Australian Chardonnay is in the midst of a purple patch, with quality – and value – as good as it has ever been, as this collection of the 16 best Chardonnay of November 2020 shows.
What’s also welcome is that, collectively, winemakers have moved a step away from the ultra-reductive, early picked wines of the teens too. That anaemic, milk-bottle-and-acid style is now in the rear view mirror.
I love good Chardonnay, and plenty of these wines are genuinely delicious.
Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2019
Sophistication writ large in this Goldilocks-mode, perfectly judged Yarra white. We had it over dinner.and I could have polished off the bottle myself. Cool, calm and pretty, it’s almost spicy with a light pineapple edge. A coiled feel here, understated power. Has just the right amount of ripe fruit and great acidity. Masterful. Best drinking: over the next eight or so years. 18.7/20, 95/100. 13%, $75. Seville Estate website. Would I buy it? Definitely.
Burton McMahon George’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2019
Such purity in Matt Burton & Dylan McMahon’s wines. Filigreed is the right word for it, even though no normal person would use filigreed in a sentence (except wine writers). Anyway, this Upper Yarra Chardonnay is a lovely delicate wine, with milky highlights, gentle white peach fruit and lemon citrus. There’s some worked nuttiness too. Plays the delicacy card so nicely, without being angular or underdone – a lovely modern Chardonnay. Maybe a bit tangy but so fine. Best drinking: now to five years as a start. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.5%, $40. Burton McMahon website. Would I buy it? Sure would.
Mount Monument Chardonnay 2018
Complex and clever Macedon Chard. In the modern, climate-change-warmed Chardonnay world, Macedon Ranges is one of the few places where full-malo, full-tilt wines can still be balanced, and this is a winner. Handpicked, wild fermented with full solids maturation in barrel, sulphured just once after malo is finished and spends 12 months in barrel. Just 275 dozen produced. Nutty, leesy nose, but the palate is taut. It ends up being full and layered, yet so fresh – that low alcohol is a nod to the early picking, though it never looks overly lean. Interest plus. Best drinking: I’d prefer it younger, so next five years. 18.5/20, 94/100. 12.3%, $45. Mount Monument website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Burton McMahon D’Aloisio Chardonnay 2019
Maybe I’ve been watching too much election coverage, but the word ‘toss up’ seems to be creeping in to my head a lot. The toss up here is whether the winner is the George’s or D’Aloisio from Burton McMahon. Today, it’s the former, but call me a swing state as it could all change in four years. Now, this Yarra Chardonnay has white peach fruit generosity through the middle but the acidity is a firm and definite. Ripe but also lean. There’s nuances here too, even if it’s not quite as bejeweled as the George’s. Still such class and grace. Best drinking: easy eight years. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $40. Burton McMahon website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Soumah Single Vineyard Hexham Chardonnay 2019
Speaking of delicacy and freshness, the Soumah wines are all typically made with a deft touch – and no exception here. If anything, this is a little subdued. Lovely freshness and crunch though. Tingling acidity. Maybe a little tart? Another enjoyable white, if just a little bracing and straight edged. Best drinking: likely for up to a decade. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $40. Soumah website. Would I buy it? Yes.
Soumah Single Vineyard Upper Ngumby Chardonnay 2019
Honestly, I can’t seperate the quality of the two single vineyard Soumah Chardonnay. They’re different, but on a quality par. This plays a softly softly approach – it’s not exactly a big ripe Chardonnay – but oak gives a nuttiness and some fine lemon butter flavour. Maybe a little light-on but nicely poised, medium bodied, elegant modern Chardonnay. Best drinking: will it outlive the Hexham? I’m not sure. Though both may see a tenth bday. 18/20, 93/100. 13%, $40. Soumah website. Would I buy it? Worth a bottle.
Wirra Wirra The 12th Man Chardonnay 2019
Nailed it. I’ve been critical of some recent 12th Man releases but this packs a lovely combination of lightly whipped butter and peach traditional fruit/oak, a little funk, the acid soft, the palate expansive without falling into flab. It’s a fraction simple, but moreish too, and such enjoyable drinking. A hit in the making. Best drinking: now to five years. 18/20, 93/100. 13.5%, $35. Wirra Wirra website. Would I buy it? Two glasses.
Harewood Estate Chardonnay 2018
Denmark Chardonnay with the volume up. Oh, and is it just me, or does the label of ‘Denmark’ on a wine just serve to just confuse customers? Can’t be helped (unless you just tick the ‘Great Southern’ box), although food for thought. A flourishing, nutty and golden style with ripe fruit and leesy fullness. I keep thinking it is going to be bigger, but ultimately a taut finish holds it all in. Enjoyable, fuller style that will impress anyone after a ‘buttery Chardonnay’. Best drinking: over the next five years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 14%, $30. Harewood Estate website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Seville Estate Chardonnay 2019
Perhaps overshadowed (another good word) by the superstar Reserve. Nicely handled oak, acid is refreshing but not overwhelming, the overall style lends towards light white peach flavours with a sense of refinement. My only gripe is that’s a little lean, just needing a teensy bit more to be a slam dunk. Best drinking: over the next 5-8 years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13%, $45. Seville Estate website. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Windfall Wine Estate Single Handed Chardonnay 2019
A new name to me, but promise. Actually, Geographe as a region promises much, even if it will forever be branded as ‘Margaret River-lite’. Chardonnay is the highlight here too, and this white plays the balancing act well – it’s mealy and nutty with white peach, subtle fruit and then prominent grapefruit acidity without being intrusive. It’s just a little clumsy through the finish – trying to be both taut and trim, yet ripe and full at the same time. A small gripe for what is otherwise quality. Best drinking: now to five plus years. 17.7/20, 92/100. 13.5%, $32. Windfall Wine Estate website. Would I buy it? Worth a few glasses.
Balgownie Estate Bendigo Chardonnay 2017
Proudly old school and does it well. Brimming with white peach fruit and creamy melon. Aged on lees for 11 months with no stirring. It’s just a bit inelegant, but that’s always the game to be played with flavour/freshness in a region like Bendigo. Still solid. Best drinking: now to five plus years. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $45. Balgownie Estate website. Would I buy it? A glass or so.
Hungerford Hill Chardonnay 2017
Tumbarumba Chardonnay from Hungerford Hill. Ultra delicate, sparkling base-esque palate but there’s fruit here, albeit in a light, very much cool climate, just-ripe white peach style. Refreshing and pretty, even if I want a little more palate weight as it pulls up a bit short. It tastes like an AC Chablis but with a bit more careful winemaking influence. Nice wine, just missing a second gear. Best drinking: now. 17.5/20, 91/100. 12.6%, $40. Hungerford Hill website. Would I buy it? A few glasses.
Zonzo Estate Chardonnay 2017
I’m less a fan of these Zonzo Estate labels. What about you? This Yarra white is fuller figured initially, but tightens up through the finish. It’s well made and taut, a good push/pull of fruit, oak and acidity that carries right through. Some oak tannins to finish, but still a quite classy wine. Best drinking: now to five years as a start. 17.5/20, 91/100. 13%, $27. Zonzo Estate website. Would I buy it? Worth a glass.
Balgownie Estate Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2017
Surprising it’s a bigger wine than its Bendigo brother. Toasty and obvious Chardonnay that leads with sweet vanillan oak, the palate still tight but marked by the oak. Certainly dials up some of that creamed peach flavour, even if I see oak tannins all over the palate, the finish taut, if just a little warm. Definitely has presence, even if oak is the last flavour. Best drinking: now to five years plus. 17/20, 90/100. 13.2%, $45. Balgownie Estate website. Would I buy it? Maybe a glass.
Howard Park Miamup Chardonnay 2019
Inexpensive Margaret River Chardonnay from Howard Park. Nutty/golden peachy palate but with a twang. Solid commercial appeal here, even if it’s a bit shapeless through the middle and finish. Not bad. Best drinking: over the next 3-4 years. 17/20, 90/100. 13%, $26. Howard Park website. Would I buy it? A glass.
Hungerford Hill Dalwood Vineyard Chardonnay 2018
Hunter Chardonnay. Plump and toasty with an initial flourish of creamy peach ripe fruit, milk bottle sulphides and oak. But the finish is lean, crisp, tight and just a bit angular. It’s good modem Chardonnay, but feels a tad disjointed from front to back. Best drinking: next five years. 17/20, 90/100. 13.5%, $35. Hungerford Hill website. Would I buy it? A glass