Chardonnay – 2024 YGOW Awards Feature

Wines Of Now
10 May 2024. Words by YGOW.

Chardonnay is a grape that can make some of the world’s humblest and also most dizzyingly rare and expensive wines. From its home in Burgundy’s Côte d’Or, where Grand Cru bottlings can fetch thousands of dollars on release, to row upon row of chardonnay grown in the irrigated strips that flank the Murray River to make bottled (or bag-in-the-boxed) sunshine, it is a grape that snares the attention of connoisseurs and casual wine drinkers alike. In this country, there is no other white grape that produces an array of pinnacle, highly priced wine and everyday wine, with everything in between.

While chardonnay got a bad rap for some time – and it still does in some circles – chardonnay never took much notice, with it still comfortably topping the charts for white varieties grown in this country. That supremacy was no doubt enhanced by makers moving away from the big and buttery styles, introducing more elegance and refinement and comfortably positioning the best wines on the world stage as worthy foils to the great whites of France’s Burgundy, and arguably the best of the New World. The swing away from big and buttery went considerably in the other direction.

The 2024 YGOW Awards Top 50 features Alkimi Wines, Allevare, Aunt Alice, GUM, Guthrie Wines, J & S Fielke, Little Frances, M&J Becker Wines, Marco Lubiana, Mountadam Vineyards, Musical Folk, Parley Wine, Port Phillip Estate, Portsea Estate, Sabi Wabi and Utzinger Wines. These chardonnay makers are as intent on flavour as they are elegance, with no single recipe for success, but rather a site-specific approach that is seeing the chardonnay landscape becoming an increasingly exciting one.

2023 Aunt Alice Ocean Chardonnay, Tasmania $50 RRP

Red apple skin and flesh melds with cinnamon straight off, with fresh cut lemon and pear in support. Freshness and purity are firmly on display from the outset. The palate is medium bodied and showing brilliant intensity – apple, lemon, cinnamon, and pear all sit within an amply zest texture. Bracing acidity teams up with some nice phenolic grip to draw the palate long. A flavoursome expression, with freshness and detail.

2022 J & S Fielke Lenswood Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills $40 RRP

Lovely nutty and oxidative notes make way for grapefruit, ripe green apple, white nectarine, subtle spice, and riverstone aromas. Some pastry dough notes thereafter, suggestive of lees work. There’s poise, class, and balance straight off the bat here. The palate holds restrained power and finesse. Green apple and white nectarine interplay with subtle cinnamon, grapefruit pith, and subtle nashi pear, all within a lovely creamy and pillowy texture. The finish is framed by apple-drenched acidity bringing freshness and line to a long close. Very good.

2022 M&J Becker Wines Chardonnay, Hunter Valley $38 RRP

Delicate notes of lemon, apple and cream at the fore aromatically, with some gentle brown spice beneath and a leesy, doughy element thereafter. The palate is medium bodied with lovely fruit weight and creamy texture. Red apple pie, ripe lemon, and white grapefruit dance around the mouth with a pithy acid line keeping linear focus and length through the palate. Pure fruited and complex with lovely texture and weight.

2022 Gum Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $45 RRP

Ripe finger lime, flint, makrut lime, and a dusting of quality oak spice. This is followed by slivered almond, nougat, and a glimmer of cinnamon spice. Lifted white jasmine adds an element of prettiness. The palate is tensile and led by lime juice and grapefruit, wrapped in a creamy texture. There’s some spice and almond notes in the mix, too. A good lick of phenolic edge and bright acid carries the lime and grapefruit notes long through the palate.

2022 Marco Lubiana Chardonnay, Tasmania $70 RRP

Deep and powerful aromatics. Ripe red apple, cinnamon bun, white nectarine, and peach skin sit above quality cedary oak. This is complex and commanding of attention. The palate is concentrated and precise, with pithy tension cutting a creamy texture. Red apple, brown spice, nectarine, and peach coarse through the mouth with oak in support. This is all framed by waves of clean, bright acidity and glossy phenolic grip. A wine of power and presence, kept in check with detailed fruit and precise structure.

2023 Utzinger Wines ‘White Label’ Chardonnay, Tasmania $38 RRP

Cinnamon and red apple aromas leap from the glass followed by lemon and a sourdough note from lees work adding complexity and interest. There’s a big burst of fruit to the palate, which is led by the same red apple and cinnamon mix, and followed by lemon and white nectarine. All of this is packaged up in a compacting acid line carrying the apple notes long with a pithy phenolic structure.

2022 Portsea Estate ‘Main Ridge Block – Reserve Chardonnay’, Mornington Peninsula $75 RRP

Quality fresh squeezed lemon juice, crushed rock minerality, some subtle doughy notes from lees work, and fresh red apple. Even and balanced feel to the palate, which is both taut and textural with precise fruit – Lemon, crushed apple, wet stone and lemon pith. A good balance of coiled-though-powerful fruit, bright acid and glossy phenolics.

2023 Guthrie ‘Clones’ Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills $32 RRP

Poised aromas white grapefruit, green apple, cinnamon, and subtle lemon blossom, and a briney mineral note beneath. There’s a lovely even feel to the palate, which is textural and intense. Firm pithy acid and gentle phenolics wrap around notes akin to the nose. A textural chardonnay with a strong melding of fruit, spice, and salty minerality.

2021 Alkimi ‘Willowlake’ Chardonnay, Yarra Valley RRP $43

Aromas of red apple skin and flesh, meyer lemon, finger lime, with some quality cedary oak in support. The palate is medium bodied and alive with fresh fruits – apple and lemon lead the charge, cutting through texture and bringing the wine to a close driven by fruit and high, clean acidity.

2023 Sabi Wabi ‘Bright Eyes’ Chardonnay, Hunter Valley RRP $34

A powerful aromatic display here, with high-quality cedary oak at the fore followed by ripe red apple, nectarine, and brown spice. Good depth and driver here, with fruit holding up to the oak. A medium-to-full bodied palate, with notes akin to the nose sitting within a creamy texture. Some spice on the finish, which is powerful and long, with cedar oak in the mouth perfume. A powerful and textural expression.

2023 Mountadam ‘High Eden Estate’ Chardonnay, Eden Valley RRP $40

Toasty and buttery oak upfront aromatically, followed by apple crumble, a leesy sourdough note, clotted cream, and ripe lemon. The palate is full bodied and generous – butter, toast, clotted cream, green apple and ripe lemon command the mouth. There’s ample chewy texture here, cleaned up and pulled taut by bright acidity.

2023 Musical Folk Chardonnay, Yarra Valley $30 RRP

Delicate red apple melds with lemon, cinnamon, pear, a delicate lees note, and a glimmer of cedar. This is all about elegance and restraint on the nose, drawing you into the glass. A lovely texture on the palate, which frames a burst of red apple, lemon, cinnamon and pear again. The slightly creamy texture is cut through by a lively line of cleansing acidity and grippy phenolic structure bringing an apple-laced close.

2023 Little Frances Chardonnay, Beechworth $45 RRP

Lovely toffee apple aroma straight up, followed by lemon juice, fresh red apple, baking spices, and integrated cedary oak in perfect check. Very inviting and gratifying. The palate balances tautness and flavour to a tee, with notes mirroring the nose – with red apple, lemon, cedary oak, baking spices. Good creamy texture and fruit weight is pulled in focus with apple-laced acidity carrying it long.

2023 Port Phillip Estate ‘Red Hill’ Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula $40 RRP

Quality cedar oak at the for initially, before red apple and cinnamon emerge and a glimmer of kumquat in support. Good complexity and power on display. The palate is buoyant and lifted, with a creamy texture wrapping around red apple, cinnamon bun, lemon, and lemon pith. There’s a good pithy phenolic structure to the finish, and clean rolling acidity providing frame and carry. This is bright and pure in all, with quality fruit supported by quality cedary oak.

2022 Allevare Chardonnay, Gippsland $50 RRP

Ripe red apple, cinnamon bun, meyer lemon and a glimmer of quality oak in support. Excellent balance and cohesiveness. Lovely fruit power to the palate, which burst with cinnamon, apple, lemon and cedar. Very good balance of fruit weight, tension, and quality oak making for a complex and classy chardonnay.

2023 Parley Wine ‘Capitaine’ Chardonnay, Coonawarra RRP $40

Preserved lemon, lemon balm, pear, ginger and cinnamon bun straight off aromatically, with a lovely savoury smoky and cedary kick adding to the complexity. Good even feel to the palate, melding fruit and spice to a tee. Ripe lemon, pear and yellow apple interplay with nutmeg and cinnamon. The acid is bisque and assertive providing a long and linear frame on which to carry the intense fruit profile to a long and detailed close.

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