Ever since his first bottle of Grange in 1985, Roger Jones has been a huge advocate of Australian wine. A third of the wines on Joness 1000-strong bin wine list at The Harrow at Little Bedwyn are Australian wines, some dating back to the 1990s and beyond. But it is with Chardonnay that Jones believes that Australia competes on the world stage best – so with tasting glass in hand he dived into the whites at the Australia Trade Tasting with his customary gusto and has come up with a selection that he thought shone the brightest on the day.
“Deep Woods in Margaret River has been making a big mark in recent years and achieving high marks on the judging platform including the Deep Woods Estate ‘Reserve’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2017 which I gave 98 points in a Decanter Panel Tasting last year,” writes Jones.
I have seen the Australian industry go through numerous love affairs with both the public and trade but I can happily say that my love for Australian wines has never wavered in over 35 years from the first bottle of Grange I had in 1985.
It’s been a tough start this year for Australia with the fires and the sad passing of Hazel Murphy. Amid these setbacks it was pleasing to see such a wonderful turn out at the Australia Day tasting with, of course, great support from the British press and trade.
Australian Chardonnay always excites me; the different styles are fascinating, whether you like the flinty matchstick element, or the toasted vanilla exuberance, the steely focussed style or the purity, the sheer brilliance and uniqueness of some Australian Chardonnay has it all and in abundance.
Although, on the whole, I go for a higher than normal price range I was delighted to try the Trentham ‘Estate’ Murray Darling Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £12.50) on the Seckford Agencies stand. This wine is clean, fresh and focussed. The fresh orchard fruit gives it a clean crisp palate, encouraging another swig, does not jump out as a Chardonnay, nevertheless it’s a great easy drinking wine. There is a lot of mass produced wine from the Murray Darling region, but these guys have got it spot on. The good value Trentham ‘Reserve’ Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2017 (RRP 18.75) is more classically Chardonnay, with more stone fruit, citrus curd and a lingering opulence.
Xanadu had two excellent value wines too, starting with Xanadu ‘Exmoor’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £13.99), great balance and freshness, restrained stone and orchard fruit with a nice, crisp, citrus finish – easy drinking but a lovely wine. Xanadu ‘Estate’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2017 (£19.99); at this price this definitely delivers – there is a seductive elegance to this, with delicate stone fruit, hazelnuts, and gentle hints of pineapple softened by a creamy finish.
Howard Park showed two Chardonnays the Howard Park ‘Miamup’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £17.95) which was floral, restrained, elegant with a balance of stone and orchard fruit gentle hiding in the background, with a clean saline freshness, whilst Howard Park Margaret River Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £25) was spicy and flinty on the nose, delicate citrus tones, as it melted away in your mouth you were left with a wonderful flinty/creamy combination.
Carson Wines is an independent niche distributor, with father and son at the helm. It has, besides the wines I mention below, Hentley Farm on their cards which is a top end Barossa supplier.
Punt Road from Yarra Valley with the great value Punt Road ‘Emperor’s Prize’ Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £14.99) doing well in Majestic and the Punt Road Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £19.99) sourced from old blocks on the Napoleon Vineyard, delivers a fresh and vibrant wine with pineapple, clean white nuts, white stone fruit and fresh lime at the finish.
Deep Woods in Margaret River has been making a big mark in recent years and achieving high marks on the judging platform including the Deep Woods Estate ‘Reserve’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2017 (RRP £35.99) which I gave 98 points in a Decanter Panel Tasting last year. This is definitely in the richer category, ripe stone fruit, cashew nuts, layers and layers of texture and depth; to me it is quite beautiful and exciting to see how it gets even better with age. There was also the Deep Woods Estate ‘Hillside’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2015 (RRP £18.99) more restrained, clean and focused with more of a Chablis Grand Cru status. Wonderful to see this now with five years age and drinking perfectly.
Bancroft has now built up an enviable collection of prestige, even iconic Australian wine labels. On the Chardonnay side they have the Hay Shed Hill ‘Block 6’ Margaret River Chardonnay 2017, this is focused with juicy Pear William, flinty, there is a depth of flavour that is uncanny, it is a beautifully refined Chardonnay.
Then moving onto Ten Minutes by Tractor with the charismatic and knowledgeable owner, Martin Spedding pouring the wines, a trio of outstanding Chardonnays from the Mornington Peninsula, with the highlight being Ten Minutes by Tractor ‘Wallis’ Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2017 (RRP £45.45), the Wallis Vineyard is north/north east facing and is the lowest lying of all their vineyards, set in the Cotton Tree Creek Valley. On the palate here is a crisp, flinty perfume, on the palate the minerality continues with a balance of pink grapefruit, white juicy nectarines, depth of flavour, there is tightness to this wine, which helps it to excel.
Tapanappa Wines ‘Tiers’ Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2017 (RRP £50) is benchmark Chardonnay from a perfect, historic vineyard, the purity and focus on this is just exemplary, for Chardonnay lovers a must-purchase just to benchmark others to it.
Penfolds ‘Bin311’ Adelaide Hills Tumbarumba Tasmania Chardonnay 2018 (RRP £32) – well if the stunning Bin A or grown-up Yattarna is out of your league this multi-region Chardonnay from Penfolds delivers. It is textured, layered, focused, touch of minerals and wet stone, restrained ripe stone fruit, white flowers soft citrus, it’s a lovely attractive wine.
Hardy’s ‘HRB’ Yarra Valley Margaret River Pemberton Chardonnay 2016 (RRP £19.99) – an excellent value Chardonnay for the quality. It has a lovely texture, with gentle spices and the purity of perfect stone fruit, rich but fresh, great balance. Moving up a few dollars is the superb Eileen Hardy Yarra Valley Tasmania Chardonnay 2016 (RRP £39.99) this is still a baby but starting to evolve (named after the First Lady of Australian Wine), ripe citrus and stone fruit delicate creamy and toasty background, rich and focused, the depth of flavour is superb… I suggest you decant this or leave it a year or two.
Tyrrell’s ‘Vat 47’ Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2010 (RRP £60), some may say the price is higher than most but look at the vintage – 2010, hence they have aged it for you saving you a decade of storage time and money. The result is a refined golden yellow, deep textured wine that has perfect purity and drinkability, awesome.
A few Chardonnays from Beechworth
Savaterre Beechworth Chardonnay 2017 (RRP £45) – new to me but highly recommended by Noel Young, and served in Emirates First Class, is seeking UK distribution – contact firstname.lastname@example.org. This has that classic Beechworth style, purity, depth, minerals, wet stone, beautiful harmony of fruit and that oh so perfect flinty nuance. A truly outstanding wine.
Brokenwood Indigo Chardonnay 2016 (RRP £45),don’t let the label fool you this is more Beechworth not the Hunter Valley, a very wise move by Mr Riggs to purchase this little outcrop. Perfectly balanced with a simmering texture, wet stone with gentle, evolving stone fruit.
Giaconda ‘Estate Vineyard’ Beechworth Chardonnay 2017 (RRP 98.95), this of course is on allocation, is it the greatest Chardonnay from Australia? that’s not for me to say, but rest assured I do drink it regularly. Few words can describe this wine, although compared to some vintages it is more forward – pretty perfect.
There were, of course, many other Chardonnays that I did not taste on the day, from Moss Wood to Shaw & Smith, Cullen to Paringa, Leeuwin to Pierro and many more but it just shows what a vast country Australia is and that it can produce so many top class, no make that, world class Chardonnays.
Dalrymple ’Cave Block’ Tasmania Chardonnay 2015 (RRP £25)
Spiced, some minerality, mouth filling, juicy stone fruit, bright and focussed, love the balance between the depth and freshness – an excellent wine with good age, seems a bargain to me as it used to be more expensive than this.
From the Graft Wine Company, the new kids on the block, here I found two superb wines.
Bellwether Tasmania Chardonnay 2015 (RRP £40) this wine has layers and layers, there is a harmony between them – controlled stone and orchard fruit, delightful floral element, it lingers but it has a crisp acidity to the finish. Then from the Great Southern Lowboi Porongurup Chardonnay 2018 (£38) this is bright and funky, full of life and excitement, made by Guy Lyons the winemaker at Forrest Hill. New forward-thinking Chardonnay that delivers, it’s exciting with racy flavours