I think some of these wines were sent for review to coincide with International Chardonnay Day on 25 May. What a fizzer that was. Is any date in the year given to a variety or style of wine worth time and effort? I’m not convinced varieties, like saints, need a day for us to pay due reverence to them.
As an atheist, I find saints also come a good way down the list of things that make any given day important. Not that I’m against fun, frolics and celebrations; there is nothing like a good time with friends, family, tucker and wine.
As for chardonnay, I love it, always have done. Riesling can reach greater heights but is rarely allowed the time to do so. Gewürztraminer, especially from Alsace, is also a love of mine, along with many blends, and straight roussanne, marsanne, viognier, vermentino and fiano.
Back to chardonnay: it’s nearly always my first pick in a bar/restaurant that doesn’t have a great wine list. If that seems strange, it’s because even at the lower levels it more often provides a wine that is just more drinkable then many other innocuous white wines.
Chardonnay has had several style changes over the past 40 years, and not just in Australia, though the full-fruit and over oaked style is the one that always appears to be mentioned nowadays – ironically, often by people who never tasted it. Fat, oaked Australian chardonnay has become a myth, but one that looks likes sticking around for some time yet.
For many in the trade/industry, memories seem to be vague concerning the oxidised and often Brettanomyces-infested atrocities coming out of Burgundy post-WW2. I didn’t experience wines from the ’50s but did try vintages from the ’60s. They were a hit-and-miss affair: some were good, others buggered, and this was when they were supposed to be at their peak or on the way to being so. Buying a bottle of white Burgundy in the 1970s through to the ’90s, either in shop or restaurant, was also a hit-and-miss affair.
Strange as it seems, I think of Chablis as separate from the rest of the white Burgundies, but that’s another story.
As for Australian chardonnay today, it’s fantastic, some of the best in the world. We have every reason to be proud. The only aspect I question is the makers who now appear afraid of oak and fruit ripeness. They make their wines so tight that the enjoyment factor is lost.
Slim but shapely is better than outright skinny. Please, winemakers, allow some flesh on those emaciated chardonnay bones.
Franklin Tate Estates ‘Traditional’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2016: Light, pleasant, clean nose, and much the same across the palate. It’s tight and lean but lacking warmth and vibrancy. I can’t knock it from a technical aspect, but it didn’t fire me in any way. 90 points and there are plenty of wines around at $24. Available from Dan Murphy’s and BWS.
Baily & Baily ‘Folio’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2016: Another BWS special and only $12. Honest nose. Good, even-balanced wine, and fair value. 90 points.
Thompson Estate ‘The Specialist’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2013: Full, rich chardonnay nose, and full, rich chardonnay flavours all across the palate. It’s a fulsome beauty, worthy of admiration and respect. 95 points but a top price at $50.
Credaro ‘Kingship’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2016: Green with golden highlights. Light, fragrant, clean nose. Starts slow but builds at mid-palate. It’s three parts open, but there’s more to come at the final swallow. It’s an alive, complex wine, but the beauty is really at the very end and return journey. 94 points and worth its $32.
Silkwood Estate ‘The Walcott’ Pemberton Chardonnay 2016: Pale in the glass, green hints and light though pleasant on the nose. It’s light across the palate too, but if one holds it there is something going on underneath that is worth focusing on. To sum up: almost but not quite. 93 points and some will find $30 high; others not.
Bellarmine Pemberton Chardonnay 2016: Sound in all departments but no great spark. 92 points and worth its $26, but would it prompt buying another bottle?
Plantagenet ‘York’ Mount Barker Chardonnay 2016: Gorgeous nose, rich and inviting. It’s also rich but not over-the-top across the palate. It caresses and strokes all the points that need stroking and caressing. 94 points and worth $35.
Byron & Herald ‘The Partners’ Great Southern Chardonnay 2016: Tasting this wine is like playing hide and seek. It’s young, very pretty but shy, a beauty in the making; a young lass on the verge of becoming a young woman in full glory. Across the palate, the hints come and go, giving then withdrawing. It’s hard to point, but a harsh 92 now with more to come. Then it may be worth $45.
Cat Amongst the Pigeon’s Eden Valley Chardonnay 2016: Defined chardonnay nose, some good chardonnay flavours across the palate, but hot on the finish, and somewhat disjointed. 89 points and overpriced at $20. Available from BWS.
Sidewood Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016: Attractive nose, but I couldn’t pin it, other than to say it’s chardonnay. A lithe wine that skips across the palate, dropping hints as it travels, but never giving full expression. Very sound but unexciting. 94 points and an OK price at $22.
Sidewood ‘Mappinga’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2016: Classic chardonnay nose. Beautifully poised wine that smoothly crosses the palate, leading step by slow step to a satisfying finish. A classy wine, 94 points, and worth it at about $30.
Cricket Flat Coonawarra Chardonnay 2015: Light, clean nose. Easy across the palate, with no great standout points. 91 points and there’s plenty of wine around at $21.