Wines of the year 2015: Super-sixy Chardonnays
For those of you that have stuck by New Zealand Chardonnay when it was deeply unfashionable, you can come out of the closet, because it’s cool to like Chardonnay again – and for good reason.
Chardonnay has been the single variety that has impressed me over and over again in 2015. And it’s not just me – a blind tasting at a UK fine wine merchant, Farr Vintners, brought together some of the country’s most-respected palates to judge Auckland’s Kumeu River against some fine Burgundy wines – the spiritual home of Chardonnay. Guess who won? It wasn’t the French. They haven’t won much this year against New Zealand, come to think of it.
There’s still resistance to Chardonnay from some quarters – my next door neighbour tells me she doesn’t want any of my post-tasting Chardonnay samples because she doesn’t like the variety. She’s missed out. You shouldn’t
Kumeu River Maté’s Chardonnay 2012, Auckland
This silken Chardonnay is a perfect circle in the mouth. It manages fruit density without weight, full body yet delicacy. Expect integrated hazelnut-like oak and classic varietal lemon and peach characters. It is alluring, elegant and remains, one of New Zealand’s best Chardonnays. (If you don’t want to blow the budget, its Village Chardonnay is a massive bargain at around $20.)
Sacred Hill Rifleman’s Chardonnay 2013, Hawke’s Bay
In the white corner, the Rifleman is a powerful Chardonnay from 24-year-old ungrafted vines that packs a punch without being a heavyweight. Once in the ring, sorry palate, it is creamy with ripe white peach fruit. Fine acidity provides the perfect (upper) cut. It’s nimble, has long length and dense concentration. Thankfully, it doesn’t sting like a bee.
Mahi Twin Valleys Chardonnay 2012, Marlborough
A powerful yet refined Chardonnay. Focused on the nose and precise in the mouth, this wine knows where it’s going (down the throat and not in the spit bucket presumably). It is citrus driven with lovely integration of nutty French oak. While it’s very precise, it manages a lovely creaminess on the mid palate, which makes it a friendly wine: if you had to draw this wine it would be like so: < O >
Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2014, Martinborough
Powerful, focused Chardonnay with rich fruit weight and taut line of acidity, giving this wine drive and line. Nutty oak combines seamlessly with citrus fruit. Young and taut with mineral ‘grip’ on the finish. A very promising baby that should be left swaddled for the moment.
Elephant Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2013, Hawke’s Bay
Surprisingly understated, refined and complex Chardonnay. Gentle on the palate yet has an innate energy. The vineyard sits meters from the Pacific coast and a fresh, sea breeze-like essence flows through the wine. High quality, French oak-derived nutty aromas combine with a whiff of smoke, white nectarine and citrus. Pour me a third glass. (lead image courtesy of Elephant Hill/NZWG)
Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2012, Hawke’s Bay
Citrus and flinty nose, Round and palate caressing on entry with zippy acidity on the finish, creating drive. Taut, long, mineral finish. Very complete. Drink now for its freshness, or will continue to improve for 2-5 years.
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