The cooling influence of the Southern Oceans on the New World Chardonnay of Australia and New Zealand – this was the subject of last week’s fascinating tasting pitting three wines from each country. Natasha Hughes MW and Ronan Sayburn MS introduced wines from Black Estate, Bannockburn, Kooyong, Villa Maria, Neudorf and Ghost Rock while New World wine expert Roger Jones tasted all six wines and gave his verdict.
“A fabulous tasting highlighting the fresh, exciting wines that both Australia and New Zealand can produce – we are talking about premium and upwards here – but as Lockdown has highlighted this is where there is the biggest growth in the wine industry,” says Jones.
Australia and New Zealand livened up a Zoom wine presentation last week pitting the cool climate New World Chardonnay from Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, Geelong and Tasmania against New Zealand’s Marlborough, Nelson and North Canterbury regions.
“As the Aussies and Kiwis are good mates,” so said the brief, they were “collaborating together for the first time in the UK on an exciting, virtual event to showcase their wonderful Chardonnays.” I am not sure that these two proud nations would be giving an inch in this so-called collaboration, and would be sure that both Natasha Hughes MW for Australia and Ronan Sayburn MS for New Zealand, would be flying the flag for their adopted nations.
The brief stated: “As well as fine wine, great food and stunning scenery, there’s something else that connects Australia and New Zealand: the cold Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean.” This was certainly going to be a tough call, as the wines had been sourced from six spectacular maritime regions. Tasmania and Mornington Peninsula have certainly been making a wave with their fresh, classic saline style, with Geelong certainly more of a specialised hidden gem. Over in Canterbury and Nelson you have two perfect ocean-influenced Chardonnay regions whilst Marlborough has evolved its region with pockets of great Chardonnay coming to the fore.
The popularity of New World Chardonnay is at an all-time high, buoyed by the increase in home consumption of quality wines; this will only increase, of course, if the EU and UK cannot solve their ‘wine divorce’.
I would also note that as New World Chardonnay starts to creep up in prices and retail prices of £80 a bottle upwards is now not uncommon, Burgundy needs to showcase their better value wines, before they lose out. Somewhat in a reverse role, just like two decades ago, Australia and New Zealand were comparing their value and quality against Burgundy it is now the time for the French to fight back and market their top value Chardonnays. Please note that this in no way diminishes my thirst and love for New World wines, just suggesting some fair play.
One issue did come to light at last Thursday’s Zoom tasting – I tried my wine samples on the Tuesday as soon as they arrived, with the wines seemingly fresher than those tasted by my fellow participants online on the Thursday. It is difficult to corroborate the variance in the wines, but noted some definite changes. To give you an example, the Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay I found youthful and exuberant needing more time, but esteemed fellow tasters found it in perfect condition, had the two extra days evolved it? Similarly, some tasters found the Black Estate a touch oxidised whilst I found it in perfect condition.
So how were the six New World Chardonnay tasting?
Kooyong Wines Clonale Chardonnay 2018, Mornington Peninsula, Australia
The junior member of the Kooyong stable, offering exceptional value, based in the Mornington Peninsula. Fresh aromatics, light clean stone fruit, zippy acidity, creamy texture with a fresh crisp finish. Pink grapefruit, white, crisp peeled nuts, vibrant and refreshing. I remember matching this in a previous Australian masterclass to a Ceviche of Sea Bream, Pistachio, Chilli and Coriander dressing, a lovely interaction. (Enotria & Coe, RRP £20-22)
Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand
I think this struggled slightly next to the Kooyong, with many Sauvignon Blanc attributes, with tinned fruit cocktail at the fore, tropical, guava and fresh. Follows with lemon curd, white stone fruit. A refreshing wine, although with age I have had many a fine Taylor Pass Single Vineyard Chardonnay. (Hatch Mansfield, RRP £16-20)
Ghost Rock Wines Bonadale Chardonnay 2018, Tasmania, Australia
New to me, although this vineyard was purchased by Cate and Colin Arnoldo in 2001 (it was previously known as Patrick Creek Vineyard), now in the hands of son Justin, who previously worked at Coldstream Hills and Devils Lair, both exceptional Chardonnay estates. This Single Vineyard is from the Cradle Coast of Northern Tasmania.
This vibrant and racy Chardonnay has a soft, delicate, tropical nose, spring flowers and a crunchy entry on the palate of young raw summer vegetables. There is orchard fruit, pear William on the mid-palate, then a buttery creamy white peach background. Beautiful wine that will grow in stature, fabulous. (The Vinorium, RRP £32)
Neudorf Vineyards Rosie’s Block Moutere Chardonnay 2019, Nelson, New Zealand
Love Neudorf and remember fondly Judy Finn cooking me dinner at the estate when I visited; their Home Block Moutere, especially with age sits there with the very finest Chardonnay in the World. This ‘Rosie’s Block Moutere’, named after Tim and Judy’s daughter Rosie has a light-cooked apple crumble nose, with a lemon zing on the background, fresh on the mid-palate with hints of aromatics led by gentle stone fruit. A big challenge to go up against the Ghost Rock which takes the points for me. (Specialist Cellars, RRP £30)
Bannockburn Vineyards Chardonnay 2019, Geelong, Australia
Somewhat off the radar, this estate in Geelong was set up by the late Stuart Hooper in 1974, who wanted to emulate the great estates of Burgundy. It now has 27 hectares of vines on three separate sites on their Estate Bannockburn. This is sublime, a creamy luxurious wine that is steadied by a citrus lime curd, spiced with a saline background, white flowers and perfect, white, skinless peaches and nectarines. “Opulent and perfect” my notes said. (GB Wine Shippers, RRP £49.50)
Black Estate ‘Home’ Chardonnay 2019, North Canterbury, New Zealand
North Canterbury offers a number of small super star vineyards, and this Organic Home Vineyard from the Black Estate is based in the Omihi sub district of Waipara. Delicate perfumed nose of white peaches and white peach skin, then a whiff of lime before a tantalising chamomile tea, pear juice, bronze fennel and hazelnut. A complex wine like the Bannockburn deserves to be aged. This is an awesome wine and a great match to its Australian counterpart, difficult to choose, as I would and will buy both wines. (Specialist Cellars, RRP £46.50)
So in conclusion ….
A fabulous tasting highlighting the fresh, exciting wines that both Australia and New Zealand can produce – we are talking about premium and upwards here – but as Lockdown has highlighted this is where there is the biggest growth in the wine industry.
These wines are also perfect for the multi-national diet that the UK enjoys and will go especially well with Asian and Indian food, I know I have said it before but please don’t drink aromatic wines with spiced food, New World Chardonnay is made for this, especially when it has that soothing creamy and stone fruit background.