Chardonnay, queen, whore, slender, voluminous

1 RubicFor the love of chardonnay

Chardonnay gets a caning now and then for its popularity among those who, well, let’s say those who are not into wine – the “I know what I like” brigade. I love it, and I not only know what I like; I reckon I know the reason why I like it. It can be queen, whore, slender, voluminous and everything in between. It never bores, often surprises and gives pleasure in many ways.

d’Arenberg ‘The Lucky Lizard’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2014: There was a time when this brand held attraction for me. Then, for a couple or three vintages, it became too lean, in an overreaction to so-called big Australian over-oaked styles. This 2014 vintage is allowing some of the natural generosity back into the wine and in my opinion it’s much the better for doing so. 93 points and $25 is fair value. I asked d’Arenberg if it would comment on the change of style and received this from senior winemaker, Jack Walton:

“I’d love to be able to give a clear answer to your impressions of how style has changed but in reality, from a winemaking and viticultural perspective very little has changed. Vintage variation of course continues to play a role, however, the mix of vineyards remains more or less the same, picking decisions are based on flavour and are unchanged, all batches are fermented and aged in predominantly old French oak on lees and there is always a small portion of wild ferment.

“Casting my mind back to 2011 this was undoubtedly an outlier on account of the cool wet vintage and alcohol and acid levels support this. Since then, from year to year these parameters change slightly but realistically not enough to indicate a change in style. Perhaps say 0.3% variation in alcohol from highest year to lowest and maybe 0.9g/L variation in TA. Taking this analysis one step further, 2013 was both the highest alcohol and the lowest TA, which would align with our assessment on the vintage.”

Thorn-Clarke ‘Sandpiper’ Eden Valley Chardonnay 2015: Delicate to start, but builds as it travels. No great heights but very sound. 92 and worth $19.

Haselgrove ‘Staff’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015: A lovely scented and balanced wine that has an ethereal quality to it. 94 points and very good value at $25.

Mad Fish Western Australia Chardonnay 2015: It’s a simple wine but not that simple it’s bland. An easy drinking, well-made wine. 92 points and there’s plenty of competition at $18.

Parker Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2015: Classic chardonnay nose. The wine sits full at the beginning of its journey but reveals elegance as it travels. It ends on the fuller side but is not overblown. Let’s say it’s an attractive lass (or lad) with curves. 93 points and very good value at $24.

Paulett Polish Hill River Clare Valley Chardonnay 2015: Sound wine that tastes right and is the right price at $23. One can’t really ask for much more. 92 points.

Burton ‘Found Stone’ Unoaked Chardonnay 2015: Hard to believe this hasn’t had some oak. It’s rounded, balanced and drinks very well. It’s all about the fruit and the richness of its flavour. It pushes me to suspect there is another grape variety involved, but less than the 15 per cent that has to be declared. Whatever it is, it works really well. 91 points and great value at less than $10.

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