notes for all the Ten Minutes By Tractor wines over several vintages, so I can’t escape my love for the wines. Anyway, just calling out my bias. I don’t do that work anymore, however, and feel pretty comfortable saying that these 2021 vintage releases are the best in years, with a welcome return to the voluminous style more reflective of the wines from the Richard McIntyre winemaking era, which I loved the most. Anyway, this saw French and Austrian oak for 10 months. Judd is the steepest and highest 10X vineyard but often makes the biggest, boldest wines. No change in 2021 either. Leesy oatmeal and honey on the nose, plus some mandarin and the orange citrus middle – it’s a lovely voluminous mouthfeel. More leesy waxy seams through the middle too. Classic Mornington weight, pulling on my heartstrings. The only caveat is that I’d drink this chilled as it looks a bit warm on the finish. Best drinking: I like this style younger, so within five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14%, $82. Would I buy it? Yes.
Worlds Apart Wines Loud Places Chardonnay 2022
Adelaide Hills again, and sophistication in a lo-fi form. So much interest in the Worlds Apart Wines range. This, again, is drawn from Piccadilly Valley fruit from the Virgara family. Are you sensing a pattern here? My favourite part of the Hills for Chardonnay. I didn’t realise this was Piccadilly fruit either, so it’s clearly just a preference. Anyway, this is marked by a cool, swish, white peach nose with a whisper of nutty funk, and a stony, tight just-ripe white peach palate lifted by some nutty elements. I like the style here so much – it’s so classy, with just the whispers of nutty oxidative bits for complexity. The only challenge is the finish which is certainly refreshing, but it feels too lean and a bit bony. Class all the way, though. Best drinking: now, no hurry. 18/20, 93/100. 12.7%, $50. Would I buy it? Worth a long look over a bottle.
Anvers Kingsway Chardonnay 2021
I haven’t seen an Anvers wine in at least a decade. Welcome back! Adelaide Hills fruit here from the Hills side of Kangarilla. Lots of open expression with yellow nectarine and whipped butter richness. There is volume here, but nicely contained. Milky peach fruit fans out on the finish to give a bit of weight without being overdone. Maybe a bit simple? Enjoyable. Best drinking: nowish. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Anderson Hill Margo Chardonnay 2021
Adelaide Hills Chardonnay from the Anderson family property in Lenswood, which was purchased back in the mid 90s (but I’m not sure exactly when the vines were planted). This sees 25% new oak too. Peach and lemon – a little ripe fruit sunshine despite the coolness. There is creamed stone fruit on the palate, too – a sunny, peachy wine that manages to be crisp and yet with a mango stonefruit generosity. It doesn’t quite have the layers of equivalent Hills Chardonnay, but I like the open sunniness. Best drinking: nowish. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? A glass.
K1 By Geoff Hardy Chardonnay 2019
From Kuitpo on the McLaren Vale edge of the Adealide Hills. Current vintage release. This threatens to be rich and expressive, with peach juice starting to get the lanolin and toast development. But the palate is tight, and doesn’t go anywhere, the acidity taking over and stunting the palate, save for some waxy peach late width. This is ok, but maybe better last year. Best drinking: now. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? A glass.
Centare Old Block Chardonnay 2021
From the older blocks on the Centare property (who knew by the wine’s name, eh?). This alludes to being crisp and tight and linear, but it’s really a chunky peachy thing waiting to get out. Obvious, white peach mid palate juiciness, then a slightly phenolic sort of palate that never quite takes off. I struggled with this despite the ambition – the balance isn’t quite right for higher points. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $70. Would I buy it? No.
Heirloom Vineyards Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022
Simple, affable Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. Matured in 30% new oak for 9 months. More generous than the Assan and more easygoing because of it. Generous white peach middle, just crisp enough acidity. There isn’t the delicacy, but it does have a pleasant peachy flavour. Solid, ripe enough modern style. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.7%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Karrawatta Anth’s Garden Chardonnay 2018
From the Karrawatta vineyard above Meadows in the Adelaide Hills. Matured for 7 months in oak and partial malolactic fermentation. You wouldn’t pick this as five years old. Green straw and rather pineappley. Pear and pineapple with a little peach custard on the palate, too but otherwise lean going. There’s a bit of lanolin aged character on the finish but otherwise pretty tight. It’s a bit stuck – not generous enough to be mouthfilling and yet not delicate enough to be fine. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.9%, $46. Would I buy it? No.
Mr Riggs Cold Chalk Chardonnay 2022
Adelaide Hills fruit here from the Tomich Vineyard. Cool and stylish, but just not much going on. Vague white peach. It’s a bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it wine with not much going on. The light peachiness is pleasant though. Best drinking: now. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Higher Plane Jewels of Karridale Chardonnay 2022
From Higher Plane’s new range of affable lo-fi Margaret River wines. There is juciness in this low oak mode, but it also feels like half a Chardonnay (and Higher Plane/Juniper can do better) with tinned peach and a sour finish. I want a bit more. Best drinking: nowish. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5, $29. Would I buy it. No.
Hill-Smith Estate Eden Valley Chardonnay 2021
I always struggle with the overt delicacy of Hill-Smith Chardies. Same again here. Wild fermented Eden Valley Chardonnay fruit, and it’s all green apple with a little apple pie on nose and palate. Super clean but really quite straightforward. I get the push for elegance, but this just looks underdone and simple. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Howard Park Flint Rock Chardonnay 2022
Great Southern Chardonnay. A little nougat, then light white peach, over a chalky, light and slightly shrill palate. It’s crisp but ultimately underpowered. Fresh and not necessarily short, but it needs more depth. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Serafino Sharktooth Chardonnay 2020
McLaren Vale. Yellow straw-coloured thing, with vanilla oak tending to butterscotch on the nose. Will it be big? Yet the palate is tight and lean and just a bit mean, especially with the jar of oak tannins. Disjointed. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $45. Would I buy it? No.
Taylors Jaraman Chardonnay 2022
Adelaide Hills & Clare Valley fruit. A throwback wine of apricot and peach (in juice, SPC style) with low acid and toasty oak. No malo, but otherwise, it could be 1998. Then again, if you love old-school chubby Chardonnay, this could be your bag. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $32. Would I buy it? No.
Wren Wines Chardonnay 2021
Plump Hunter Valley Chardonnay. Nectarine and a bit of leesy oatmeal non top. The palate is lean but buffed out by just enough stonefruit richness. Simple and a bit shapeless, but affable. Clumsy finish isn’t great. Best drinking: now. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? No.
Heggies Vineyard Cloudline Chardonnay 2022
Underdone Eden Valley Chardonnay. Clean, crisp, but ultimately rather flavourless, this is Chardonnay lite. There is a nice delicacy though, but something of a nothing wine. Best drinking: now. 16.3/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
King’s Creed Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022
Blunt Adelaide Hills Chardonnay. Estery nose doesn’t give much away. There’s some stonefruit on the finish but there isn’t much there, just chalky and uneven acidity. Thin tasting. Best drinking: now. 16.3/20, 87/100. 13%, $25. Would I buy it? No.
Dandelion Vineyards Twilight of the Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2021
From the Twilight Vineyard. Fermented in oak and stainless. Spends 9 months in oak. Dusty cardboard and pepper on the nose, sour sort of palate and pulls up short. Thin and a bit mean, even if it is crisp. Hardly varietal. Meh. Best drinking: now. 16/20, 87/100. 12.5%, $27.50. Would I buy it? No.
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