A roll of the dice
Nine chardonnays from nine regions. Picking one is like rolling dice.
Australian chardonnay has changed so much in the past 25 years. Many say it’s gone from too fat to too skinny. I partly agree, but not all chardonnay was fat and over-oaked, and some today can be too much on the lean side.
I think one of reasons for the shift in style was the rush to plant vines. From 1991 to 1995, 5806 hectares of chardonnay went into the ground and not all of that ground was suitable for the variety.
The demand from export markets for Australian chardonnay was massive in the second half of the ’90s and the first part of this century. A huge amount of chardonnay was being made from very young vines.
There was such demand that all winemaking tricks were being used and I believe lack of care for the product, combined with ignorance about consumers, resulted in Australian chardonnay falling out of favour.
As they are from different regions, the nine wines reviewed below have prices from $19 to $45, and points from 89 to 94. But there’s only one 89-point wine, and four have 94 points and four 93 points. They were very smart wines.
Nocton Vineyard Estate Tasmania Chardonnay 2015: Classic on the nose and on the palate. Elegant long length and finely tuned flavours. That is, they are hesitant, but do emerge as the wine travels across the palate. 94 points and value at $27.
St John’s Road ‘PL’ Barossa Chardonnay 2015: Phil Lehmann is destined to join the greats of Australian winemaking. In my opinion he is already there, but there is still a conservative streak in the industry, even among younger members. Anyhow, this chardonnay is a master stroke of winemaking (follow the link to the website for the detail), with tight and intense flavours that will fill out a little as the wine develops. It’s $30 and I’ve drunk white burgundy at three times the price not as fine as this wine. 94 points.
Glenlofty Pyrenees Chardonnay 2015: The website says the 2013 has sold out, so why don’t they replace it with the 2015? Light, tight style. I think the building blocks are there but it needs developing. The asking price is $19 but there are a lot of good chardonnays around under $15 that push it for value. 89 points.
Robert Channon ‘Wild Ferment’ Granite Belt Chardonnay 2015: The nose is pure chardonnay and full of interest itself. It’s the sort of nose that draws the drinker in and encourages the next step, which is taste. There’s lots going on as the wine traverses the palate. It’s busy and full of life but falls away slightly at the end. 94 points, and $45 is just about OK.
Thistledown ‘Great Escape’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015: A gentle start that builds as it travels. “Crisp” was the word that came to mind. 93 points and good value at $25.
Robert Stein (Reserve) Mudgee Chardonnay 2014: This is good. Rich in style and well balanced. It has a lifespan of up to five years (personal estimate) and a huge amount going for it. 94 points. Is it worth the $40 asked? Let’s be diplomatic. There is a lot of chardonnay around at $40. It will have to stand against those, and I think many will beat it.
Allegiance ‘The Matron’ Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2014: This is chardonnay in the new fashion: tight slender and very cool. I’m one who likes a little more flesh, but concede that this is a good drop, well made and very well balanced. 93 points and worth its $25.
Peppertree ‘Limited Release’ Orange Region Chardonnay 2014: This is one of a pair, the other being a Hunter wine. In my tasting notes I use the words “crisp” and “elegant”, separated by a few other words. Reading the accompanying notes, I had to smile when I read, “a crisp and elegant style”. I cut out the other words and admit agreement. It is a good wine, 93 points and great value at $22.
St John’s Road ‘PL’ Eden Valley Chardonnay 2014: This is just starting to come out. The flavours are showing hints of what is to come, but it needs more time. It should start to blossom this year and in 2017 reach full bloom. A mean 93 points now but more to come. OK value at $30.