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Chardonnay Masters 2015: the results

Purity of fruit and regional superiority were among the keynotes of this year’s Chardonnay Masters – with Australian expressions of the variety earning special praise from the judges.

Few grapes are better at highlighting brilliance than Chardonnay. With a relatively neutral character, the variety is able to transmit the essence of place, as well as cellar techniques, and thus, the skill of the winemaker.

It may not be a grape with a strong character, but it’s one that punishes poor site selection and winemaking with unbalanced, bland results, while rewarding, magnificently, those who understand where it thrives and how it likes to be handled.

With that in mind, the Chardonnay Masters is always a particularly revealing tasting, showing more clearly than any other where is best for this grape and, within that, which producer is on top. And with Chardonnay’s truly global scope, there are always some surprises – new corners of the wine world where this grape can bring about exciting results.

About the competition

In a crowded wine competition arena, The Drinks Business Global Chardonnay Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region.
Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.
Wines were scored out of 100, with those gaining over 95 points being awarded the top title of Master. Those earning over 90 points were given a Gold, those over 85 points a Silver and those over 80 points a Bronze.
The wines were judged by a cherrypicked group of Masters of Wine on 2 December at Aveqia on 2 St Bride Street, London. This report features only the medal winners.

Among these this year was Austria’s Thermenregion, source of Leo Aumann’s first-rate Chardonnay from Traiskirchen, which gained a Gold alongside some famous names in the £20-30 price band, from Margaret River’s Larry Cherubino to America’s Saint Michelle and Jackson Family Wines.

On the other hand, this year’s tasting confirmed the superiority of certain places. So, initially, when it comes to sparkling Chardonnay, Champagne still rules, with beautiful blanc de blancs coming from Drappier, Gosset, Philipponnat and Nicolas Feuillatte, all of which achieved Gold medals or above.

Nevertheless, England is not far behind, as shown with the Mayfield Essence Pure Chardonnay Brut – a Sussex-sourced Silver medallist – alongside two Champagne brands from quality-minded co-operatives: Chassenay d’Arce and de Castelnau. But overall, one country, if not region, stood apart for the consistent quality of its Chardonnay – and that was Australia.

Taking home all four of this year’s highest awards, that of Master, the nation proved that it is rightly famous for Chardonnay, above all from Western Australia and the Yarra and Adelaide Hills regions in the south.

Importantly, this wasn’t just at the very highest price points. For example, Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay was deemed the best of the £10-15 flight, while Hardy’s HRB Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley gainedone of just two Golds in the £15-20 band.

Moving over £20, the Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay wowed tasters with its complexity, generosity and balance – and, with a price tag around £30, relative to great Burgundy, it was deemed excellent value too. The Tiers vineyard may be well known to Australian wine aficionados as one of the great places for Chardonnay down under, but it was pleasing to see that confirmed when the wine from it was pitched against the global competition.

Other greats from Australia included Chardonnays from Larry Cherubino and the Burch Family in Western Australia’s Margaret River and Porongurup regions, respectively.

However, we shouldn’t allow Australia’s success this year to overshadow the great results from elsewhere. In the unoaked category particularly, France, or rather Chablis, showed its superiority, with the premier cru Vau de Vey from Romain Bouchard the only example to achieve a Gold medal for over £20, while the tasters were impressed by the quality of the fruit from Italy’s Giusti, best known for its upmarket Proseccos.

This latter wine highlighted the Italian aptitude for harnessing flavour and freshness from relatively neutral white grapes.

As one would expect, the majority of wines had been exposed to oak, and among the less expensive examples, alongside the aforementioned Adelaide Hills Chardonnay from Jacob’s Creek, New Zealand’s Sileni Estates showed the impressive price-quality ratio possible with Hawke’s Bay whites. Moving up the price ladder a touch, as well as the Hardy’s HRB – discussed above – Chile’s Viña Undurraga stood out, adding weight to a widely-held belief that Limarí is this South American nation’s best place for Chardonnay. It was also good to see Burgundy compete in this price bracket. Achieving a Gold too was Château de Santenay’s Hautes Côtes de Beaune from a monopole called Clos de la Chaise Dieu – an exciting find for Burgundy lovers on a budget.

Over £20 and particularly beyond £30, we found ourselves enjoying some extremely impressive white wines, among which were the previously mentioned examples from Australia, but also brilliant Chardonnays from the US, in particular Cambria in Santa Barbara, Saint Michelle in Horse Heaven Hills and Cakebread in Carneros. Outside the US, New Zealand’s Marlborough showed that its terroir is suitable for grapes other than Sauvignon Blanc, with Giesen’s The Fuder Chardonnay, which is sourced from the Clayvin Vineyard, gaining a Gold.

What did the judges think?

The tasting left a positive view on Chardonnay; it was encouraging to see wines displaying purity of fruit without too much make-up. I did not find myself discussing oak on every wine as most were well-balanced and not overworked. Generally, while the entry-level wines were good value for money, there was noticeably more complexity and structure to be seen by trading up.

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of sub-£10 unoaked Chardonnays – in terms of their fruit character, balance and even finesse. In contrast, I was expecting more quality from the mid-range oaked Chardonnay, although we had some great wines in the £10-15 and £15-20 brackets. It was only once we got above £20, and particularly above £30, that we found some truly great Chardonnays – and here we had some exceptional wines.

The tasting confirmed that the best Chardonnays are coming from Burgundy and, in our session, from top-quality Australian producers. This was my predominant view before the tasting and it still remains. The better wines showed a balance between winemaking technique and a purity of fruit. Perhaps this was best displayed in the top-notch examples from Australia, where I found ripe stone fruits tastefully intertwined with hints of toast, reduction (but in a good way) and roasted nuts.

The judges

Left to right: David Round MW, Stephen Skelton MW, Annette Scarfe MW, Sally Easton MW, Emma Symington MW, Sarah Knowles MW, Jonathan Pedley MW, Miles Corish MW and Patrick Schmitt MW






And finally, a special mention must go to South Africa, where Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards from Stellenbosch gained a Gold and a Master in the final flight of the day – a excellent performance, particularly when one considers the competitive set.

So, those were the highlights, and overall, as Annette Scarfe MW commented: “The tasting left a positive view on Chardonnay; it was encouraging to see wines displaying purity of fruit without too much make-up.”

Furthermore, although the entry-level Chardonnays were good value for money, there was noticeably more depth, complexity and structure as one moved up through the price bands. In short, to quote Miles Corish MW: “The tasting confirmed that, at its best, Chardonnay is the most beguiling of all white varieties.” It also, as expected, provided a clear view of the grape’s greatest global terroirs.

Click ‘next page’ to see the full list of wines that were available…

Sparkling Chardonnay

Company Wine name Region Country Vintage Medal
Mezzacorona Rotari Cuvee 28 NV Trentino Italy NV Bronze
Jaume Serra Cava Jaume Serra Brut Reserva Gran Selección Penedès Spain 2011 Silver
Villa Franciacorta Franciacorta Saten Brut Millesimato Lombardy Italy 2011 Bronze
Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Blanc de Blancs Champagne France 2006 Gold
Champagne Drappier Champagne Blanc de Blancs Signature Champagne France NV Master
Chassenay d’Arce Champagne Chassenay d’Arce Blanc de Blancs Champagne France 2006 Silver
Hoddens Vineyards Mayfield Essence Pure Chardonnay Brut East Sussex England 2011 Silver
Castelnau Wine Agencies Champagne de Castelnau Blanc de Blancs Champagne France 2003 Silver
Over £50
Champagne Gosset/ Grand Blanc de Blancs Champagne France NV Gold
Champagne Philipponnat Champagne Philipponnat Grand Blanc Champagne France 2007 Gold
Champagne Drappier/td> Champagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne France 2007 Gold

Unoaked Chardonnay

Company Wine name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Zonnebloem Place in the Sun Chardonnay Western Cape South Africa 2013 Gold
Villa Franciacorta Campei Sebino Bianco IGT Lombardy Italy 2013 Silver
Viña Maipo Palo Alto Reserva Chardonnay Central Valley Chile 2015 Silver
 Riebeek Cellars  Collection Chardonnay  Swartland  South Africa  2014  Silver
 Viña Concha y Toro  Sunrise Chardonnay  Valle Central  Chile  2014 Silver
 Viñas Santa Rita  Carmen 1850 Reserva  Casablanca  Chile  2015  Silver
 De Wetshof Estate  De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay  Robertson  South Africa  2015  Silver
 Bodegas Fontana  Esencia de Fontana Chardonnay  Madrid  Spain  2014  Silver
 Viña Maipo  Viña Maipo Classic Series Chardonnay  Central Valley  Chile  2015  Silver
 Bodegas Paniza  Don Pelayo Chardonnay  Spain  2014  Bronze
 Viña Valdivieso  Valdivieso Chardonnay  Central Valley  Chile  2015  Bronze
 Viña Echeverria  Viña Echeverria Unwooded Chardonnay  Curico Valley  Chile  2014  Bronze
 Lidl UK  Chevalier de Fauvert Chardonnay Pays d’Oc  Languedoc  France  2014  Bronze
 Viña Maipo  Mi Pueblo  Cenral Valley  Chile  2015  Bronze
 Viña Los Boldos  CLB Tradition Chardonnay  Cachapoal  Chile  2015  Bronze
 Mezzacorona  Mezzacorona Chardonnay  Trentino  Italy  2014  Bronze
 Neethlingshof Estate  Neethlingshof Estate Chardonnay Unwooded  Stellenbosch  South Africa  2015  Bronze
 La Monoda  La Monoda Reserva Chardonnay  Central Valley  Chile  2015  Bronze
 Maison Vialade  Family Selection Chardonnay  Languedoc  France  2014  Bronze
Viña Maipo Maycas del Limari Sumaq Chardonnay Limari Valley Chile 2015 Silver
 Giusti  Giusti Chardonnay ‘Dei Carni’ IGT Delle Venezie  Veneto  Italy  2014  Silver
 J Moreau & Fils  Chablis  Chablis  France  2014  Bronze
 A to Z Wine Works  Oregon Chardonnay  Oregon  USA  2014  Bronze
 Bird in Hand  Two in the Bush Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2014  Bronze
 Jean-Marc Brocard  Extra Special Chablis  Chablis  France   2014  Bronze
 Limestone Coast Wines  The Hidden Sea Chardonnay  Naracoorte  Australia   2014  Bronze
 Sileni Estates  Sileni Cellar Selection Chardonnay  Hawke’s Bay  New Zealand  2014  Bronze
 Giusti  Giusti Chardonnay ‘Dei Carni’ IGT Delle Venezie  Veneto  Italy  2014  Gold
 Viña Maipo  Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay  Limari Valley  Chile  2014  Silver
 Hush Heath Estate  Skye’s English Chardonnay  Kent  England 2014  Bronze
 Bellvale Athena’s Vineyard  Bellvale Athena’s Vineyard Chardonnay  Gippsland  Australia  2012  Bronze
Romain Bouchard Chablis Premier Cru Vau de Vey Chablis France 2012 Gold
Zonin Castello d’Albola Poggio alle Fate Toscana lGT Tuscany Italy 2014 Silver
 Viña Maipo  Maycas del Limari Quebrada Seca  Limari Valley  Chile  2013  Silver

Oaked Chardonnay

Company Wine name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under £10
Viñas Santa Rita Santa Rita 120 Central Valley Chile 2015 Silver
Les Crêtes Chardonnay Valle D’Aosta DOP Valle D’Aosta Italy 2014 Silver
Bejot ASDA Extra Special Burgundy Chardonnay Burgundy France 2014 Silver
 Sieur d’Arques Aimery Chardonnay Pays d’Oc France 2014 Silver
Paul Cluver Wines Paul Cluver Chardonnay Elgin Valley South Africa 2014 Silver
Siegel Family Wines Siegel Special Reserve Chardonnay Colchagua Chile 2015 Bronze
 Deakin Estate Deakin Estate Chardonnay Murray Darling Australia 2015 Bronze
 Namaqua Wines Cape West Chardonnay Western Cape South Africa 2015 Bronze
 Fleur Du Cap Bergkelder Selection Chardonnay Western Cape South Africa 2014 Bronze
 Nederburg  Nederburg Winemasters Chardonnay  Western Cape  South Africa  2015  Bronze
 Halewood  Sebes Estate  Bucharest  Romania  2014  Bronze
 Jaume Serra  Pata Negra Penedès Chardonnay  Penedès  Spain  2014  Bronze
 Blossom Hill Winery  Blossom Hill Chardonnay  California  USA  2014  Bronze
 Bouchard Aîné & Fils  Vin de France Chardonnay Grand Conseiller  Burgundy  France  2014  Bronze
 Riebeek Cellars  A Few Good Men Chardonnay  Swartland  South Africa  2014  Bronze
 Complexity Wines  Extra Special Chardonnay – Barossa  Barossa Valley  Australia  2015  Bronze
 La Motte Wine Estate  La Motte Chardonnay  Franschhoek  South Africa  2014  Bronze
 Trivento Bodegas y Vinedos  Trivento Reserve Chardonnay  Mendoza  Chile  2015  Bronze
Sileni Estates Sileni Estate Selection ‘The Lodge’ Chardonnay Hawke’s Bay New Zealand 2014 Gold
 Jacob’s Creek Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Adelaide Hills Australia 2014 Master
Viña Valdivieso Single Valley Lot Chardonnay Leyda Chile 2014 Silver
Fleur Du Cap Fleur Du Cap Unfiltered Chardonnay Western Cape South Africa 2014 Silver
Chateau Ksara Chardonnay Cuvée du Pape Bekka Valley Lebanon 2014 Silver
 Robertson Winery Constitution Road Chardonnay Robertson South Africa 2013 Silver
 Viña Undurraga Undurraga Sibaris Chardonnay Gran Reserva Leyda Valley Chile 2014 Silver
 McWilliams Wines  Appellation Tumbarumba Chardonnay New South Wales  Australia  2014  Silver
 De Bortoli Wines  Deen Vat 7 Chardonnay Riverina / King Valley  Australia  2014  Silver
 De Bortoli Wines  Yarra Valley Villages Chardonnay  Yarra Valley  Australia  2013  Silver
 Marisco Vineyards  The King’s Legacy Chardonnay  Marlborough  New Zealand  2013  Silver
 Simon Tolley  Simon Tolley Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2015  Silver
 Australian Vintage  Nepenthe Ithaca Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2013  Bronze
 Australian Vintage  McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2013  Bronze
 Australian Vintage  Tempus Two Copper Wilde Chardonnay  Hunter valley  Australia  2014  Bronze
 Viña Luis Felipe Edwards  LFE Marea Chardonnay  Leyda Valley  Chile  2014  Bronze
 Sileni Estates  Sileni Exceptional Vintage Chardonnay  Hawke’s Bay  New Zealand  2013  Bronze
 Vignobles Lorgeril  Marquis de Pennautier, Terroirs d’Altitude  Languedoc  France  2013  Bronze
 Ste. Michelle Wine Estates  Canoe Ridge Estate Chardonnay  Horse Heaven Hills  USA  2013  Bronze
 Viñas Santa Rita  Santa Rita Medalla  Santa Rita  Chile  2014  Bronze
 Viña Valdivieso  Valdivieso Single Vineyard Chardonnay  Leyda  Chile  2014  Bronze
 Aresti Chile Wine  Special Release Reserva Chardonnay  Curico  Chile  2014  Bronze
 Montes Wines  Montes Alpha Chardonnay Casablanca Valley  Casablanca Valley  Chile  2013  Bronze
 Black Stone  Black Stone California Chardonnay  California  USA  2013  Bronze
 Westwell Wines  Naughty Hare Chardonnay  Kent  England  2014  Bronze
 Viña Concha y Toro  Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay  Limari  Chile  2013  Bronze
 Marisco Vineyards  The King’s Legacy Chardonnay  Marlborough  New Zealand  2014  Bronze
 Chamlija Wines  Chardonnay  Thrace  Turkey  2014  Bronze
 Santolin Wines  Family Reserve Chardonnay  Yarra Valley  Australia  2014  Bronze
 Viña Arboleda  Arboleda Chardonnay  Valle de Aconcagua  Chile  2014  Gold
 Chateau de Santenay  Clos de la Chaise Dieu Monopole  Hautes Côtes de Beaune  Burgundy  France  2013  Gold
Viña Undurraga  TH Chardonnay  Limari  Chile  2012  Gold
 Hardys  Hardys HRB Chardonnay  Yarra Valley  Australia  2013  Gold
 Black Stallion Estate Winery  Black Stallion Napa Valley Chardonnay  Napa Valley  USA  2014  Silver
 Wakefield/Taylors Wines  Jaraman Chardonnay  Clare Valley/Margaret River  Australia  2014  Silver
 Wakefield/Taylors Wines  St Andrews Chardonnay  Clare Valley  Australia  2014  Silver
 Killerby  Killerby – Margaret River  Margaret River  Australia  2013  Silver
 Bird in Hand  Bird in Hand Chardonnay  Adelaide  Australia  2015  Silver
 Larry Cherubino Wines  Cherubino Laissez Faire Chardonnay  Margaret River  Australia  2014  Silver
 Heirloom Vineyards  Heirloom Hills Chardonnay  Eden Valley  Australia  2014  Silver
 Dandelion Vineyards  Twilight of the Adelaide Hills Chardonnay  Eden Valley  Australia  2014  Silver
 Chateau de Santenay  Mercurey ‘Le Roc Blanc’  Burgundy  France  2013  Silver
 Matahiwi Estate  Matahiwi Estate Holly Chardonnay  Hawke’s Bay  New Zealand  2014   Silver
 AdamsWein  Chardonnay Kaliber 25  Rheinhessen  Germany  2013   Silver
 Jackson Family Wines  Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay  Sonoma County  USA  2013   Silver
 De Wetshof Estate  De Wetshof The Site Chardonnay  Robertson  South Africa  2014  Bronze
 BronzeChadwick Wines  Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay  Aconcagua Costa  Chile  2015  Bronze
 Rietvallei Wine Estate  JMB Chardonnay  Robertson Valley  South Africa  2015  Bronze
 Chain of Ponds  Corkscrew Road Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2014  Bronze
 Karmei Yosef Bravdo  BRAVADO Chardonnay  Samson  Israel  2014  Bronze
 Chamlija Wines  Felix Culpa  Thrace  Turkey  2014  Bronze
 Albert Bichot  Burgundy Chardonnay Secret de Famille  Burgundy  France  2013  Bronze
 Craggy Range  Craggy Range Chardonnay, Kidnappers Vineyard, Hawke’s Bay  Hawke’s Bay  New Zealand  2013  Bronze
 De Grendel Wines  De Grendel Op Die Berg  Western Cape  South Africa  2014  Bronze
 Jackson Family Wines  La Crema Monterey Chardonnay  Monterey  USA  2013  Bronze
 Jackson Family Wines  Byron Chardonnay Santa Barbara County  Santa Barbara County  USA  2013  Bronze
 Tapanappa  Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay  Adelaide Hills  Australia  2013  Master
 Ste Michelle Wine Estates  Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – Karia Chardonnay  Horse Heavan Hills  USA  2013  Gold
 Leo Aumann GmbH  Chardonnay Reserve  Traiskirchen  Austria  2012  Gold
 Larry Cherubino Wines  Cherubino Margaret River Chardonnay  Margret River  Australia  2014  Gold
 Jackson Family Wines  Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay  Santa Maria Valley  USA  2013  Gold
 MP Wines  Salentein Single Vineyards Chardonnay  Uco Valley, Mendoza  Argentina  2013  Silver
 A to Z Wine Works  Rex Hill Willamette Valley Seven Soils Chardonnay  Willamette Valley  USA  2013  Silver
 Sumaridge Estate Wines  Chardonnay  Upper  South Africa  2013  Silver
 Tumbarumba Vineyard  McWilliams 842 Tumbarumba Chardonnay  South Australia  Australia  2013  Silver
 Chateau de Santenay  Saint Aubin ‘En Vesvau’  Burgundy  France  2013  Silver
 Miguel Torres  Milmanda Chardonnay DO Conca de Barberá  Conca de Barbera  Spain  2013  Silver
 Albert Bichot  Chablis Premier Cru Vaucopins  Burgundy  France  2013  Silver
 Jascots Wine Merchant  Pouilly-Fuissé, Aux Bouthières  Burgundy  France  2013  Silver
 Jackson Family Wines  Highland Estates Chardonnay Camelot Highlands  Santa Maria Valley  USA  2012  Silver
 Jackson Family Wines  Hartford Court Russian River Valley Chardonnay  Russian River  USA 2013  Silver
 Les Crêtes  Chardonnay Cuvée Bois Valle D’Aosta DOP  Valle D’Aosta  Italy  2013  Bronze
 De Bortoli Wines  Yarra Valley Single Vineyard Section A5 Chardonnay  Yarra Valley  Australia  2014  Bronze
 Isolabella Della Croce  Solum  Piedmont  Italy  2013  Bronze
 Matias Riccitelli  Vineyard Selection Chardonnay  Mendoza  Argentina  2014  Bronze
 Gloria Ferrer Vineyards  Gloria Ferrer Carneros Chardonnay  Carneros  USA  2011  Bronze
 Burch Family Wines  Marchand & Burch Chardonnay  Porongurup  Australia  2014  Master
 Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards  The Single Tree Chardonnay  Stellenbosch  South Africa  2014  Master
 Burch Family Wines  Howard Park Allingham Chardonnay  Margaret River  Australia  2013  Master
 Cakebread Cellars  Chardonnay Reserva, Carneros Napa Valley  Napa Valley  USA  2013  Gold
 Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards  Uva Mira Chardonnay  Stellenbosch  South Africa  2014  Gold
 Giesen Wines  Single Vineyards Selection: Clayvin The Fuder  Marlborough  New Zealand  2012  Gold
 Flat Rock Cellars  The Rusty Shed  Jordan  Canada  2013  Silver
 Cakebread Cellars  Chardonnay Napa Valley  Napa Valley  USA  2013  Silver
 Capannelle  Capannelle Chardonnay  Toscana  Italy  2010  Bronze
 Trefethen Family Vineyards  Chardonnay  Napa Valley  USA  2013  Bronze

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