As I mentioned yesterday, the month of May on Australian Wine and Drinks Review will be focused on Chardonnay, with a large pile of wines on the bench ready to be opened over the next four weeks for Chardonnay May.
To kick off the #ChardoMay proceedings, here are 10 smart Chardonnay opened to get my eye in. No Steve Harmison-esque wides here either, just great line and length.
(Oh and it’s genuinely a tasting bench at chez Graham! Tastings happen in a corner of the kitchen, with the famed tiled wall you see in bottle images as a backdrop. It’s well lit, and the white tiles are great for judging colour. The rest of the family are now used to me standing around in the kitchen for hours, Zalto in hand, surrouned by walls of bottles, staring at the tiny font on back labels).
Juniper Cornerstone Karridale Chardonnay 2020
This is Juniper’s top dog Chardonnay, sourced from their slightly younger, close-planted (in 1997) Karridale Vineyard. There is a Wilyabrup release too, from the old vines on that property, but this Karridale white can often be more impressive. It’s more expensive, too (but not necessarily expensive for the quality). Incidentally, Juniper dropped the ‘Estate’ part off their identity, but I still want to say Estate. Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, this spends 10 months in barrel. Lovely, essence of Margs style here, with the grapefruit acidity that Gingin clone Chardonnay always shows. Vanilla bean oak, that green melon grapefruit Margaret River varietal character and just a little white peach. It’s a pretty stark sort of medium weight palate with firm acidity, but the latent power is just excellent – it feels so right and powerful (and very tasty). All it needs is another 12 months in bottle. Best drinking: from next year and then up to a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $70. Would I buy it? Well worth a bottle.
Rouleur Issy’s Chardonnay 2021
Upper Yarra fruit for the Issy’s Chardonnay and DIAM sealed. Sometimes I prefer the ‘normal’ Rouleur Chardonnay, but his year Issy’s is in the zone. Hate the DIAM over screwcap though. Anyway, this comes from the Primavera Vineyard in Woori Yallock, wild fermented on skins for 3 days, 23% new larger oak. Actually, Matt goes into serious detail on the Rouleur website, and it’s worth a wine geek out. Smells great too – white peach, oatmeal, the fruit so perfectly ripe. Matt East’s wines always have such precision. There’s definitely some funk here, a bit of winemaking flourish and wildness, but the palate feels clean and pure. Lovely wine with its taut lines and just enough fruit power. Best drinking: good now, better in 12 months and no chance of this falling over this decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.1%, $49. Would I buy it? Definitely.
Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2021
The original Voyager Chardonnay in classic form here. All sourced from the organic vineyard in the Boodjidup Valley, fermented wild in barrel, matured in 32% new oak, 9 months in oak. Green straw. Classic Gin Gin and Voyager nose with green melon and custard powder with a little funk. Delicious. Great palate too – there’s a rich push of winemaking-influenced weight, and the palate looks generous too. More generous than in years. I love the new width – it feels so right and yet the acidity is still there. Delicious. Best drinking: good now, no hurry. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Burton McMahon D’Aloisio’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2021
Another wine that is more expressive this year and my pick of the two Burton McMahon wines. Sourced from the D’Aloisio vineyard in Seville, with the fruit effectively treated the same as the Georges below. It kicks off with white peach – more than usual – and a white nectarine palate that threatens to be round, but it’s actually sleek and tight. Maybe a bit lean to finish, but I love the delicacy and flavour balance here – that white peach fruit is just right. A sleek Yarra racehorse of acidity and just enough richness. Maybe a little raw to finish – you feel like it’s a bit choppy to finish with some oak tannins to finish things off. But time should be kind to this smart white. Best drinking: good now, better next year or the year after. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? Yes.
Oakridge Henk Chardonnay 2021
I’ve always preferred Henk for Pinot rather than Chardonnay, but it’s a close-run thing. Tight taut and lemony, this feels like a work in progress. Crisp, taut lemon lines and and packs in this lovely lemon meringue complexity. Finessed, crisp and delicious. Still a little off its best – that acidity cuts in early and sharpens the finish up a tad. Undoubted quality, however. Best drinking: Worth another year. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.3%, $45. Would I buy it? Yes.
Oakridge Willowlake Chardonnay 2021
Interesting to try this alongside Henk. This is bigger, with more funk, more clever use of sulphides for complexity and more everything. More raw too, with a palate that feels tight and a bit too firm after the sexy time nose, and it clearly needs some time to come for the palate to catch up with the nose. Again, worth the wait. Best drinking: maybe two years before you open this? 18/20, 93/100+. 13.2%, $45. Would I buy it? Still yes.
Steels Gate Chardonnay 2020
The best wine in the Steels Gate current release range for mine. Sourced from the Home Block, planted in 1979, and really benefits from more time in bottle. Golden grilled nuts and custard powder but a lean wine at its core – white peach and stony acidity. Maybe a little too lean but with a wonderful stony delicacy lifted by the custard powder winemaking influence. Maybe it could do with a bit more power. So fresh, clean and enjoyable plus that nutty weight. Best drinking: good now. 18/20, 93/100. 12.8%, $40. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay 2022
What an impressive start to the 2022 Tapanappa range. Lemon and a little lemon curd with this chalky acidity and oyster shell hints. The palate isn’t quite as layered as the nose, but the pristine flavours, actual fruit flavour and just right acidity makes this. is a delight. Best drinking: already enjoyable. 18/20, 93/100. 13.7%, $49. Would I buy it? Yes.
Burton McMahon George’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2021
From the George’s Vineyard in Seville East. Golden, honey nut flavours with some oak tannins this year. But it’s still a classy, refined, white peach style, with taut acidity giving this a real tang. It’s just a bit raw to finish, which ultimately took this down a few notches for me. Best drinking: worth some more time to see if that finish integrates more. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Voyager Estate Broadvale Block 6 Chardonnay 2021
Now with a certified organic sticker on the back, this Margaret River Chardonnay is all clone 95, from a lean block planted in 2004. Fermented wild in oak (less than 20% new). Goes through full malo and 9 months in barrel too It smells lean and refined and crystalline with a hint of custard before it gets all tight and grapefruity. The palate feels only just ripe too, the oak and winemaking forever threatening to take over. For mine, I prefer the extra generosity of the standard Chard – this dances on the lean and firm d-floor and I want a bit more width. Will live though, and no doubt grow in bottle. Best drinking: worth two years of patience. 17.7/20, 92/100+. 12%, $75. Would I buy it? A glass.
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