Actually, there wasn’t really a winner between these two. It was a tie. And what a talking point.
This was one of several matchups served over lunch at the 40 year ‘Quadrigesimum’ celebration of Brian & Ann Croser’s Tiers Vineyard in the Adelaide Hills a few weeks back. While the 2011 Blain Gagnard Le Montrachet and 2011 Tapanappa Piccadilly Valley Chardonnay weren’t the highlights of the day (that belonged to a pair of Croser’s made almost forty years apart, more on that in another post), but they were so achingly close in quality that it was the story of the day.
On the one hand, the Montrachet had sulphide funk, and a woolly palate of lanolin and cream, the structure built on acidity. A wine more about winemaking than fruit, though complex. While the Tapanappa didn’t have the same struck match reductive character, it’s shape had many parallels – here, more about acidity dominating fruit, with less cream but more grilled nuts, and a not dissimilar length.
The Montrachet comes from an average year and it’s Blain Gagnard – an estate (frustratingly) better known for shitty corks, premox and inexcusable bottle variation. It’s actually a solid wine (and a good bottle), but certainly not profound (especially not compared to the much better 2017 vintage also served at lunch).
The Tapanappa, intriguingly, also comes from one of the coolest, wettest harvests in the history of the Tiers vineyard (less than 1000HDD, making it more like growing grapes in the Mosel). Croser famously disliked it so much that he declassified it from Tiers Vineyard labelled to just Picaddilly Valley (which he regrets now). It’s not the greatest year for Tiers (compared to the magic 2016 for example), nor is it necessarily profound. But it’s a quality Chardonnay.
What I find entertaining is that one wine is $1,200 a bottle, the other $30, yet they were on a similar quality plane. One is a megastar and one forgotten. Together, they remind that quality and price mean nothing in the collector-focused world of fine wine, where the reputation of vineyard, vintage and maker mean more than anything else – and especially with Chardonnay.
But you know what? If you opened that Montrachet without the context of the $30 equal wine next to it, I bet a table full of drinkers would be deeply satisfied. The power! Taste the fancy winemaking! I wish we could afford to drink Montrachet every day!*pours another glass.
Really, all comparisons like this do is remind why I’ve sold off most of my Burgundy and – if I’m paying – would rather buy Australian Chardonnay Chablis et al. instead of playing Burgundy quality roulette…