After a week of tasting light duties (thanks to the man-flu), I’m happy to be back with much less impairment today.
Best to get stuck into the tasting pile again!
The focus today is on Chardonnay, which is far-and-away the most popular white wine in the Graham household, with much restlessness if there is not a cold bottle at hand.
I’ve made a serious dent in the sample pile over the past month so posts should return to normal. Check out my Hunter Semillon roundup, a fizz collection, a McLaren Vale red roundup, the Barossa roundup and some Sauvignon Blanc benchmarking for more of the results from my recent sample pile raids.
With this lineup I’ve published them from highest to lowest scoring, a format I’m going to run with for these larger comparison tastings, simply because I like it.
Tapanappa Tiers Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2014
One of the great things about a bottle of Tapanappa turning up in the post is Brian (Croser)’s accompanying notes, which are highly detailed, brutally honest and read like a conversation with the man himself. Always something to look forward to. He notes that a ‘disastrous’ fruit set ensured that ‘meagre’ quantities (just 138 dozen) were produced of this years Tiers, even though the vintage of a whole was not unusual, with near average heat summation. There is nothing meagre about this wine, with that typical complexity on nose and palate, kicking off with archetype aromas of white peach, vanilla bean oak and a dash of whipped butter. The palate is taut, linear and long, imprinted with firm acidity and a stamp of oak through the finish. It’s a masterful wine really, a Chardonnay where you can clearly see craftsmanship, the oak just a little dominant through the finish, but not enough to derail what tastes like an intellectual wine. That acid intensity and superio length suggests that time will be kind, and every glass I came back to this looked better and better. A big yes from me. Best drinking: 2017-2024. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.6%, $79. Would I buy it? It’s not cheap anymore, but you get what you pay for. I’d drink a bottle, even if I wouldn’t quite buy one.
Voyager Estate Margaret River Chardonnay 2012
I praised the quality of the Project Series Chardonnay duo the other day and this certainly isn’t far behind them. Perhaps not as detailed, but high high quality. Green yellow straw coloured this smells tight and constrained, with just whispers of lemon butter. A high acid palate, yet still ripe, this is very much the acid driven modern wine with layers of clever winemaking edifice and careful lemon butter oak. Is it too taut? It certainly isn’t compared to the Tapanappa, but it does feel just a little constrained. Wait a few more months, in other words. Best drinking: 2017-2023. 18.2/20, 93/100+. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? The price is fair and the quality high. I’d buy this.
Burton & McMahon Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2014
From Matt Burton (Gundog Estate) and Dylan McMahon (Seville Estate), this is sourced from the D’Aloisio vineyard and George’s vineyard in the Upper Yarra. It looks awfully clever too, a green straw coloured wine with gentle honey and sulphides on the nose before a notably taut, similarly refreshing, acid driven palate. There’s a gentleness to this wine that is genuinely appealing, and I really quite enjoyed it, drinking it. It’s not quite as robust as the former two wines, but the cool, delicate, nutty lees meets acid style is quite appealing. Good. Best drinking: 2016-2021. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes, off a list.
Audrey Wilkinson The Oakdale Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2013
This is the renamed and repackaged (like the label) Audrey Wilkinson Reserve Chardonnay, sourced from the Lake Chardonnay block. Fruit is pressed to barrel, 50% new oak, no malolactic fermentation and 8 months in oak. Modern Hunter Chardonnay winemaking, in other words. Numbers: TA 6.75g/L, pH 3.13. Green straw coloured, this smells fully ripe, but not overt, with a lovely nose of buttered popcorn and lemon. The palate is also driven by lemon curd, a little butterscotch and quite grainy acidity. Lots of flavour, the fresh palate works nicely with the popcorn richness to make for a quite tidy Chardonnay. Some easy attraction here. Best drinking: 2016-2021. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $38. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Scarborough Yellow Label Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2013
Such a different wine in this lineup! Immediately you can taste the Hunter richness, the style much more ripe and cosseting. Saying that, this definitely feels more taut than in some vintages. Green straw, it has a white peach nose, over a palate that is also full and mouthfilling in its ripe and sunny fruit expression. Again, it doesn’t feel as oak heavy or broad as some vintages though, the style tighter and with an extra crispness on the finish. Less MLF this year? I like the style of this wine – it definitely has a place. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $28. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Sunshine Creek Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2012
Old school packaging, but there is quality here. Matured vines, handpicking, and slightly old school, full tilt winemaking, complete with a Diam seal. Green straw, the nose is a blend of nectarine and whipped butter with a nice interplay between oak richness and just a little apricot ripeness. Ditto for the palate, which is a solid interplay between tart acidity, oak butter seasoning and a little whipped cream. The oak is a stamp on the finish though, and after a while it gets just a bit tiresome. Still, not a bad wine. Less would definitely be more here. Best drinking: 2016-2020. 17/20, 90/100. 12.5%, $45. Would I buy it? Not quite.
De Bortoli G.S Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2014
The new Gulf Station Chardonnay, complete with smart packaging. Clever wine too, green straw coloured with a nose that shows custard and brioche of lees and just a little oak. Budget wine made well, It’s surprisingly broad and full underneath, almost a flashback style of Chardonnay if with plenty of acidity. Quite a clever nod to what the people want, if more cheap and cheerful than complex. Best drinking: 2016-2018. 16.5/20, 88/100. 12.5%, $18. Would I buy it? Not quite, but I’d recommend.
Pipers Brook Vineyard Estate Tasmania Chardonnay 2013
A disappointment. From the 40yr old estate vineyard, the fruit handpicked and cooled with some parcels basket pressed. It was then barrel fermented, with some parcels lees stirred in barrel and 10-15% new oak. Numbers: TA 8g/L, pH 3.2. Green straw coloured, I was quite surprised to see the dominant sulphide character here – milk bottles aplenty! It didn’t dissipate either, even after a day. Awkward. With that sky high acidity and dominant sulphides character this ultimately tasted just a bit disjointed, even if length and intensity where right up there. There’s clearly class here, but it feels just a little compromised and less enjoyable because of winemaking edifice. Annoying as power and everything else is fine. Will it improve? Probably. Maybe… Best drinking: 2016-2022. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.5%, $34. Would I buy it? No.
d’Arenberg The Olive Grove McLaren Vale/Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015
A blend of Adelaide Hills and McLaren Vale fruit this year and it shows. Basket pressed, fermented and matured in a mix of French and American oak for 7 months. Plenty of winemaking for $15! Green straw, the nose is light and peachy with just a little background custard. Juicy and plump palate offers quite a lot of fruit, if little in the way of delicacy, all creamy pineapple and a little peach. the ripeness of the fruit helps a lot. Plump and full of life, this is a real surprise packet. Best drinking: 2016-2019. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.7%, $15. Would I buy? No, but I’d recommend.
Mount Avoca Estate Pyrenees Chardonnay 2015
Curious wine this. Mount Avoca are certified organic now, with this wine off the estate plantings, the juice partially wild fermented. It has that pine lime and pineapple juice nose that I find a turnoff in cheap Chardonnay, with a simpy, fruity palate stamped with overt oak. Warm alcohol too. It’s not terrible, but I would want to drink much of this. Best drinking: 2016-2017. 15.5/20, 85/100. 13.5%, $28.95. Would I buy it? No.
Alkoomi White Label Frankland River Chardonnay 2015
Impressive that this is Frankland River fruit. But otherwise it has little excitement. Water clear, the nose is faintly peachy and faintly varietal, the palate largely acidity with just a little peach juice. Not much flavour here, just acidity. No fun. Best drinking: 2016. 15/20, 83/100. 12.5%, $15. Would I buy it? No.