Those who subscribe to the ABC (Anything
But Chardonnay) belief surely have closed minds and palates. Chardonnay wines exist in a myriad of forms
and styles that can suit any occasion.
It is relatively subtle as freshly crushed, pure juice and newly made
wine. But it responds superbly to the
input of a winemaker, and can be transformed to the most sophisticated and
complex of white wines. Chardonnay is New Zealand’s
third most planted variety with 3,800 hectares, or approx. 13% of the total,
after Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. It
seems to thrive in all of this country’s growing areas, making wines of
differing styles in a way that reflects regionality. Various clones perform according to their
specifications and our wine growers continue to seek the best. Mendoza and Clone 15 are more widespread at
present. Of course there is considerable
debate as to which region performs best or even adequately! We offer the following eight wines, all from
the low-yield, high concentration vintage of 2007, as a Chardonnay Tour of New
Zealand. All are excellent examples of
their origins and the winemakers’ art, and fit in the affordable premium
pricing of around the $30.00 mark. We
are sure you will enjoy any or all:
Kumeu River ‘Estate’ Kumeu
With over 120 hectares of Chardonnay
planted in the ‘Auckland’
region, this comprises nearly a quarter of the total. The variety is the leading variety in terms
of acreage, and also quality. Excellent
examples have come from the Kumeu region as well as Waiheke Island
and these are squarely aimed at the style of white burgundy.
one the pioneers to introduce full burgundian techniques in Chardonnay
winemaking here. His 1987 wine went out
on a limb with full barrel fermentation and total malolactic conversion. The use of wild yeasts for fermentation
skirted with danger too, but the resultant wine was so different and so complex
that it introduced sophistication to New Zealand. Over two decades, Michael has increasingly
refined the style to make it one of this country’s most sought-after labels,
especially by overseas who are aware of the range of style
internationally. It is a complete and
subtlely complex wine utilising the fruit from six sites fermented to 13.5% alc
and given 11 months barrel maturation. This
has Puligny-Montrachet written all over it.
It has a fine, concentrated richness and depth of nuttiness with plenty
of complex sulphide notes as is de
rigueur in modern Chardonnay.
Oak Gisborne Chardonnay 2007
Gisborne is the self-proclaimed ‘Capital
of Chardonnay’ for New
Zealand and there is truth behind this, as
nearly 55% of Gisborne’s 2,150 hectares are planted to the variety. Ripe tropical fruits and breadth of palate
weight that seem to be unmatched elsewhere are the hallmarks of the region’s
Chardonnay wines. Gisborne Chardonnay
can often be accessible much earlier than the wine of other areas.
Steve and Eileen
Voysey have over fifteen years of experience with wine in
Gisborne and saw the 2007 vintage as one of the best ever. The fruit was perfectly ripe and extremely
healthy, and this enabled the making of a wine that had tight structure,
finesse and aging ability, something different from the norm. Concentrated citrus and stonefruit flavours
form the backbone of this wine along with complex mealy and nutty elements. The structure is taut and sinewy, and has
real power. And the acidity is a
significant component. It is sure to age
gracefully, exceptionally so, for a Gisborne one. The wine carries 13.4% alc, and is 90%
Chardonnay with 10% Viognier, all wild yeast fermented in older oak and aged
for the equivalence of 16 months in 20% new barrels. Only 125 cases were made and the wine was
sealed with the glass Vino-Lok stopper.
Barn Hawke’s Bay Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2007
Most Chardonnay aficionados would pick
Hawke’s Bay as the best region in general for producing all manner and styles
of this varietal. The best of them have an incredible intensity
and finesse matched with stylish complexity.
Grapefruit is a common descriptor for the fruit. Chardonnay just pips Merlot in plantings in
Hawke’s Bay, its 1,175 hectares comprising nearly 24% of the total there.
Following his winemaking time at Church Road,
winemaker Dave McKee continued his
Chardonnay craft with his move to the new Black Barn winery. In many ways the Black Barn Barrel Fermented
Chardonnay has a similar richness and intensity as the Church Road Reserve,
only somewhat sleeker. The wine is
equally as concentrated but tighter knit.
Made from clones 15 and 95, totally barrel fermented with a mix of
indigenous and inoculated yeasts and aged 10 months in 40% new barrels, the
wine went through total MLF resulting in 14.0% alc. The wine is a benchmark with its concentrated
stonefruit and mealy aromas and flavours, enhanced by spicy, nutty oak. Here there is balanced richness and wonderful
length. Awarded gold medals at the 2008
and 2009 N.Z. International Wine Shows, and the 2009 Hawke’s Bay A&P Wine
Show, plus 5 stars and Top Ten rating in the May 2009 Cuisine magazine tasting.
Estate Martinborough Chardonnay 2007
The geographical location of the Wairarapa
and Martinborough suggests that the style of the wines sits between that of
Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough. In actuality, the Chardonnay wines have a
similarity to the best of The Bay. Burgundy successfully
co-hosts Chardonnay with Pinot Noir.
There is no reason why it is not the case here. However its 70+ hectares is just over 8% of
the area’s planting and a distant third to Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc.
Palliser Estate’s Chardonnays are among
the most stylish made in the country.
Winemaker Allan Johnson has a
deft touch when putting Chardonnay together.
The 2007 is 13.5% alc, and made from Mendoza and Clone 95 all whole
cluster pressed with 40% wild yeast fermentation. The wine spent 9 months on lees in oak and
20% underwent MLF. Absolutely seamless, yet showing superb power and
delineation, subtle complexities of melon and peachy fruit alongside mealy,
nutty notes are revealed with air time. It
would be a mistake to underestimate the
understated nature of this exceptional wine.
Gold medal and Reserve Wine of the Show at the 2008 Bragato, plus gold
at the 2009 Royal Easter Show Wine Awards.
Clair ‘Omaka Reserve’ Marlborough
Chardonnay’s 1,055 hectares comprises just
over 6% of Marlborough’s
plantings, but is in the same league in area terms as Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay. It is ranked third, just after Pinot Noir,
but well-behind Sauvignon, of course!
The cooler, Sout