Hot on the heels of my ranty response to a rant on Australian Chardonnay styles, and Jancis’ very complementary piece on modern Australian Chardonnay, let me present to you a collection of what I’d call a representative selection of ‘Aussie Chardy’.
And gee it’s a good-looking bunch of wines.
For this lineup, I pulled from the sample pile a few likely wines from all over the country. The intention was for it to be representative of the modern style first and foremost, with the odd standard bearer for good measure.
I tasted most of these together, with the Castelli tasted in a separate lineup on Friday along with the Leeuwin (which I retasted again from a different bottle to see if it looked better).
As a group, I’d call this one of the more enjoyable lineups around – so many genuinely drinkable wines. I had in the back of my mind the rant that started this discussion and thus had the ‘struck match’/reductive and lean radar switched on. I didn’t find any of these wines (expect maybe the Grace Farm) fell into that category at all, though the odd sulphide funk was apparent. Perhaps that is a subjective, Australia-centric viewpoint though? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Regardless, I enjoyed this lot…
Castelli Il Liris Great Southern Chardonnay 2013
A blend of fruit from the Snowden and Castelli vineyards in Denmark. Some fruit picked at sparkling base levels, the rest fully ripe. Whole bunch pressed, some barrels went through ferment wild, with both oxidative and reductive handling. After such winemaking complexity it is little wonder that this smells complex, packing a real cavalcade of flavour spanning a little gummy sulphides, mealy oak and yeasty richness, the palate full and rich yet carefully composed palate with lime and grapefruit components plus peach and a little meringue before a tight, refreshing finish. This is delicious Chardonnay and ticks every box you can find, the acid mouth watering, the richness spot on. Superb. Drink: 2015-2023. 18.7/20, 95/100. 12.4%, $50.
Willow Creek Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2013
Tiny yields (1.5t/ha). 25% new oak. The warm vintage has delivered opulence without excess – Mornington Chard at its best. It smells of grilled nuts and ripe peaches – a very full nose with a nod to the vintage. Another complex palate that wavered between nectarine and lime juice fullness, a tiny hint of funk and then squat, creamy richness through the finish. Very good warm year Mornington Chardonnay that marries concentration and thickness with real
complexity. Drink: 2015-2021. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $42.
Bay of Fires Tasmania Chardonnay 2014
From a cool and challenging vintage. Then again, that can work nicely for Chardonnay. Indeed while this is a younger wine than most of the rest, it still worked. It kicks off with a cool, modern, lightly biscuity nose – yeast and oak both stamping on the palate. Interesting that is has fuller middle than expected with a clever interplay of acidity and richness to finish. Delicious, well balanced modern Chardonnay for immediate drinking, it wavers between just a little lean and a little oak heavy, but you’d expect that to settle nicely with more time in bottle. Still bang on drinking in a fresh, just ripe enough style. Drink: 2015-2023. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $42.99.
Shaw & Smith M3 Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2014
Delamere Tasmania Chardonnay 2013
Wild ferment in barrel, partial malo and several months on lees. 270 cases. Interesting to put this against the Bay of Fires – it is immediately riper and thicker, the fruit tending towards peach and mango with great drive and concentration but just a little heat (and oak tannin). You can just feel the concentration and extract of the warm vintage here, but it lacks just a little delicacy because of it. Chewy length a good sign though as it might well settle down. I’m positive. Drink: 2016-2025. 18/20, 93/100+. 13.5%, $45.
Grace Farm Margaret River Chardonnay 2014
Whole bunch pressed, wild ferment, 10 months in oak. Lots of funk on the nose. Lots. Slightly tropical but also packs a punch. There’s a little fruit tingle sweetness but also some complexity, and as (or if) the bubblegum sulphides integrates this should be ok. Oak a sweet pineapple lump to finish. This is good wine, but it needs more time to come together – all arms and legs at the moment. Drink: 2016-2022. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $30.