Chardonnay Masters 2019: the results in fullBy Patrick Schmitt
We bring you a full report on the Chardonnay Masters 2019, including all the medallists, the names to watch, and the go-to regions for great barrel-fermented whites – Burgundy included, but Australia-dominated. Co-chair of the judges, Patrick Schmitt MW, reports
There are several benefits to the blind tasting format employed by our Global Wine Masters, which sees us sample entries by style and grape variety, rather than origin. One of these is to assess the overall quality and character of a category, be that a noble grape such as Chardonnay, or trending sector, from sparkling to rosé. Another is to isolate the great names and domains in the sector, including the best value producers along with those star, if sometimes pricy, performers. A further highly important element to our approach is to find out the hot spots for the type of wine being tasted. And, over the years, the Global Masters has drawn attention to a number of such areas, such as the excellence of pink wines from the Tuscan coast, the brilliance of Sauvignon from Styria, or Pinot Gris from Slovenia, while highlighting the rising quality of sparkling wines from Kent and Sussex, as well as the outstanding value of traditional method fizz from the Loire. There are many more that could be mentioned, such as the reliability of Clare Valley as the source of deliciously intense bone dry Riesling that doesn’t break the bank, or the brilliance of Cabernet Sauvignons from Sonoma, which tend to be a touch fresher, and a whole lot cheaper than the equivalents from neighbouring Napa.
Some of the greatest revelations have come from our Chardonnay tastings, which we’ve held annually since 2013. While such a competition has yielded so much discussion around winemaking techniques, such as the direct influence on style of picking dates, lees management, barrel regimes etc, we have devoted fewer words to the connection between place and quality, and so it’s this aspect to our results that I’m choosing to focus on this year, with a nod to past medallists from this major tasting.
And… if I am to pick out one overwhelming positive origin-based conclusion from these tastings, it is the excellence of Chardonnay from Australia, particularly Hunter and Yarra Valleys, along with Clare/Barossa, and Margaret River in the west of the country. The standout, however, has been the Adelaide Hills. I note this with a pang of sadness, aware that as much as one third of this area’s vineyards have been destroyed by the savage bushfires that swept through this beautiful area just before Christmas.
Over the years, we’ve seen Adelaide Hills deliver not just Australia’s top Chardonnays, but, relative to the global competition in the same price category, the best examples on the planet. As proof of the area’s excellence, in this year’s tasting, three of our six ‘Chardonnay Masters’ were from the Adelaide Hills (with a fourth also hailing from Australia). Examples from Penfolds using Adelaide Hills fruit have wowed in the past, but the most consistent wonders have hailed from Australian Vintage with Nepenthe, Tapanappa, with its Tiers vineyard in particular, and Bird in Hand with its Chardonnays at all levels. Indeed, after years of blind-tasting Chardonnay from around the world, I can say with confidence that a go-to place for fine, barrel-influenced Chardonnay is the Adelaide Hills, and bearing in mind the recent devastation of the region, I urge you to secure some stock from the great names mentioned above, both to benefit the region, but also yourself – prices are likely to go up.
I should also mention the other Australian Master in the 2019 tasting, which went to Clare Valley’s Taylor/Wakefield Wines. This producer, named after the Taylor family in Australia, but called Wakefield Wines abroad (due to trademark laws on the ‘Taylor’s’ brand from the Port producer by the same name), has been a big hitter with its Chardonnays in many of our tastings, but also with its Rieslings, Shirazes and Cabernets in our competitions for each one of these varieties. In short, I have been repeatedly impressed by the quality of their output.
Outside Australia, New Zealand is a nation that has consistently rated highly for the quality of its Chardonnays by our Master of Wine judges, above all with its textured whites from Hawke’s Bay, but increasingly with its samples from Marlborough too. The latter area also offers drinkers a lot of wine for the price, with Brancott, Stoneleigh, and Marisco Chardonnays from the region all picking up Golds for samples priced sub £30. It was, however, Church Road in the warmer Hawke’s Bay that was the sole producer from New Zealand to gain the ultimate accolade of Master, and with a sample priced sub £30 too.
Elsewhere, we’ve seen a consistent high performer hail from the Napa Valley, with Pahlmeyer. This producer, which has always taken home Golds in our Chardonnay tastings, was snapped up by Gallo at the end of 2019, boosting the leviathan’s portfolio of top-end estates. Pahlmeyer’s Chardonnays may not be cheap, but for those who love old-school Chardonnay, with its flavours of peach and buttered popcorn, then this won’t disappoint, and delivers a beautiful example of this now less fashionable style of white wine. Indeed, such a take on Chardonnay is now so uncool, I sense it may become cool again.
Staying in the US, and sticking with the question of image, one area that our tastings has identified as up and coming for Chardonnay is Oregon, and the Gran Moraine example has always gained a Silver or above in our tastings. With Oregon deemed trendier with the sommelier community in the US than ubiquitous Chardonnay, it’s felt that this region might encourage the restaurant trade to get excited about this noble white grape once more.
Looking to South America, our past tastings have highlighted the exceptional nature of Chile’s Limarí region for Chardonnay, but this year it was Argentina that featured, with a lovely sample from Dona Paula, hailing from the Uco Valley, which is best known for the intensity of its Malbecs.
Among other areas that stood out, it should be stressed that once more, South Africa proved itself a great place for first-rate Chardonnay at an accessible price. Particularly the wines from De Grendel, who have crafted a lovely and affordable Chardonnay from the Ceres Plateau in the Witzenburg Mountains – one of the highest wine regions in the country. More expensive, and a Gold / Master medallist this year (and in past tastings) were Chardonnays from Uva Mira in Stellenbosch, who manage to strike a lovely middle ground with the grape, producing wines with texture, fully ripe fruit, toasty oak, but without too much alcohol or too little lift on the finish.
Among the surprises in this latest Chardonnay test were some of the cooler-climate source samples, notably a lovely white from the Finger Lakes in New York State, and a suite of Silver medallists from England, which were picked up by Blackbook urban winery, along with Hush Heath Estate and Gusbourne.
What about Burgundy? We had this year, and in the past, relatively few samples from the benchmark Chardonnay-producing region of the world, but Guy Brocard’s Meursault was a Gold standard white in the priciest flight of 2019’s tasting. While the great Chardonnays of the Côte d’Or can deliver in terms of quality, they sometimes fall down when judged according to relative value. Indeed, with prices continuing to rise for the Chardonnays from the famous communes of the Côte d’Or, drinkers are being encouraged to look elsewhere. It’s for this reason that the results of our Chardonnay Masters have become more relevant than ever before as the employ professionals and a blind tasting format to highlight the best places for delicious barrel-influenced whites from both within and outside Burgundy. So, if you can no longer afford the Meursault you love, there could be an equivalent in the Mâconnais, or, moving further afield, the mountains of the Western Cape not forgetting the maritime clime that is Marlborough.
Over the following pages you can see all the medallists from this year’s competition, as well as comments from the judges (who are pictured below), and more information about the Global Sparkling Masters, including how to enter.
|Bodega Miguel Domecq||Talayón||Cádiz||Spain||NV||Silver|
|Pongracz||Pongracz Blanc De Blancs||Western Cape||South Africa||NV||Silver|
Unoaked Still Chardonnay
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Aldi Exquisite Collection Chardonnay||South Australia||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Cramele Recas||Brindle Ridge Chardonnay||Banat||Romania||2018||Silver|
|Viña del Pedregal||Kidia Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2019||Silver|
|Sordo Giovanni||Sordo Langhe Chardonnay DOC||Piedmont||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||G7 Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Alma Wines||Ambo Giallo Chardonnay||Friuli, Lombardia||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Cavit||Matri Vernacoli Chardonnay Trentino DOC||Trentino Alto Adige||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Bodega Miguel Domecq||Entrechuelos||Cádiz||Spain||2018||Bronze|
|Siegel Family Wines||Siegel Gran Reserva Chardonnay||Colchagua||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||Carta Vieja Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||Aves del Sur Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2019||Bronze|
|Giusti Dal Col||Chardonnay dei Carni Trevenzie IGT||Veneto||Italy||2018||Silver|
|Maso Grener||Vigna Tratta Chardonnay Trentino DOC||Trentino Alto-Adige||Italy||2018||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Wakefield/Taylors Chardonnay||Clare Valley||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Cantina di La-Vis e valle di Cembra sca||Cantina La-Vis Chardonnay Trentino DOC||Trentino||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Yealands Wine Group||State of Flux Chardonnay 2018 by Yealands Estate||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Bronze|
|Rietvallei Wine Estate||JMB Chardonnay||Robertson||South Africa||2018||Silver|
Oaked Still Chardonnay
|Linton Park Wine Estate||The Bridge of Hope Chardonnay||Wellington||South Africa||2018||Bronze|
|Príncipe de Viana||Chardonnay||Navarra||Spain||2018||Bronze|
|Linton Park Wine Estate||Linton Park Estate Chardonnay||Wellington||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe Altitude Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Stoneleigh||Stoneleigh Latitude Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Laroche||Art des Sens Chardonnay Climat d’Altitude||Languedoc-Roussillon||France||2018||Gold|
|Jacob’s Creek||Barossa Signature Chardonnay||Barossa Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|West Cape Howe||“Old School” Chardonnay||Western Ausrtalia||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Copper Wilde Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Doña Paula Winery||Doña Paula Estate Chardonnay||Gualtallary, Uco Valley||Argentina||2017||Silver|
|Château Ksara||Chardonnay||Bekaa Valley||Lebanon||2017||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Platinum Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Viña del Pedregal||Kidia Reserva Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Viña del Pedregal||Aves del Sur Reserva Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Vasse Felix||Filius Chardonnay||Margaret River||Australia||2016||Silver|
|Marisco Vineyards||The Ned Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Bronze|
|Badischer Winzerkeller||Peter Steger Konzept Chardonnay||Baden||Germany||2016||Bronze|
|Bird in Hand||Two in the Bush Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Plaisir De Merle||Plaisir De Merle Chardonnay||Simonsberg Paarl||South Africa||2018||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||Carta Vieja Reserva Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|Cramele Recas||Sole Chardonnay||Banat||Romania||2018||Bronze|
|Concha y Toro||Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay||Limari Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Copper Wilde Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||G7 Reserva Chardonnay||Loncomilla Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|Finca Albret||Albret Chardonnay||Navarra||Spain||2018||Bronze|
|Cavit||Bottega Vinai Chardonnay Trentino DOC||Trentino Alto Adige||Italy||2018||Bronze|
|Concha y Toro||Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Chardonnay||Colchagua Valley||Chile||2018||Bronze|
|De Grendel Wines||Op die Berg Chardonnay||Ceres Plateau||South Africa||2019||Master|
|Bird in Hand||Bird in Hand Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Marisco Vineyards||Leefield Station Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Aresti Chile Wine||Aresti Trisquel Series Chardonnay||Curicó Valley||Chile||2018||Silver|
|Marisco Vineyards||The King’s Legacy Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Silver|
|Kendall-Jackson Vineyards Estate||Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay||California||United States||2017||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe Pinnacle Ithaca Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Cavit||Maso Toresella Chardonnay Trentino DOC||Trentino Alto Adige||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Te Awanga Estate||Quarter Acre||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2017||Silver|
|Brown Family Wine Group||Devil’s Corner Resolution Chardonnay||Tasmania||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Bodega Miguel Domecq||Alhocen||Cádiz||Spain||2018||Bronze|
|Linton Park Wine Estate||Louis Fourie Reserve Wild Ferment Chardonnay||Wellington||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|Matahiwi Estate||Holly Chardonnay||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Bronze|
|Jamieson Ranch Vineryards||Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay||California||California||2018||Bronze|
|Langmeil Winery||High Road Chardonnay||Eden Valley||Australia||2018||Bronze|
|Matahiwi Estate||Holly South Series Chardonnay||Wairarapa||New Zealand||2018||Bronze|
|Church Road||McDonald Series Chardonnay||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Master|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||St Andrews Chardonnay||Clare Valley||Australia||2018||Master|
|Vasse Felix||Chardonnay||Margaret River||Australia||2017||Gold|
|Brancott Estate||Brancott Estate Letter Series O Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Tapanappa Wines||Tapanappa Tiers Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Australian Vintage||McGuigan Personal Reserve HR Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Stoneleigh||Rapaura Series Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Santolin Wines||Gladysdale Vineyard’ Chardonnay||Yarra Valley||Australia||2018||Gold|
|Gusbourne Estate Vineyard||Guinevere||Kent||UK||2016||Silver|
|Viña del Pedregal||G7 Gran Reserva Chardonnay||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|Nielson||Nielson Santa Barbara Chardonnay||California||United States||2017||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||One Giant Leap Chardonnay||Clare Valley||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Balfour Hush Heath||Springfield Chardonnay||Kent||UK||2018||Silver|
|Chamlija||Felix Culpa||Strandja Mountains||Turkey||2016||Silver|
|Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards||The Mira Chardonnay||Stellenbosch||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Viña del Pedregal||Kidia Gran Reserva Chardonnay||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Silver|
|La Crema Winery||La Crema Monterey Chardonnay||California||United States||2017||Silver|
|Wakefield/Taylors Wines||Jaraman Chardonnay||Clare Valley/Margaret River||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Fleur Du Cap||Fleur Du Cap Series Privee Chardonnay||Western Cape||South Africa||2018||Silver|
|Brown Family Wine Group||Devil’s Corner Chardonnay||Tasmania||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Australian Vintage||Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay||Hunter Valley||Australia||2017||Silver|
|St Hugo||Eden Valley Chardonnay||Eden Valley||Australia||2018||Silver|
|Bouchard Finlayson||Missionvale Chardonnay||Hemel-en-Aarde Valley||South Africa||2017||Bronze|
|Viña del Pedregal||Carta Vieja Gran Reserva Chardonnay||Casablanca Valley||Chile||2017||Bronze|
|Cantina di La-Vis e valle di Cembra sca||Cantina La-Vis Diaol Chardonnay Vigneti delle Dolomiti Igt||Trentino||Italy||2017||Bronze|
|Laroche||Chablis Premier Cru – La Chantrerie||Burgundy||France||2018||Bronze|
|Australian Vintage||Nepenthe Apex Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2016||Master|
|Bird in Hand||Nest Egg Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Silver|
|Tenuta Mazzolino||“BLANC” Provincia di Pavia IGT Chardonnay||Oltrepò Pavese||Italy||2017||Silver|
|Te Awanga Estate||Trademark||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Silver|
|Greywacke Vineyards||Greywacke Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2011||Silver|
|Marisco Vineyards||Craft Series The Pioneer Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2015||Silver|
|Gran Moraine||Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Chardonnay||Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley||USA||2017||Silver|
|Dr. Konstantin Frank||Hilda Chardonnay||Finger Lakes||United States||2017||Silver|
|Durbanville Hills||Collectors Reserve The Cableway Chardonnay||Durbanville||South Africa||2018||Silver|
|Sir Ian Botham Wines||Adelaide Hills Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Bronze|
|Staglin Family Vineyard||Salus Chardonnay||Napa Valley||USA||2014||Bronze|
|Marisco Vineyards||Craft Series The Pioneer Chardonnay||Marlborough||New Zealand||2016||Bronze|
|Chamlija||Felix Culpa||Strandja Mountains||Turkey||2017||Bronze|
|Tapanappa||Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Master|
|Bird in Hand||Edward Andrew (Ted) Chardonnay||Adelaide Hills||Australia||2017||Master|
|Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards||Uva Mira Chardonnay||Stellenbosch||South Africa||2017||Gold|
|Pahlmeyer||Chardonnay||Napa Valley||United States||2017||Gold|
|Domaine Guy Brocard||Meursault Les Narvaux||Burgundy||France||2015||Gold|
|Church Road||Church Road Grand Reserve Chardonnay||Hawke’s Bay||New Zealand||2018||Gold|
|Pahlmeyer||Chardonnay||Napa Valley||United States||2017||Silver|
|Gran Moraine||Gran Moraine Chardonnay||Yamhill-Carlton||United States||2017||Silver|
|Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards||The Single Tree Chardonnay||Stellenbosch||South Africa||2017||Silver|
|Domaine Guy Brocard||Meursault Premier Cru||Burgundy||France||2015||Bronze|
The view from fellow chair of the judges, Jonathan Pedley MW
- Faults. The fault count was pleasingly low. One case of cork taint, one case of egregious reduction and a couple of oxidative wines but otherwise everything was clean and correct.
- Styles and Quality I. I am delighted to say that the tasting was a glorious vindication of ‘Proper Chardonnay’. In the past I have ranted about winemakers wilfully missing the point of Chardonnay and as a result making wines that are etiolated shadows of what is possible. To reiterate briefly:
- Great Chardonnay is a wine of complexity, built by human hand from the following components: the fruit (not particularly aromatic, but capable of accurately reflecting the climate where it is grown), oak (not compulsory, but often important), malolactic fermentation and lees ageing.
- None of these components is an end in itself, but when combined in the right proportions, can achieve [Pseud’s Corner Alert] something truly profound.
- On the palate a top Chardonnay should be a wine of richness and texture. There are enough “thin potations” (to hijack Shakespeare’s attack on wines that were not Sherry) in the world without aping them with Chardonnay. Of course, like any well balanced white wine, a Chardonnay needs enough acidity to offset the alcohol and weight, but that is no excuse for producing a neurotic self-loathing skeleton.
- The modern history of Chardonnay is a catalogue of fads, in which winemakers have latched onto one component of the complex mix and exaggerated it to the exclusion of the other elements. In approximate chronological order over a third of a century: excessive fruit ripeness, too much oak, blowsy oxidative notes, marked leesiness, too much lactic character, a lack of fruit ripeness, excessive sulphidic reduction.
- I am delighted to say that today Team Pedley found seven wines (three Golds and four Masters) that had the incomparable complexity and richness of which Chardonnay is capable, whilst at the same time being balanced and harmonious.
- Styles and Quality II. All of the above does not preclude variety within the Chardonnay family. For instance, we scored wines 225 and 226 highly (both from Australia in the £20-30 bracket) but whilst the former was rich and leesy, the latter was elegant and vibrant.
- Countries. Australia was the star performer: three Masters (wines 225, 236 and 237) and two Golds (wines 209 and 226). Quite a few Silvers came from Australia as well. South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and Western Australia all contributed. New Zealand got a Gold (wine 219) and South Africa a Master (wine 225). Chile and France did not show as well.
- Prices. Try as we might we could not award anything above a Bronze in the <£10 bracket. We managed a Silver (wine 207) and a Gold (wine 209) in the £10-15 category. The £15-20 flight yielded rich pickings: two Silvers (wines 215 and 216), a Gold (wine 219) and a Master (wine 220). Expectations were high in the large £20-30 bracket but ultimately it only gave us one Gold (wine 226) and one Master (wine 225). The £30-50 quartet was rather disappointing, but we ended with a Beethovenian blaze of glory awarding Masters to wines 236 and 237 in the £50+ category.
Comments from the judges
Patricia Stefanowicz MW
What I liked: Simple wines, unoaked, (below £15) were fun and frolicking: bright fruit, lovely freshness and nice balance. Not necessarily exciting but exactly what one hopes for in pure Chardonnay.
The consistency in oaked wines above £20 was a special gift from the wine God. All showed ample and attractive fruit flavours with integration of structure and delicate oak treatment.
Every wine at the very high end of pricing (£30+) was polished, lovely acid balance and good definition and length, excellent wines and the occasional Masterwork. These wines were in fact delectable, as indeed they should be. There were a couple of special wines, showing depth of flavour with racy acidity holding the integrated flavours of orchard fruits and creamy oak. One ‘old school’ New World wine explained why the big, rich, ripe, full-bodied style with plenty of oak has its proponents…where is the rabbit with mustard, saffron and crème fraiche, please?
A delectable surprise was the beautiful balance in alcohol levels, seemingly lower than in the past.
What I didn’t like: Some of the wines were just plain dull, whether unoaked or oaked. Other wines seemed to be trying just a little too hard, especially at £15-20. Occasionally there was too much smoky oak or the wines were lacking fruit and definition. A few wines were a bit green and sour.
Simon Field MW
The move away from heavily oaked chip’n’pin(e) styles continues apace… More significant is the anxiety that, in an attempt to move away from too much oak, there has been proclivity to resort to too much by way of lees stirring, replacing, therefore, one artifact with another, with all the implications entailed on the redox potential of the wine. So it was even more pleasing to see that there were not too many wines that tasted of oatmeal and sour honey.
There was a very strong showing from Australia, carried nicely across the price ranges, the two stars for me (Tapanappa Tiers and Bird in Hand Ted) both expensive but deservedly so. Battling a little above its lower weight division, if I may mix metaphors, was the St Andrew’s Chardonnay from Wakefield Taylor in the Clare. Australia is not trying to be an antidote to Burgundy or, paradoxically, a Burgundy doppelganger; its identity is forged with increasing subtlety and discretion, especially in the cool climate areas.
The overworked wines were few and far between, which was good. I don’t like the wines where a vestigial proclivity to stave ageing or similar leading to what can only be described as cardboardy tastes, often bitter and/or sour. There were relatively few wines like this, and not too many where reduction / Hydrogen sulphide, posed a problem. So all well and good…
There were, to be fair, very few French wines, but it was something of a surprise that some of those that featured actually tasted more New World than the actual New Worlders; I am thinking in particular of a Meursault from Bocard, pleasant enough, but it seemed to lack the subtlety and elegance of some of the New World wines. What goes round, comes round, I suppose!
The tasting proved to me how great Chardonnay can be. Most of the wines were perfectly balanced with well-integrated oak and most of the entry level really outperformed particularly Chile. On the higher end I found some incredible complexity and elegance from the cool areas of New Zealand and Australia. Margaret River and Adelaide Hills really shone for Australia during the tasting while Hawkes bay in New Zealand was the top performing area in my opinion.
I really liked the style of the overall tasting and in particular how some of the top winery in Australia can now re-create an almost spot on Burgudian style. The scores say it all, plenty of masters and solid silvers all around. It was an outstanding tasting with plenty of different styles to choose from.
I would have loved to see more samples from the new wave of Californian wine makers, but the tasting showed that South Africa can perform extremely well and there were few examples from Stellenbosch and Durbanville that got great medals for their complexity and character.
The quality was amazing overall with very little faulty wines.
Mark Savage MW
It was very useful and interesting to be able to update my own perspective on the state of Chardonnay in the New World .
I thought that the S. Hemisphere shoed very well, especially Australia and even more NZ. It appears that a very good compromise on style and balance has now been achieved, nicely between the rather heavy, alcoholic, oaky and buttery character that seemed to prevail downunder in the ‘80s, and the more recent trend, especially in Victoria to an almost excessively lean style with high acidity and a certain sharpness and austerity. The middle ground works well and there is clearly room for good stylistic differences within it as illustrated by several of our gold medal winners here.
There were very few wines indeed that did not merit a medal. It was therefore a very enjoyable exercise, with plenty of quality and variety on show. A pair of NZ wines stood out in my book. I was pleased that none of the wines we tasted suffered from excessive use of new oak.
No major criticisms from me. Some wines were simply playing it a bit safe and lacked any sense of originality. One or two of the cheaper wines did indeed taste cheap and somewhat processed, cellar techniques being more obvious than any influence from the vineyard. In a couple of cases I felt that the wines might have been better if the MLF had been prevented. Freshness is all important and a few wines just lacked vitality.
If there was one surprise, then perhaps the overall performance from NZ, clearly no longer a one trick (sauvignon) pony. One example was certainly a surprise in that it shouted sauvignon much more than chardonnay. It made me suspect the influence of particular cultivated yeast strains and while it was very attractive, at least to devotees of sauvignon, it might possibly have surprised a regular chardonnay drinker.
Thomas Parker MW
It is clear from the tasting that we have really swung towards reduction and freshness, but as ever the quality of winemaking is critical. The wines highlighted the variety’s malleability.
I noticed that the Chilean wines had a distinctive character, and that generally speaking the new world wines were cleaner but also often over zealous in their swing towards reduction and acidity.
In general, few wines showed excessive alcohol, oak was rarely an intruding factor and despite the move to acid and reduction most wines were eminently approachable, although I didn’t like excessive reduction that scalped fruit.
About the competition
The Drinks Business Global Chardonnay Masters is a competition for all styles of Chardonnay from around the world. This year’s event saw over 200 entries judged blind by a panel of highly experienced tasters. The best wines were awarded medals which ranged from Bronze through to Gold as well as Master, the ultimate accolade given only to exceptional wines in the tasting.
The wines were tasted at Kitchen at Holmes in London on 6 December. This report features only the medal winners.
Please visit the Global Masters website for more information, or, to enter future competitions – giving you the chance to feature online and in print – please call +44 (0) 20 7803 2420 or email Sophie Raichura at: firstname.lastname@example.org