With the official Graham HQ Chief Chardonnay Drinker 34 weeks pregnant, I’m not opening up as much Chardonnay as normal (outside of tasting lineups).
The flip side is that I’m probably drinking more beer than ever (the fridge is full of Modus Sonic Prayer IPA). Still, I am looking forward to the point when my better looking half can share a bottle again. Solo drinking only goes so far.
Anyway, here are 15 of the better Chardies to pass the desk lately.
Athletes of Wine Vinero Romsey Chardonnay 2015
I don’t get to see anywhere near enough of Liam & Matt’s wines, and whites like this remind what I’m missing out on. A lovely expression of modern, fine Macedon Chardonnay that is just so refreshing. Lightly creamed grapefruit nose, with a gently leesy palate, the overall style light, elegant but with more flavour than the alcohol would suggest. Who said that sommeliers have no clue about wine? Best drinking: In a good place now. But will peak for at least 3-4yrs easy. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.7%, $44. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Oakridge 864 Funder & Diamond Chardonnay 2016
Dave Bicknell may have trimmed his long hair and beard from the Santa Claus/mad wizard stage, but there’s a fair bit of wizardry going on with this single block Chardonnay. The mega dry ’16 vintage in the Yarra delivered many a ripe wine, and after a glance at the 14.2% alcohol, I was expecting something hefty. But you’d never pick this as being 14.2%. Actually I thought my eyes were deceiving me and I had to go for a second opinion (again thanks to my fiancee Jacqui who has better eyes than I do). Needless to say this has such impressive vitality for the ripeness. There’s a note of riper mandarin on the nose and a little warmth on the finish, but beyond that it’s an impressive example of restraint. Opulent, sure, but not heavy – masterful, full, but contained warm year Chardonnay. Best drinking: Good to go, but will live and grow for 3-4yrs as a start and live for a decade. 18.5/20, 94/100. 14.2%, $85. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle and drink most of it.
Rouleur Chardonnay 17
Matt East’s Shiraz and Grenache have been getting all the love lately, but his Yarra Chardonnay is my favourite wine. Clean lines aplenty here, the style made without malo and so very fresh. A small proportion of skin contact (which Matt really likes as an influence) too, and it adds an extra tang. Real tension between acidity and the flavour width is the key to the appeal here – nervy acidity, but not harsh at all. The overall effect is almost sparkling base-like at first glance, with much delicacy and subtlety, but when you drink it you realise it’s not unripe or hard. Just a lovely, unforced wine. Delicious. Best drinking: Time will be kind. In fact, it might be better next year, or even the year after. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.9%, $28.80 direct. Would I buy it? $40 would be fair, $30 a steal. $28.80 is ridiculous value. I’d buy multiple bottles.
Soumah Equilibrio Chardonnay 2017
All of the Soumah wines have taken a step forward in recent vintages, but the Chardies are the best. This is the reserve Chardonnay from Soumah and it’s a beauty. All Mendoza clone and sees more new oak, making for a slightly richer, bolder expression compared to the two single vineyard wines below (and for mine not quite as ready). There’s a marshmallow and white butter nose and understated white peach, the palate lobbing up no shortage of classy, complex layers. Best drinking: Next year, then five years without even trying. 18.5/20, 94/100+. 13.1%, $77. Would I buy it? Personally I’d take the single vineyard wines over this for half the price. Still a delicious drink.
Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Chardonnay 2017
Nailed it. For mine, the pick of the Soumah Chards if I was drinking it tonight. But honestly they’re all really nice. Bright, crisp and svelte modern style that doesn’t go too far into lean and mean mode. Custard apple, citrus, nougat, creamy oak and lees weight, the acidity sprightly but doesn’t feel sharp. Just a lovely balance between full and nutty Chard flavours and then plenty of grapefruit acidity. Yes. Best drinking: Now, or will live for five years no probs. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.8%, $40. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Soumah Single Vineyard U.Ngumby Chardonnay 2017
At first I thought this was broader than the Hexham but the acid is maybe a little tighter. Regardless, I just liked drinking this. Another beautifully poised Chardonnay that handles the grapefruit, oatmeal and citrus character in a tight but not strictly lean mode. Balance, balance, balance. I could drink oceans of all three Soumah Chards. Best drinking: Good now and for five years plus. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.7%, $40. Would I buy it? Yes yes.
Voyager Estate Chardonnay 2016
For mine, one of the most consistent Margaret River Chardies out there (and for half the price of LEAS). Oh and do you like the new label? Finely finessed, the key appeal is the balance between mealy, plump flavour and then a backbone that is very crisp. Sometimes too crisp, but recent vintages have been perfect. Grilled nuts, white peach, some late phenolic tang. A full flavoured style that nails the balance. Best drinking: Now and for yonks. I often like Voyager Chardonnay at about 3-4 yrs from vintage. Christmas 2019 it will be singing. 18.5/20, 94/100. 13.5%, $50. Would I buy it? Definitely.
Curly Flat Chardonnay 2015
A powerful Chardonnay for Curly and a good one. Opulent and rich with spicy oak on nose and palate. Fractionally shaped by oak, but that latent power is great. Is it a bit blunt? That density and length will win hearts and minds. But better next year. Best drinking: Late 2019 onwards. 18/20, 93/100+, 13.2%, $47. Would I buy it? Next year.
Montalto The Eleven Chardonnay 2016
Just like David Bicknell, Simon Black at Montalto has a Midas touch when it comes to Chardonnay (and Pinot for that matter). This white comes from a vineyard on the southern end of the Mornington Peninsula, and a taut and even angular wine that is something of a winemaking masterpiece. White peach and tart acidity, solidsy funk and then nutty oak. It’s perhaps too lean, but there is something quintessentially refreshing about it too. Another vintage-defying Chardonnay from 2016. Best drinking: This year on, but another year in bottle won’t hurt at all. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d share a bottle.
d’Arenberg The Lucky Lizard Chardonnay 2017
One of the most drinkable wines that d’Arenberg produces, and in good form here. Juicy, generous peach juice Chardonnay but with proper Adelaide Hills acidity and the barest whisper of oak. Balances out viscous stonefruit with crisp citrus acidity, and does it well, if maybe a little simple. Great value drinking here though. Best drinking: Good now, and over the next five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.5%, $25. Would I buy it? $25 well spent. Yes.
Eagles Rest Maluna Chardonnay 2015
Eagles Rest has a very low profile, even in the Hunter. But the best wines – this Chardonnay and the Shiraz – are handy. Sourced from a block also name as the Maxwell Vineyard, and planted in the 1970s, this modern white has complexity. It’s worked, with popcorn and matchstick, then cool acidity behind, the mid palate all peachy Hunter Chardonnay. Early picking gives this freshness, and yet it’s nice and plump too. Plenty to like here. Best drinking: Now to six plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.7%, $40. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Mandala Chardonnay 2017
Interesting to have this shortly after the Soumah wines. Definitely of a similar breed, with this just a little leaner perhaps but another quality ’17 Yarra Chardonnay. It leads with grapefruit – a nod to the acidity – but the flavours underneath are more ripe nectarine too. There’s something of that ‘is it too lean’ but the overall effect is more vital than hard. Well priced too. Best drinking: Ready to go, but another year wouldn’t hurt. Then at least five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 12.6%, $30. Would I buy it? Yes.
Coppabella Sirius Chardonnay 2017
Coppabella is the Tumbarumba Vineyard of Jason & Alecia Brown (Moppity Vineyards), using a plot that once supplied to Penfolds. There’s some of that Bin 311, sparkling clone minerality here too, the acid bony and sour, the oak and winemaking funk adding overlays of flavour. It’s perhaps too lean, but the Chablis inspired style is nothing if not fresh. I’d love to see just a little more ripeness here. but plenty of promise. Best drinking: It will live for ages given that acidity. Ten years without even trying. Two years will help greatly. 17.5/20, 91/100+. 12.5%, $60. Would I buy it? I’d go a glass or so.
Curly Flat Lacuna Chardonnay 2017
The first Lacuna since 2013. 85% fermented in steel, 15% in old oak. Matt Harrop calls it a ‘humble nod to Chablis’ but the peachiness marks this more as Chardonnay than Chablis, the crystalline grapefruit acidity underpinning that peach fruit. It’s delicate, fresh and with a pure cascading flow of refined fruit. Would it be even more interesting with more time in oak? The acid shape is mouth watering. There’s merit in the style (and enjoyable enough) even if I wanted a little more. Best drinking: I’d drink earlier rather than later. Next few years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.5%, $30. Would I buy it? Just a glass.
Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2016
Who doesn’t like chunky, old school Chardonnay? This is open, and generous, flush with white peach, vanilla bean oak all over the nose, the palate tauter through the finish than the juicy peach fruit suggests. Old school width, meets new school acidity. It falls just a little into tinned cream peaches, but plenty of flavour. Best drinking: Now and for the nest 2-3yrs. 17/20, 90/100. 13.2%, $45. Would I buy it? A glass.
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