After naming a flagship wine to honour the charismatic matriarch of Hardys Wines, the task of choosing an appropriate style was never going to be simple. A fitting personal tribute to Eileen Hardy had to be the sum of complex parts; sturdy and formidable, yet graceful and elegant; approachable, yet durable – and in capturing all this, one of Australia’s great Chardonnays was born.
Eileen Hardy Chardonnay is now 35 years old, and it stands as a telling portrait of Australia’s modern vision of Chardonnay – a best-of-vintage representation with fruit sourced across multiple regions, with Hardys winemakers having the license to change the recipe each vintage in their bid to always achieve a wine of supreme excellence.
Born in the Barossa Valley in 1893, Eileen Ponder met her future husband Tom Mayfield Hardy through their mutual love of sailing. He was vice-commodore of the Royal South Australian Yacht Squadron. He became managing director of his family’s wine business soon after returning from World War I as a naval officer.
Then tragedy struck. He died with other prominent South Australian wine figures Hugo Gramp and Sidney Hill-Smith of Yalumba, in a plane crash en route to Canberra for a wine industry summit meeting in 1938. Eileen stepped into the breach, showing herself to be a woman of immense character and fortitude as a brand ambassador for Hardys Wines.
She was beloved by wine lovers, known affectionately as “Auntie Eileen” – and received the Order of the British Empire from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 1976, in recognition of her contribution to the Australian wine industry.
When she died in 1980, at the age of 87, Eileen Hardy’s passing was deeply mourned. She had been a driving influence in the company for 37 years, showing strength with grace and elegance – hallmarks captured in Hardys’ best-of-vintage representation of Chardonnay.
The durability of this wine is especially evident in the 2004 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, the first vintage captured under a screw cap. A complex sum of many parts – with fruit from Tasmania (47 per cent), Yarra Valley in Victoria (30 per cent), Tumbarumba in southern New South Wales (20 per cent) and Adelaide Hills (3 per cent) – results in a beguiling mix of primary fruit vitality and toasty secondary notes. Spikes of lemon, lime and grapefruit freshness remain, with honeysuckle, melon and hints of toasted nuts. It retains its grace and purpose after 17 years and will continue.
Recognised as a superior vintage, the 2010 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2010 finds an easy balance of toasty richness and zingy citrus bite. The combination of 72 per cent Tasmanian fruit with 28 per cent from Yarra Valley ensures a complex flavour marriage, rich texture and compelling savouriness to counterbalance snappy acidity and clean apple freshness. Its firm body suggests there’s still plenty of life ahead in the cellar.
The current release, 2019 Eileen Hardy Chardonnay, takes the blend in another direction, with a mix of Yarra Valley and Margaret River fruit showing fresh, lively flavours but with a muscular textural roll, a swirl of complex melon and fleshy white peach competing with bright lemon and grapefruit for palate interest. It’s a bold contemporary style, showing that the winemakers are forever seeking a seamless meld of citrus and cream that befits a perfect ideal of Eileen Hardy Chardonnay.
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