The title is pretty explanatory – here are 24 Chardies that hit the mark over the past few weeks, plus a few that almost made it but fell short.
Bay of Fires Chardonnay 2016
What a star performer Bay of Fires continues to be. I’m still not sure who made this Chardonnay, but its very well built. Gumball reductive character with whipped cream oak, white peach and then a lovely finely textured palate that occasionally flirts with more marzipan richness before a tight and grapefruity finish. High quality in every way, a finely pointed Tassie Chardonnay. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $47.99. Would I buy it? Absolutely.
Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2016
I’m not always a fan of the weighty Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay style, but when good, they’re very satisfying. This golden yellow Chardonnay is loaded with juicy peach fruit, then a generous palate all without falling into heaviness. There’s a great push pull between flavour richness and a vital finish, the thrill of peach flavour, but also the balace of enough acidity. Yum. Best drinking: 2018-2023. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $60. Would I buy it? Yes.
William Fevre Montèe de Tonnerre Chablis 1er Cru 2014
This will be a truly great wine, but it’s nowhere near ready yet. A dash of oyster shell Chablis, a vague sense of toast, then it slowly builds green melon fruit and then a dash of cream before a finish that is raw in its extract and acid heft. A formidable wine that is so backward and primal. Classic lines though. Hold. Drink: 2020-2030+. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 12.5%, $90ish. Would I buy it? I have another bottle left.
Xanadu Estate Chardonnay 2015
Xanadu’s Chards are genuinely masterful wines. Super tight but has a core of intense meal and white peach fruit. Excellent concentration of flavour and not too lean. The model of how to balance fruit flavour and acidity. Delicious Margaret River Chardonnay. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13%, $35. Would I buy it? A bargain. Yes.
Goodman Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2015
Kate Goodman’s new premium Chardonnay that ticks all the right boxes and at a fair price. Sourced from the Willowlake Vineyard, this carefully built modern style has a dash of funk and whipped cream reductive tang with a crystal clear, white peachy palate. Great balance between the hand of the winemaker and the subtle, acid shaped fruit. It’s just a little firm through the finish, but another year in bottle should help that. Classy. Best drinking: 2019-2024. 18/20, 93/100. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Leeuwin Estate Prelude Chardonnay 2016
Art Series’ little brother and it doesn’t look like a second label here. The 50% new oak gives it a slight wood stamp but they’re quality barrels. It’s a very primary, grapefruit style despite the new oak, the grapefruit acidity a modern Leeuwin hallmark. Excellent power and intensity, though I’d prefer to drink this with another year under its belt. Long too. Best drinking: 2019-2024. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Yes.
Whitehaven Chardonnay 2016
I’ve not seen much from Whitehaven before, but this certainly has some appeal. A broader, richer Marlborough Chardonnay with white chocolate and marshmallow on the nose, backed by an expressive palate that almost gets into bacon fat funk, the acid a last brace on the finish. Love the layers here, even it’s a bit full and almost chubby. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $30NZ. Would I buy it? Sure would.
d’Arenberg The Lucky Lizard Chardonnay 2015
The Lizard has missed a few beats in recent years but this is a return to form. Chester prefers ‘lighter than light toast oak’ which helps this look rather more balanced. There’s a real chunkiness to this that is immediately accessible. Peach fruit aplenty. Despite the initial width it then tightens up into a much more delicate style. Clever winemaking and lots to like. Best drinking 2018-2020. 17.7/20, 92/100. $30. Would I buy it? I’d go a few glasses.
Passing Clouds Macedon Ranges Chardonnay 2015
Sourced from a south facing slope this may be, but it’s a ripe, quite traditional Aussie Chardonnay – framed by weight and oak. It’s lightly toasty, with a suggestion of vanilla cream before a reasonably elegant palate, despite the alcohol. I find the oak a dominant flavour that sits on top, and picking the fruit a little early would be a counterpoint to make it even more sprightly. Still has plenty of broad flavour and enough acidity to have you coming back. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $47. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Scarborough The Obsessive Chardonnay 2015
Ian Scarborough has a Chardonnay obsession and this is his top Hunter white. Spends 15 months in new French oak and it shows with vanilla custard and marzipan oak. That oak is sexy but its hard to ignore. Still, the palate is well up to the task with a big plump style and citrussy finish that treads carefully between being a ‘big wine’ and something more restrained and citrussy with a little oak tannin dryness. Joy here and based on past experience, these look great for many years. Best drinking: 2018-2023. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.3%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Sidewood Estate Mappinga Chardonnay 2015
Sidewood’s top Adelaide Hills Chardonnay and something of an old school Hills white. Blunt oak, ripe white peach fruit. Lots of flavour, if just a bit broad through the middle and there’s oak tannins here too. Still, the richness and viscosity makes this an enjoyable drink all round. It’s almost like a guilty pleasure. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $38. Would I buy it? I’d go two glasses easy.
Steels Gate Chardonnay 2016
These Steels Gate wines look classy and at a great price. Gentle, apple juicy style with just a dash of funk, the freshness nicely poised, the acidity soft but prominent. A really likeable, white peachy modern Yarra Valley Chardonnay if a lighter style. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? Yes.
Villa Maria Reserve Gisborne Chardonnay 2015
Ah Gisborne, where Chardonnay can be delicious but oft forgotten. Tinned peaches ahoy here, the style plump and fun, with soft acidity. It sneaks up on you this wine with its sunny generosity. The oak sticks out a bit, and its not subtle, but easy golden yellow peach flavours make this instantly enjoyable. Best drinking: 2018-2021. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $NZ29.99. Would I buy it? A few glasses at least.
Wirra Wirra The 12th Man Chardonnay 2016
Wirra’s Adelaide Hills Chardonnay is typically impressive even in tricky vintages. This carefully made white took a while to open up, but the precision is there in spades. There’s a fine balancing act here between gentle appley fruit, and soft, delicate acidity. Toys with not enough flavour, but ultimately delivers delicacy. Tidy, smart drink even if it could with just a little more body. Best drinking: 2018-2026. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Several glasses.
Heggies Estate Eden Valley Chardonnay 2015
The Heggies Chards always stand in the shadow their Riesling brothers. Handpicked, wild ferment, 11 months in barrel – the full kit. Plenty of Sao richness here too, the palate open, fleshy and ripe, yet still contained enough to be refreshing. It’s a round wine, with toasty nutty richness through the middle. it’s too toasty but appealing old school weight. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 17.5/20, 91/100.
13%, $31. Would I buy it? A glass.
Lucien Muzard & Fils Meursault Les Meix Chavaux 2014
This looked way too young. At the moment there is a little wood shavings, has some classic stony characters with richness through the middle and gravelly acidity. Surprising warmth through the finish, but the elements are there for the future. A slightly disparate tasting experience right now though. Best drinking: 2019-2026+. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 13%. Would I buy it? Not yet. But later?
Pooles Rock Premiere Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2016
Pooles Rock has been forgotten a fraction in recent years, but this sees a return to White peach, a more traditional Hunter style in its fullness, pulled up by barrel fermentation. There’s flesh here, and I like it. Creamed peaches ahoy. There’s so much of this breadth but still fresh to finish. Slightly old school maybe but pleasing too. It grows on you, even if the finish feels a little too tart. Best drinking: 2018-2026. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 12.5%, $40. Would I buy it? A glass.
Rosabrook Estate Single Vineyard Margaret River Chardonnay 2015
From the Rosabrook Vineyard. Matured in largely new French oak and it shows. Mealy and oak forward style. Has some lovely creamy peach flavour and buzzy acidity. That oak is just a bit too prominent and it makes for a bit of a creamed peach juice style, but it’s still nice and gently rich. The Cabernet is better. Interestingly I came back a day later and it looked better integrated. Best drinking: 2019-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 12.5%, $35. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Scarborough Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014
The original Hunter Chardonnay, though it has been tightened up in recent vintages. Gently mealy, whipped butter and lemon style, with restricted malo to give freshness. The fruit is still a bit chubby and peachy, with a soft glycerol warmth, but it tightens up through the finish. Good, reliable wine and even better with a few years under its belt. Best drinking: 2019-2026. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13.5%, $28. Would I buy it? Several glasses.
Sidewood Estate Mappinga Chardonnay 2016
A different wine to the 2015. Cool and coiled with banana oatmeal and vanilla bean, the oak a forward step. Mealy, but shy underneath. Some nice white peach juice, prim acidity but the artefact is making the case for now. You’ll need patience for everything to integrate. Best drinking: 2019-2025. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 12.5%, $38. Would I buy it? Not yet.
Steels Gate Chardonnay 2015
Another light and citrussy, delicate style, with grapefruit custard apple. it’s easy and fresh, if just a little underpowered. Has nice light fresh finish, minimal fine butter oak and a light finish. Just a fraction underweight and a small step behind the ’16 for mine. Still nice wine. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 17.5, 91/100. 12.8%, $25. Would I buy it? Still worth buying a few glasses
Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2015
The epitome of rich Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay and typically a smart wine, though this bottle looked good not great. Has some reductive funk (but not too much), the oak a big stamp with a vanilla richness that carries the peach fruit along with it. This a big wine, and carries some alcohol heat through the finish, but is it too much? Lots of flavour to convince, though it’s just a bit clumsy and blocky for higher marks, with some broad edges hinting at oxidation. Perhaps not the best bottle. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 17.5/20, 91/100. 14%, $50. Would I buy it? A glass.
Villa Maria Taylors Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2012
Nearing the end of its drinking plateau this, the weighty style looking a little creaky. Light golden, the nose is it’s quite expressive and mealy, the bottle age toast hints surprising given it retains its freshness. Lovely bold palate, if just heading towards flab now. Plenty of buttery textural fun still. Best drinking: I’d open within the next year or so. It’s not getting any better. 17.5/20, 91/00. 13.5%. Would I buy it? A glass or two.
Usher Tinkler Reserve Chardonnay 2016
A cleverly made Hunter Chardonnay, but maybe too squeaky clean. Lots of sulphide funk, the style worked but precisely so, the acidity soft and the mealy oak integrated. It’s clever, but maybe just a bit too technical for the underlying fruit. Best drinking: 2018-2023. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
None of these are bad – more just a little bland if anything.
Denis Pommier Chablis 2014
I’m a bit hit and miss on the Denis Pommier wines and this was just solid. Surprisingly ripe and full style with just a little warmth. Lacks a little definition, but hits the classic Chablis marks. Drinkable entry level style with integrity if missing the length for more. Best drinking: 2018-2024. 16.8/20, 89/100. 12.5%. Would I buy it? I’d drink it, but there are other Chablis to buy instead of this.
Home Hill Kelly’s Reserve Chardonnay 2016
Curious wine. The Home Hill Tassie Pinots are excellent, but this seems to have somewhat missed the mark. A subtle, creamed apple lemon juice style, It’s just a bit lean and lemony given the intentions. Great acidity but just too delicate and short. You expect more depth for this price, despite the acid freshness. Best drinking: 2018-2022. 16.8/20, 89/100. 13.5%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Grace Farm Margaret River Chardonnay 2015
Another miss from a consistent performer. Overt ripe fruit but not oak sweetness. Peach and mango, it’s almost Verdelho like, the alcohol giving this a tinned fruit character. It’s not quite got the depth you’d expect, even though there’s lots of flavour. Best drinking: 2018-2021. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13.8%, $30. Would I buy it? No.
Passing Clouds Chardonnay 2016
In contrast to the ’15 above, this is a bit light too. Tight and appley, it’s slightly aneamic, all understated apple juice. There’s flavour through the slightly broad finish, but still skinny. Picked too early? The alcohol doesn’t suggest it. This seems almost scalped – though better next year? Best drinking: 2019-2023. 16.5/20, 88/100. 13%, $47. Would I buy it? No.
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