CHARDONNAY reigned as Australia’s biggest-selling white wine up to 2009, when it was displaced by sauvignon blanc – largely from New Zealand.
With 2017-18 sales of 182 million litres it is second only to shiraz with 249 million litres in exports, but things aren’t so smart on the domestic front. According to IRI Market Edge data chardonnay ranks third behind sauvignon blanc and shiraz in off-premise domestic sales.
As someone with no great regard for savvy blanc, I’m sad many people are missing the multi-layered delights of present-day Australian chardonnays. There are some terrific wines being produced in the Hunter by Andrew Spinaze at Tyrrell’s, Mike De Iuliis at De Iuliis Wines, Rhys Eather at Meerea Park and Liz Silkman with her First Creek, Silkman, Two Rivers and Gartelmann brand chardonnays.
Superb chardonnays are coming from the emerging NSW areas of Tumbarumba and Orange, like the Patina 2015 Reserve Chardonnay from Orange. It’s from Gerald and Angie Naef’s Patina vineyard. Gerald developed an interest in wine when he was growing up in California but, when he and Angie came to Australia in 1981, they bought an irrigation property in North-West NSW. The lure of wine won out in 1999 when they moved to Orange and established Patina.
Here are some other fine chardonnays:
From Australian Vintage Ltd’s Adelaide Hills subsidiary, the Nepenthe 2016 Apex Chardonnay is beautifully elegant, with green-tinted straw hues, scents of citrus and crushed almonds and white nectarine front-palate flavour. Lemon curd, flint, brioche and cashew oak show on the middle palate and slatey acid at the finish. It’s at nepenthe.com.au, wine shops and the Balhannah cellar door. $80. Drink with: paella. Ageing: six years. Rating: 5 stars
The Harewood Estate 2016 Reserve Chardonnay is from James Kellie’s winery at Denmark in the WA Great Southern Region. The wine is light gold and has ginger scents and pristine white peach front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows melon, mixed peel, spice and creamy oak and the finish gunmetal acid. At harewood.com.au. $45. Drink with: quiche. Ageing: four years. Rating: 4.5 stars
Made from Orange grapes for Jorge and Jan Gartelmann by Liz Jackson, the Gartelmann 2016 Sarah Elizabeth Chardonnay has lemon hues with lime green tints, honeysuckle scents and ripe pear front-palate. The middle palate features fig, apple peel, mineral and cashew oak and the finish steely acid. gartelmann.com.au. $30. Drink with: calamari. Ageing: six years. Rating: 5 stars.
THIS classy, multi-faceted Patina 2015 Reserve Chardonnay is pale straw and has scents of rock melon and cashews and smooth, ripe golden peach front-palate flavour. Apricot, nashi pear, slate and vanillin oak display on the middle palate and lemony acid at the finish. Atpatinawines.com.au and the 109 Summerhill Lane, Orange, cellar door. PRICE: $45. DRINK WITH: scallops. AGEING: six years.
RATING: 5 stars
FROM the Tumbarumba arm of Jason Brown’s Hilltops Moppity operation, the Coppabella 2017 Sirus Chardonnay is brassy-tinted light gold, custard apple and almond-scented and with ripe apricot front-palate flavour. Fig, lemon curd, spice and coconutty oak meld on the middle palate and the finish has gunmetal acid. It’s on coppabella.com.au. PRICE: $60. DRINK WITH: crabcakes. AGEING: six years.
RATING: 5 stars
CRISP HUNTER DROP
MADE from Casuarina vineyard grapes, this Meerea Park 2018 Alexander Munro Chardonnay is brassy gold and has kiwifruit aromas and crisp ruby grapefruit front-palate flavour. The middle palate shows white nectarine, lime zest, mineral and vanillin oak characters and the finish steely acid. It’s at the Pokolbin cellar and meereapark.com.au. PRICE: $45. DRINK WITH: tapas. AGEING: eight years.
RATING: 5 stars