Chardonnay? Choose Australia, Decanter readers urged

  • Tuesday 25 January 2011

Decanter readers should ignore Burgundy and go to Australia for their Chardonnay, The Wine Society’s Pierre Mansour has said.

bird in hand

Bird in Hand: 'lovely rich aromatics...'

The panel tasted 116 wines from the 2007, 08 and 09 vintages, for a report to be published in the March issue of Decanter magazine.

Only wines from the finest cool-climate regions were selected: Eden Valley, Margaret River, Tumbarumba, Beechworth, Adelaide Hills, Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Tasmania and Hunter Valley. Muti-region blends were not allowed.

The panel found fine Australian Chardonnay has never been in better form.

Indeed Mansour, head of eminent UK wine merchant The Wine Society's Australian list, declared that while his customers could buy Chardonnay from wherever they liked, and in most cases would look to Burgundy, ‘with the [premature oxidation] issues [white] Burgundy has had in recent years, I’d urge Decanter readers to look to Australia – these wines are brilliant.’

Another panellist, Brett Crittenden, said that the very best of these wines were 'as good as top white Burgundy'.

Five wines were given a five star Decanter Award, 29 were Highly Recommended and 70 Recommended in a tasting that two panellists said was among the best they had attended.

Anthony Rose said it was ‘one of the most impressive’ he could remember, and Roger Jones, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant The Harrow, which has a 350-strong Australian wine list, said it was ‘brilliant – a fantastic showcase for Aussie Chardonnay, the best Decanter panel I’ve been to.’

The other panellists were Decanter columnist Andrew Jefford, consultants Crittenden and Terry Threlfall, the Wine Society’s Pierre Mansour, wine educator Sarah Ahmed and Justin Knock MW, buying manager for Fosters’ Treasury Wine Estates.

The panel praised the freshness and restraint of the wines, their structural complexity, their handling of oak and alcohol, and winemakers’ ‘conscious reining-back to show the quality of the fruit and terroir.’

‘This confirmed for that Chardonnay is Australia’s best variety,’ Jefford said.

The panel was not surprised, agreeing that Aussie Chardonnay’s ‘renaissance’ had been known in trade circles for years.

Tasters noted how slow the media was to catch on, attacking the press for continuing to peddle the idea that all Australian Chardonnay was overblown.

‘That’s what maddens Aussie winemakers,’ Jones said. ‘We’ve been banging our heads telling people they’ve got to try these wines, yet the public still thinks they are too big, over-alcoholic and over-oaked.’

In terms of region, cool-climate areas were the stand-out winners. Three out of five of the Award winners were from Margaret River, while Mornington Peninsula, Tasmania and Tumbarumba in New South Wales garnered high praise.

Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley came in for criticism – the panel finding some of the wines rather too ‘lean and serious’ and lacking ‘flair’.

The five Decanter Awards were

Bird in Hand, Nest Egg, Adelaide Hills 2008
'Lovely rich aromatics of smoky oak, nuts, praline...'
Giaconda, Beechworth, Victoria 2008
'Fine-crafted aroma of nutty butterscotch...'
Killerby, Margaret River, WA 2009
'Wow! Aromas of exotic fig, melon, nuts, beeswax...'
Evans & Tate, Margaret River WA 2009
'Lovely, complex, refined aroma of honey, delicate wild flowers...'
Stella Bella, Margaret River WA 2008
'A complex bouquet of honey, minerals, petits pois...'

The full Australian Chardonnay panel tasting report appears in the March issue of Decanter magazine, out 2 February

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