Chardonnay's big comeback with consumers
Chardonnay has officially returned to favour with wine judges and consumers, taking out a slew of trophies in Australia and New Zealand in the past few months.
The latest winning white is New Zealand’s Isabel Estate Vineyard, which has been awarded Best Single Vineyard White Wine for its Isabel Estate Wild Barrique Chardonnay 2017 wine at the prestigious 2018 New Zealand Wine of the Year Awards.
It joins the 2017 Suckfizzle Chardonnay from Stella Bella Wines, which recently took out Wine of Show at the 2018 Langton’s Margaret River Wine Show.
As Good Food notes: "We tend to look back on chardonnay like a big perm: best left in its own era.
"Just like the shoulder pads of its heyday, Chardonnay went out of fashion in the '90s. Its buttery flavour and rich, yellow colour were suddenly seen as too big: people were sick of drinking it, and they wanted subtler wines as Australia's love for different varieties grew.
"There was even an entire movement dubbed ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) that meant the 'C' word was all but banned from everyone's lips – while out in civilised company, anyway."
But winemakers are turning that lip curl into serious appreciation for new iterations of the classic varietal.
And the result is growing sales, with a recent Australian Retail Liquor Trends report by market research company IRI showing Chardonnay sales are up 2% to $5million in the off-premise.
Isabel Estate says the secret to the success of its Wild Barrique Chardonnay 2017 comes from only making wine from fruit grown on the Estate.
Chief Winemaker Jeremy McKenzie said: “As one of the original Marlborough wine plantings, we have always recognised the unique qualities of the Estate and the symbiotic relationship that the health of the vineyard has to the quality of the wine it produces.
“This Trophy win is testament to the quality of fruit that we are able to grow from a single vineyard site and demonstrates our philosophy of respecting the soil where the grapes grow and allowing the unique characters of each variety to be expressed in the final wine.
“With vines that are now over 30 years of age, we have recognised for some time now how expressive a site Isabel Estate is for its wines. We have been quietly enhancing the quality of fruit through a singular focus on perfecting our viticultural practices. The Isabel Estate Marlborough Wild Barrique Chardonnay 2017 exhibits the power and vibrancy that are the hallmarks of the Estate and is a wine of outstanding quality and character.
The wine also took out Gold at the NZ International Wine Show; the Marlborough Wine Show; and the NZ Wine of the Year Awards. It has a RRP of $40 and is available at Dan Murphy’s www.danmurphys.com.au and BWS www.bws.com.au stores nationally.
Meanwhile, 2017 Suckfizzle Chardonnay also won trophies for White Wine of Show and Best Chardonnay at the Margaret River Wine Show.
Chief winemaker Luke Jolliffe told the Margaret River Mail: “This wine has been a long time in the making. It is a single vineyard wine made from just three rows of Gin Gin clone Chardonnay in our most southern and unique vineyard. I have always believed in the potential of this fruit and have dreamt of creating a pure and powerful wine that expresses this site, showing its difference from the rest of the Margaret River region.”
Last month, ALDI claimed best white wine and best chardonnay of show at the 2018 Wine Show of WA or its $15 2017 Blackstone Paddock Limited Release Chardonnay, which was described as a remarkable feat given this year's judges praised the high standard of the 2017 chardonnay class.
In August, Penfolds 2017 Reserve Bin 17A Chardonnay won the Best in Show trophy at the Sydney Royal Wine Show. it also took out trophies for Best Chardonnay, Best White and Best State Show Wine before beating more than 2300 entries to the top award.
“Penfolds' commitment to sourcing good fruit and letting the winemaking team have a proper crack really shows in the winning wine,” said PJ Charteris, chairman of a judging panel comprised of 30 industry experts. “For a chardonnay to have such power, but also poise, puts it almost in a league of its own.”
Brokenwood Wines from the Hunter Valley was also awarded Best NSW Wine for its 2016 Forest Edge Chardonnay.
“We’re seeing an end to chardonnays that taste like you’re pulling splinters out of your mouth,” Stuart Hordern, senior winemaker, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“There’s been a real renaissance in Australian chardonnay over the last decade and in NSW particularly. Chardonnay makers from Orange, Tumbarumba and single-vineyard sites in the Hunter Valley have stepped off the oak to let the region to shine through.”