The come back queen that is….
There has been much bolstering of Chardonnay’s position over the past two to three years, even longer, on the part of writers, educators and like. It might not have been as organised as the Rose Revolution but is happening. Although statistics printed in the Wine Business Monthly this year, showed that Chardonnay had declined 3% (in year to October 2011). Peter Bailey did go on to point out that there was double digit growth of 15% in the $20 – 30 and 3% in $15 – 20.
Like a gracefully aging pop star after a bungled African adoption, you know the one, Chardonnay needed a bit of a time out of the spotlight. Time to regroup and come back and lead from a position of strength. There are no real losers here. With Chardonnay coming back into the drinkers repertoire, there is more choice and more diversity available for our vinous pleasure.
The so called modern style is not so modern really. It is just that we are more likely to have a short term wine memory of Chardonnays being over buttery and tinned pineapple juice. The wines that are more likely to be in your glass now are more subtle in aroma and flavour and silkily fine in texture. Careful portion work with some components of the blend seeing oak barrel ferment / maturation while the rest only see stainless steel produces wines with bright fresh fruit with silk and cream along the palate. Even when oak is used it is often a mixture of new and used to give roundness and a hint of toast rather than buttery and plump vanilla.
Producers such as Shaw and Smith make their very stylish M3 Chardonnay ($40) with whole bunches being chilled overnight, fermented in new and seasoned barrels, wild yeast ferment with only a portion seeing malolactic fermentation. The M3’s are known for their complex flavours and textural qualities. I recently tasted a 2008 that was still very fresh and stood up well next to a Puligny-Montrachet. The two had similar levels of ripeness and oak but the M3 had that extra depth of silk in the mouth that was seductive.
You can also find plenty of pleasure for under $10. The Oxford Landing Chardonnay 2011 has also seen lees stirring and partial malo and it is most likely to be found for much less than $10. In a recent blind tasting of 30 Chardonnay’s under $15, it was right up there in the top scoring pack. It is also a good food friendly wine that will work just as well with some caramelized pork belly canapés as it would with a chicken salad.
So let’s start with my 6 top picks under $15:
Under and Over Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2011 ($12.99) : Fresh pineapple and ripe stonefruit core wrapped with silk. Generous fruit weight with a long, although firm, finish.
Handwood Estate Chardonnay 2009 ($11.99) : Showing some maturity but well balanced. There is some attractive honey, pineapple and melon fruit with some silky texture and long length. Drink it now.
Sirromet Perfect Day Classic Selection Unwooded Chardonnay 2011 ($12.50) : A sweetly pretty wine with blossom, ripe apple and grapefruit. A fresh wine with crunchy acid.
Oxford Landings Estates Chardonnay 2011 ($9.99) : Crisp pineapple and ripe peach with a burst of lemon freshness. A modern style wine with some creamy roundness to the crisp finish. Good drinking.
Kirrihill Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2011 ($14.00) : A graceful modern wine with stonefruit and melon elegance. Creamy with some subtle oak support to the refreshingly zesty finish. Enjoy with food on a warm day.
Tyrrell’s Wines Old Winery Chardonnay 2011 ($12.99) : Creamy pineapple with good weight. The silky texture brings a smile to your face.