there are some new reviews oozing though here, but we're not deckin em up all pretty til we work out an otherwise unborn style for this sleazy rube we call drankster


that's a George Grainger Aldridge cartoon ... obviously a pre-screwcap man

23 June 2009


Cullen Kevin John Margaret River Chardonnay 2007

$70; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 2 JUN 9, 95+++ points
This is the best Australian chardonnay I’ve had. Numbers nuts might like to know its vital statistics are pH 3; natural acid 10 g/l; harvested on a full moon fruit day and fermented dry as the Valley of Bones at 13.5 per cent. It is unlike any chardonnay I’ve tasted before. Pepper, ginger, lemon and wet coffee-rock aromas sort of slice at you from the glass. It’s as rapier stiff as any riesling, with an authority and weight that are a formidable, confronting delight. Grown and made biodynamically by Vanya Cullen, it manages both force and finesse in transfixing harmony. And it will live for many years.

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2007
$130; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 15APR10; 95++ points
It’s logical that this great white wonder seems to contain all the very best aspects of all the other Penfolds Chardonnays. How it does that with extra refinement remains a mystery. Sourced mainly from Tasmania, with Adelaide Hills and southern Victoria fruit, it spent nine months in French barriques, 35% of which were new. The result is almost aloof. This is an extremely fine and refined wine. “More of a feeling than a drink”, my notes record. “Like stroking the Spirit of Ecstacy with a silk handkerchief.” It has the appetizing insinuation of cashews grilling gently in butter, and then a whole charcuterie of dark cured meats with plenty of that lush white porkfat. Coppocollo, for example. There’s plenty of fruit, too, of course, in the melon in lime juice sort of manner, but, whew! What’s fruit in such a magnificent piece of gastronomic sculpture? Elegance sublime, with great force and composure: polite, but not shy.

Cullen Kevin John Margaret River Chardonnay 2006
$70; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 95+ points
Kevin John Cullen was the Dad of Vanya, the winemaker. Margaret is the name of the River. I always do maker, brand name, district, variety, vintage, see. Which has taken up space I should have devoted to this friggin’ stunning chardonnay. I’ve seen stuff like this at assemblage at Krug. The label’s wrong: the alcohol is actually 13%. Biodynamic 20 and 30 year old vines erect this magnificent, dense, towering menhir. A syrup of whiprod springy natural acidity with just enough snazzy oak to remind me of the rabbit I just smoked – I’ll smoke anything – it’s the best chardonnay of the year. Cellar. Smoke rabbits.

Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2008
$90; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 15APR10; 95+ points
2008 was a bitch in South Australia: we had one of the longest heatwaves on record. But the cooler uplands of the Adelaide Hills offered some respite, and the fruit that came off before the heat settled in on us was exemplary, if short on supply. Given all that, this Bin A is a remarkable achievement, because it shows no sign whatever of any atmospheric hassles. The Magill lads stacked whole bunches into the press, then filled the must straight into French barriques, 65% of which were new. It stayed in those barrels, on lees, for nine months before assemblage. And what do we get? We get in-your-face hemp, burlap and phosphate, like the old superphosphate shed on the farm. It almost approaches guano in its sharp acridity. But it’s alluring for all that, and seems even more tightly austere and elegant than its predecessor. It still has the flesh, however, to smooth out and cream up all that gunpowder and freshly-quarried bluestone. It’s more elegantly Burgundian than the rather obvious 2007.

Dom Perignon Chandon Coteaux Champenois Saran Blancs de Blancs Vin Tranquille Magnum
$???; 11.5% alcohol; tirage cork; 95 points
When the lads in the Dom cellars see a chardonnay that really flexes some muscle, they used sometimes – very rarely, however – to make a still wine: a Coteaux Champenois Vin Tranquille. While this magnum had no vintage date, it did have a modern Saran bar code on the back, with the number 3 185370 004012. (If anybody can help with a vintage, please leave a comment below.) This wine has been utterly stunning. While it seems dull and mushroomy on uncorking, I’ve opened it each day for one whole week, and it’s improved each day ... it’s at it best now that I’m down to the last glass. Thank Bacchus it was a magnum! It’s now reeking of hazelnut and peach, with a certain sabayon egginess, and a trace of wet chalk. The palate is thick and heavy, and I suspect very old, but with incredible natural acidity. I used some, with onions, capers, and fresh herbs, to poach a small wild rabbit, which I finished off in my little smoker, with red gum sticks, but I reckon it’d be better for poaching lobster. As the rabbit had no fat, the acidity of the Saran was a touch stiff, but I’m being stupidly picky. After the light poach, I basted him with Coriole’s exemplary 1st of the Season Koroneki Olive Oil, rock salt and native pepper, sewed him up with a big strap of pork belly fat and chillies where his sweet little gizzards used to be, and put in him a for a quick hot smoke in the eucalypt. Best rabbit of the year! And truly, one of the most intriguing chardonnays of the year. Its apparent great age, generous viscosity and poached-peach-with-sabayon flavours, somehow leant against that amazing acidity sufficiently to ring all my bells louder than I’ve ever heard them peal at Notre-Dam de Reims, and big Charlotte, the bass bugger there, is 10 tonnes! This wine would have woken little Jeanne d’Arc! The wine is unlikely to improve, but would have remained stable in this state for many years if we hadn’t topped it. 26 DEC 08

Stefano Lubiana Collina Tasmania Chardonnay 2003
$60; 13.5% alcohol; cork(!); 95 points
The Murray River would be in much better nick if its growers followed the Lubianas, who sold up and moved to Tassie, to make majestic wines like this. It’s powerful, and incredibly intense, yet finely poised and elegant. Krug sans fizz. The Lubies’ crappy loam, silt, gravel and clay surrenders just a kilogram of grapes per vine, but they add up to the best Australian chardonnay I know. Spicy, nutty, custardy, tight – most words just don’t fit. Try DEVOUR.


Penfolds Reserve Bin A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2010$95.00; 13.3% alcohol; screw cap; tasted JUN 2012; 94+++ points
It’s a year since I tasted the ripping 2009, which the world adored, but I reckon this is another step up.  It has more of everything, but in a leaner, more compressed form.  It has an arrogant, blank authority, in a brittle racing body.  It reminds me of the sign on Ben Lexcen’s wall:  “If it won’t break it’s too heavy”.  Think of the Great Sphinx of Giza, but with a body as svelte as a whippet’s.   It has the same acrid topnote of the 09, like the prickly whiff of a hardrock quarry after a blast, over a wedge of barely-ripe grapefruit. Then I smell lemony sabayon and crêpes suzette and delicate flake pastry and the brain sets a-wanderin’.  But it’s all been concentrated by nature, some very clever growers and white wine maker Kym Schroeter and the Penfolds cellar wizards, who somehow hammered and hummed and willed all that vibe and goodness into this flinty, lemony austerity.  It wears a corset of fine-grained French oak that affects its shape much more than its flavour or smell.  It makes you sit up straight and marvel.  It makes you hungry.  It gets better in the decanter.  And it’ll cellar brilliantly.  A remarkable wine, surely amongst the best Chardonnays on Earth. An all from our lil ol Hills.

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2009
$130.00 (Cellar Door); 12.9% alcohol; tasted JUN 2012; screw cap; 94+++ points
Like the Bin A, this Yattarna seems to be another authoritative step forward in a very distinctive house style.  The difference?  I was going to say it’s more right wing, but that’s not true.  The Bin A is a rock maple Telecaster; this is a solid rosewood Les Paul: basically a plumper, even more permanent sort of thing.  More of a pyramid than a Sphinx.  It seems to have been sitting there somewhere for millennia, never changing.  Why would you? Your face won’t fall off if you’re a pyramid.  But now it’s been iced, and on the smell of the stone there’s all those precise citrus fruits gradually sinking in a fresh nougat wallow, with chips of rind, maraschino cherries, almonds and hazelnuts.  The oak is more prominent, too, but its ginger and spice sits real pretty with all those hopelessly mexed mitaphors.  It’s a blend of Derwent Valley Tasmanian fruit (50%), Henty (south-western Victoria - 43%) and 7% Adelaide Hills, a component which I reckon adds to that stone.  It’s great and rare to drink a Chardonnay that sets the imagination whizzin’ so.  Got a perfect cellar?  Start checking at six years, but it’ll probably be jim dandy in a decade.

Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2006
$129; 13.3% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20 FEB 09 & 7MAY09; 1 MAY 10; 94+++ points
Piety. Sanctimony. Austerity. Bone dry. This is extremely complex, authoritative, almost sullen wine from Derwent (Tas), the Adelaide Hills and Henty. Nine months in French oak barriques (45% new, 55% one and two year old); 100% malo. It’s the Chassagne of the trio, as chippy, cheesy and grainy as a pecorino Romana, and its beautiful fleshy fatty acids give it a whiff of pancetta. But you mustn’t touch. Oh no. Not until you’re grown up. Five more years.

Ashton Hills Vineyard Chardonnay 2006
$30 at the cellar; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points
After twenty five years of intense experimentation in this vineyard, Steve George has finally made the best chardonnay yet from the Piccadilly Valley vignoble. I tasted it after a day bathing in Grand Cru Chablis, which served only to make this look even more gorgeous. While it develops a husky gunsmoke edge, its aroma’s a seductive swirl of daikon, salsify, sorrel, dried apple, honeydew melon, feijoa, gently gingery, spicy oak, and only Bacchus really knows what. Its mild viscosity wraps harmoniously about its firm natural acidity. Sinuous, supple, beautifully structured, it brings dreams of squid, octopus, snails, frog legs... Brilliant! 8390 1243.

Castagna Adam’s Rib The White 2009

$35; 14% alcohol; Diam cork; 94+ points  

Immediately more tropically fruity, the younger Rib has flesh of pineapple, jackfruit, cantaloupe and prosciutto, even honey.  It’s sumptuous and lush.  Then, riding on the sweet ripe meadow aroma, comes dust and burlap, and the acrid peel of that cantaloupe.  That comfort and titillation see-saw’s there again, perhaps even more blatantly: amongst all those yellow fruits and melons, this still has that bright acid zap, if you can get a gradual zap.  It’s tantalizing.  Like the 08, it’s Chardonnay and Viognier, but Adam says he gave it more skins and a tiny slop of Roussanne from up the road. Tasted November 2011.

De Bortoli Yarra Valley Reserve Release Chardonnay 2011
$50; 12% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 12 JUL 12; 94+ points
This is what Chardonnay’s supposed to taste like. From 1986 and 1990 plantings, it’s made in old barrels and picked at ideal ripeness.  It’s lean and crunchy, with not a dimple of puppy fat or cellulite.  Not one drip of peach syrup.  No butter.  No sappy oak.  No obvious alcohol.  It smells faintly of grilling cashews, but more of those Italian almond flake biscuits they bake in egg white. Replace one in four almonds with hazelnut and you’d have it. If there’s fruit, it’s lemon.  Lemony zabaglione/sabayon.  Pith.  And then there’s the smells and tastes of the skrillion year old siltstone from which the roots take their succour.  If it were a trout, it would be called muddy.  Because it’s a cracking Chardonnay, it’ll be called minerally.  If it were from Burgundy, you’d pay double.  Makes me wonder why so many people thought Chardonnay would work properly in South Australia’s heat: very few can now match these older, colder Yarra vineyards for finesse or appetizing savour.  It’s really flash racy wine.

Marchand and Burch Great Southern WA Chardonnay 2007
$65; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points
Burgundian winemaker Pascal Marchand, and Jeff Burch, grape-growing owner of Howard Park, work together on this salacious white twin to their stunning pinot. From the tres ancien Porongorup, an abrupt granitic extrusion in the flattish land north of Albany, the fruit has that lovely ricotta/pear/peach/sabayon range of fruits and fatty acids, spiced perfectly by some right royal French oak, and a whiff of that granite, freshly chipped. This is what chardonnay’s supposed to be. The syrupy texture’s perfectly balanced with the oak spice and considerable acid; the finish hearty and audacious and reluctant. Mighty white for the red nut: big fruit; big oak; big passion; big future. It makes commercial Barossa/McLaren Vale/Riverland chardonnay look like something that was fermenting under your bin liner. 19 NOV 08

Tarra Warra Estate Yarra Valley Reserve Chardonnay 2005
$50; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94+ points
Average age of the vines? 22 years. Add a zero, and you’d be close to the average IQ of those who contributed to it. Add five more, and you’re near the expenditure required to establish something like this grand estate. Add very low yields, very cool climate, exquisite French oaks from the coopers’ equivalent of Ferrari and Aston Martin, nearly a year’s stirring on yeast lees, a dash of malo-lactic fermentation, and you’re getting close to everything a great chardonnay needs. This is a great chardonnay. Smooth, creamy, seamless, harmonious, naturally refined: exquisite. Especially with Tony Bilson’s salmon confit. (9.2.8)

Pegasus Bay New Zealand Chardonnay 2004
($43; 14.5% alcohol; screw cap; 94 points)
While the exquisite south isle’s half covered with snow, the freak plains along the Waipara River - as far south as you can go and reliably ripen chardonnay - can be dusty and baking by day, then frigid at night. This stunner from Matt Donaldson and Lynette Hudson shames most Aussie versions. Its rich creamy fruits and tantalising layers of hazelnut, butterscotch, spice, sublime unction and firm natural acidity make it perfect for veal, like saltimbocca.

Castagna Adam’s Rib The White 2008

$35; 14% alcohol; Diam cork; 93+++ points

This wine, made by Adam Castagna, set an attitude that ran right through this tasting on the veranda.  First, this style depends upon an accurate reflection of the sweet aroma of the meadow grasses of the property.  Secondly, the wines seem built around a tensioning spring which slows the entertaining see-saw of flavours and aromas that comfort and soothe on the one end, and titillate and provoke on the other.  To manage both sensations smoothly and harmoniously would seem impossible if not plain unlikely, but like the spring of sense that sets the tension in a sonnet, holding you to it, there’s a perfect tension that addicts you to this glass.  The smoothing parts of it – it’s a Chardonnay Viognier blend – are fleshy.  In this opulent wine, that sweet vanilla-like meadow grass approaches crème caramel in fleshiness.  And there’s the smell of cantaloupe and prosciutto: it’s all comforting, reassuring and calming.  Then that beautiful mountain-fresh natural acidity flicks a switch, and the sharp vivacity turns up with whiffs of dust and fresh-split sandstone: an acrid edge that tickles the nose hairs with desert smells of such clarity that I found myself dreaming the soundtrack of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Tasted November 2011.

Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2006
$39.95; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+++ points
Not quite as cool as the uber-kühlwein from the very cool vintage preceding, this is nevertheless very cool, if pricey for some. That’s how I started. Then dawned the fact that this vineyard gets no poison now, only the bio-D preps, and the reality that Steve Flamsteed chose against malo-lactic fermentation to build a tighter wine that’s more suited to the cellar than instant gratification, and I began to digest the fact that this one’s for the near-deep future, like four or five years’ worth. It’s harmonious, but tight, like a perfectly-oaked Chablis. Try grilled flounder, T-Chow style. Or wait.

Margan Limited Release Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2009
$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 6MAY10; 93+++ points
Before his sudden death, the uncommonly talented StepHen Hickinbotham made exquisite white wines at Anakie which often smelled of fish stock. This umami comfort oozes about in this blissful Hunter. There’s white Danish butter, too, maybe lemon custard: it’s all creamy and lingering. And yet the wine also depends on its bone dry acridity: it reeks too of carbide and cordite, and decking the taut acidity of its finish there’s a layer of fine-ground stone tannin. It’s beautiful wine, as I have respectfully learned to expect from Andrew Margan

Penfolds Reserve Bin 07A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007
$90; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20 FEB 09 & 7 MAY 09; 1MAY10. 93+++ points
This is the first chardonnay I’ve met who walked in, pulled up an armchair, sat down, lit up a cigar and started reading John Maynard Keynes right there in my study. It’s the avuncular Mersault bachelor. In the two and a half months between visitations, it also ate some nougat. I can smell it there in the sweaty old dressing gown. Always 100% Adelaide Hills, 100% wild yeast, high solids, 100% malo; no filtration. 3.2pH; 6.7 g/L TA. The fruit is more complex and gentle than the 08 311; the oak much more obvious: this is heady, swoony, highly intellectual stuff that can’t keep its hands off one.

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2009
$40; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 15APR10; 93+++ points
Having recently visited Hungerford Hill in the Hunter, another specialist at Tumbarumba fruit from the high cool of the western foothills of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, where I tasted ferments, I am beginning, belatedly, to appreciate the might and quality of these vineyards as they mature. I’d better get my hard arse up into the mountains next year, and taste before picking. Bin 311 can come from anywhere from one vintage to another: the philosophy is to use this number to cover the best single-region fruit available in the Penfolds arsenal each year. This is ravishing Chardonnay. In spite of a difficult vintage, with record heat in other parts of the country, the spill of chill air from higher up the Alps kept this wine’s acids crisp. It’s very very fine, with insinuations of butter and honey on plain white Vienna bread, and then a rise of frangipani and magnolia bloom, with hints of the pithiness of those fleshy petals. The flavours have a delicious balance of fatty acids and a semblance of sweetness, like cherimoya, or custard apple. It’s lovely wine, and like the others in the 2010 release, a thing of great composure and force, this time in a peculiarly elegant manner. Its nine months in two and three year old barriques has served only to preserve what the vineyards gave; there is no intrusive oak. It will mature delightfully over the next five or so years; maybe much longer.

Romney Park Reserve Chardonnay 2006
$28; 13.5% alcohol; diam cork; 93+++ points
Then there’s the little matter of the Romney Park Reserve Chardonnay 2006. They shoulda called it Chevalier-Montrachel, for there’s more than a little Chevalier-Montrachet about this svelte blonde beauty, with its waft of pineapple cream and dried banana, gradually falling to that amazing swarfy acidity that I presume comes from the ironstone. (The same mighty, almost fierce natural acidity adorns all these wines.) There’s an acrid whoof of phosphate putting an edge on the nose. This was fermented in two and three year old French oak barriques. It underwent full malo, and three-weekly lees stirring with full top-ups for eleven months. The wine has gorgeous Montrachet cream and custard. It started ferment with wild yeast, and was finished with two cultured yeasts. It’s stunning. The palate lingers until you surrender to another glass. Perpetual motion. 15 FEB 08

Fourteen months later, the wine seems to be even more steely and severe. It has incredible natural acidity, and will live on this acid for a decade of cellar. It still has all of the above, but they seem to have closed off if anything, like astronauts preparing for a week on the Shuttle. If I were to change the points, they'd go up. 04 MAR 09

Hahndorf Hill Winery Adelaide Hills White Mischief Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc Pinot Gris 2008
$19; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk MAR 09; 93++ points
Not to take my name too lightly, this White Mischief’s my territory: intelligent blending: realistic alcohol and a price to match. So we’re off to another good start. That hard ironstone soil makes its presence felt again, with dust, spice, and hessian tweaks at the cutting edge of a perfume that follows with comfy honeydew melon and clingstone peach, and then the isovaleric acid smells that often delude us into imagining we’re receiving a pheremone that makes men drop their voices and become dangerously protective of women while women want to suckle: it smells as fresh and fleshy as a hot scrubbed bubby. As you’d then expect, the texture is fleshy, too, and carries a refined silky polish which gradually becomes velvet as the tannins of the terroir and that steely acid wind up the finish. Stunning. It’s a most intelligent and creative use of three much-abused varieties, with a total that’s better than the sum of its parts. It’s like a really good Alsace gewurztraminer.

Giant Steps Tarraford Vineyard Yarra Chardonnay 2005
$40; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93+ points
While there’s a saucy, cheaper model ($30) from the Sexton Vineyard partnering this Tarraford delight, my top points go to this for its extra complexity and cream, as some of it’s undergone malolactic fermentation, and its vines are older. It’s not quite buttery, but begins to show some peach, which is perfectly offset by firm natural acidity, and it’s made more flavoursome by wild yeast and plenty of stirred lees. It’s also a lesson in subtle, supportive oaking, with spicy hints coming from three great French coopers. Nice now, but more delectable in four years. Scallops with hot vinaigrette.

Howard Park Western Australia Chardonnay 2005
$38; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
This wine runs down like a junior version of the mighty Leeuwin Estate, which is commonly regarded by those who can afford it to be Australia’s best chardonnay. It’s a similar peachy style, with sophisticated French oak adding nutmeg and ginger spice to the overall creaminess brought on by malo-lactic fermentation, during which the harsh malic acid of the grape is converted by bacteria to the softer fatty lactic acid of milk; i.e. the first flavour we taste after birth. Green chicken curry.

Montalto Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2005
$35; 13.1% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
Making three absolute trimmers in a row for Montalto: this exquisite chardonnay neatly fills the trinity, putting a holy spirit beside the previously-reviewed shiraz (father) and pinot (son). Spicy French oak adds its piquant ethereal shimmer to a bone dry wine with everything from struck flint, dried ginger and hazelnuts, to dried banana, peach, and pineapple. It’s a complex, beautiful drink that begs for large food: veal in white wine and capers.

Tallarook Chardonnay 2006
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
Now we’re on a slippery slope. St. Luis Riebl is my man. He keeps doing things like this in his chill eyrie in the Victorian highlands near Seymour. This particular funkmonger’s all wildly ripe lychee, rambutan and jackfruit – it even approaches durian. It’s not what you ever imagined chardonnay to be. Great fruit, yeast from the air, lees in barrel: Luis lets Bacchus have his dirty old way. I don’t mean filth; I mean bad. Chubby – almost waxy – in structure, with a sharp acrid edge, and a gently tapering, natural acid-driven finish that makes me yearn for spatchcock. It’s just too good. Go Buy!

Yalumba FDW[7c] Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2006
$23.95; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 93 points
Phil Lehmann – yep, them Lehmanns – made this beauty with grapes from Paracombe, Castambul (in the Torrens Gorge), and Piccadilly. What’s so good? The acrid, earthy guano/phosphate edge of its aroma. Its chestnut and ginger oak. Its pith of limes and lemons. Its poached quince and pear, slight syrup, and strapping natural acidity. Capers, five spice, lemon-scented thyme, enoki and pleurotis mushrooms, feijoa, blood orange, banana chips … the more I roll it around the old sensories the longer the list of provocations. And while it’s okay for vegans and vegetarians, I’d have it with young guinea fowl. Well basted. (9.2.8)

Mountadam High Eden Estate Chardonnay 2007
$??; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++ points
Mmmmm. Now we’re talking. This is edgy chardonnay: as dry and austere to sniff as the ancient marine sandstones and schists which somehow sustain it, but with an increasing tide of nutty bacon fat and similarly nutty grapefruit and blood orange gradually washing through, and then a palate that’s syprupy with clingstone peach and crême caramel. As winemaker Con Moschos gradually learns the confounding complexity of the vast Mountadam farm, he does better magic each year. This is fine, stony, understated wine which only very gradually lets you know who’s boss. It’s elegantly slender, but stoically forceful; rich and creamy, yet dry as stone and naturally acidic. It’ll perform some fancy tricks in your cellar, too: good vintages of Mountadam chardonnay can do a neat decade’s dungeon. It makes me dream of perfect saltimbocca. JAN 09

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2008
$42.90; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92+++
Obviously made to fill the chablis section of Penfolds’ shelves, this wine is from Tumbarumba grapes, grown on the cool western slopes of the Australian Alps near Mount Kosciuszko. “Bin 311 can be from any district”, Peter Gago says, “depending on which vineyard best gives us the style we want ... but it must be a single region – there’s no blending between districts, ensuring the wine is always a pure reflection of its source. It’s barrel-fermented, but in two, three and four year old French barriques, where it stays for just eight months, so we don’t get overt oak.” While the wine had undergone full malo-lactic fermentation, at only 13% - perfect! - it’s still the colour of young riesling and shows no buttery fats. It reeks of carbide and fresh-blasted quarries at the front edge, and follows that with pithy white peach skin and comice pear aromas, and just the faintest hint of grilled cashew. The palate’s crisp and austere. It’s a cheeky brat of wine, and must surely put the fear of death into the Chablisiennes. 20 FEB 09; 1 MAY 10

Phi Single Vineyard Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2010
$45; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 4,710 bottles; tasted 25JAN12; 92+++ points
Although they pronounce this like pie, Phi – Φ – should really be pronounced fee, as in $45.  While this trio makes up the fifth annual release, the close-spaced Yarra uplands vineyard is 27 years old. A JV between the Shelmerdine family (growers) and the de Bortolis (winemakers/distributors), the Phi outfit is all about terroir.  This is one mean hard mutha of a Chardonnay: all chalk and acid and staunch, greenmelon flavours, it’ll erase any unfortunate memory you had of Chardonnay that tasted like canned peach syrup.  It has the faintest flavour of baby broad beans simmering on a buttered pan, but nothing like peach.  Damn thing makes you hungry, too: it’d be the best counterpoint to Wah Hing’s exquisite salt and pepper eggplant, with all its natural brinjal glycerol. 

Hahndorf Hill Winery Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2004
$26; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk MAR 09; 92++ points
Crême caramel, clingstone pêche, faintly gingery oak, lovely creamy elegance, this is what chardonnay’s sposed to be like: clean and precise in the palate, with really lovely fine acidity and general finesse. Try it with kassler from Max Noske, cool fresh tomato and basil, sourdough from Bullocks in Mount Barker, and a good swoosh of Blair’s Original Death Feel Alive Chilli Sauce. I await more eagerly the chardonnays that S&S will make from HH fruit.

La Chablisienne Côte de Léchet Chablis 1ER Cru 2007
$50; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
You can smell about 14 trillion and seven microscopic fossilised oyster shells in this smart bracer: it has heaps of the chalky Chablis terroir leaping about in its bouquet. Silly little buggers, really. you'd think that if they escaped being eaten sixty million years ago, they wouldn't entice us to drink them now. But they have no chance of avoiding it when you stick your trunk in this glass, and marvel at the sheer wonder of all this lemon custard cream wrapped about that long-dead oyster-shell chalk. The palate's clean and steely, with a slender, sicko layer of said dessert sliming about on the plate with the chalk. It makes me really hungry for baby lobster, merely blackened on the char, sliced lengthwise, slopped with really acid virgin oil - Coriole 1st Koroneiki Extra Virgin 2008 - lemon juice, a leaf of fresh basil, and immediately passed to the chewin' up and swallerin' department, al dente. Lobster and oysters, sea? 05 MAR 09

J.E Ngeringa Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007
$35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92++ points
Chilled to an unseemly degree, this begrudgingly exuded a sharp whiff of something that smelled like old hessian phosphate sacks. It’s akin to the acrid stone quarry whiff in the Ngeringa viognier and shiraz, and close to an edgy whiff you’ll find in Chablis. I’d wear it as a perfume. It’s as husky as Ann Bancroft in the morning. As it approaches a reasonable drinking temperature, the wine reflects shimmers and shards of hazelnut, ginger, Anjou pear, and honeycomb toffee. It’s very pretty. But complex; serious ... richly textured, and unctuous but then quite mood altering as its tannins charge off toward the type of dried grass character which that whiff of hessian suggested in the beginning. This will smooth out with a little more time; right now it's an added entertainment. White wine for red drinkers. It’d go swimming with almost any of the recipes in Richard Olney’s amazing Provence cookbook. He would have loved this. Compare it, with its deliberately oxidative winemaking, to the Romney Park chardonnay. Similar altitude, about ten kays off as the crow flies, but made with the opposite philosophy: absolutely minimal oxidation. Fascinating. This one's biodynamic.

Battle Of Bosworth McLaren Vale Chardonnay Viognier 2006
$18; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
Mainly from mature, organically-managed vineyards, this unusual blend shows a lot more gastronomic intelligence than 95% of our overly peachy shiraz/vio mixtures. This chardonnay’s been picked when its acid was high, and fermented in steel, while the viognier’s been given the old French oak treatment. So we get a quincy/loquat bouquet with wet chalk undertones, and a bright, engaging palate of fresh, rinsing astringency and appetising tannins, a little like a top Veronese soave. Go prawns with sage in flake pastry, or char-grilled crayfish with squid ink tagliolini.

Deviation Road Adelaide Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2007
$28; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
Neither Ocker chardy nor lower echelon Burgundy, this lovely blushing beauty stands alone. With disarming ripe sweet pear as much as the usual chardonnay peach, and not much of the latter, it has a feminine, beautifully aromatic bouquet with hints of very expensive face unguents as much as lovely fresh-peeled, very slightly poached fruits. There’s a wee hint of fresh sliced baby ginger root from good French oak, and a long, dry, appetising chassis that finishes with a perfectly grainy, calm field of dusty tannin. So it combines the best of the cool, high, hills, with all their juicy fruits, and a gentle breeze of dust from the schisty, glittery lowlands way below. It’s not quite frail, but it’s understated, cute and very easy to schlück, and leaves a quaint tease of honeycomb caramel toffee stroking the palate long after the swallow. I think of slices of pork belly, smoked, then poached with perfectly fresh Anjou pear. JAN 09

Paracombe Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2006
$21; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 92+ points
Jeez I love that thirteen. Thirteen means no jam, no peach syrup. None of the awful things in the nether regions beyond thirteen and a half that have destroyed the chardonnay industry. But this is not an industrial wine. This is lovingly coddled by the Drogemuller family. You can smell it; feel it. Gently spicy French oak, gunsmoky lees and yeast, ever-so-delicate crême caramel, and the lush melony wash of Rocha pear just about add up to it. It’s a husky, dusky, sandy-blonde-in-the-sunset sort of adventure, with really zippy acidity snipping up that finish. Scallops in beurre blanc with shallots and black pepper.

Penfolds Thomas Highland Adelaide Chardonnay 2009
$??; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 15APR10; 92+ points
Coming after three Rieslings of incredible composure and authority, this seemed a tad flippant about its sophistry at first – a little ethereal and breezy. But then, but then … the passage of time, dear Watson, saw the damned thing stand its ground like a real little trooper. Sexy, toasty French oak (30% new); 100% malolactic fermentation; hazelnuts and ginger; brazil nut; vanilla slice; crème caramel … let’s call that initial blomo a sign of elegance and maintain that this drink carries sufficient weight and composure to be a real Penfold. It’s okay to be gay in the services, now, isn’t it?

Anvers Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2008$24; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 08-09JUN10; 92 points
Happy, simple wine here, but of some finesse and character ... the best thing is its maker has chosen to retain its natural delicacy instead of forcing it to fill a bigger, more coarse framework. And I reckon that winemaker may have been the elusive Duane Coates. On release, the wine was slender and tight, without much flesh. Now it has a comforting layer of honeydew across its alumina-like acidity, which appears to be natural. So it's lithe, but just nicely smooth and viscous, with a pleasing whiff of split stone in its bouquet.

Port Phillip Estate Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2008

$30; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 4-7MAY10; 92+ points
Mornington Peninsula whites frequently show an aroma that reminds me of seaside fens and sedges: it’s like the aroma of the pigface dune succulent, and maybe even a faint whiff of dimethylsulphite, the smell of the ocean. Which is probably what you’d expect of wine grown on a peninsula. This rather spiffing Chardonnay has a touch of this, along with its bright pears and melons. It’s a tight, sandy white that’s austere and puckery, and about perfect for seafood of many sorts: bouillabaisse to buttery scallops and char-grill prawns cooked til their shells begin to caramelize.

Clonale Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay 2006
$26; 13% alcohol; diam cork; 92 points
It’s been a buzz watching Mornington find its vinous tootsies over the last decade. Enlightened winesmiths like Kooyong’s Sandro Mosele lead the pack. This one’s from fruit which didn’t quite make the cut for the $43 Kooyong Estate model. No malo-lactic, no industrial yeast, and only 10% new barrels brings us a slightly spicy, tight chardonnay with lovely refreshing acidity and just enough viscous body to pat the palate down nicely. It’d be perfect with gnocchi like Ann Oliver recommended recently.

Moorilla St. M Tasmania Chardonnay 2005
$35; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points
The eccentric patricians – professional gamblers all – who own Moorilla dare no eccentricity or gambling when it comes to wine quality. This chardonnay is scrumptious: bone dry and mealy, yet with streamlined honeydew melon and star fruit juiciness. It’s modest of structure, yet reveals quite surprising force and persistence as you wallow in it. It’s like the sort of Chablis which would set you back $60 or more. Cool artichoke and bean stew.

Paxton McLaren Vale Chardonnay 2005
($29; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 92 points)
The Packos are fair dinkum kicking bum since they hit the biodynamic trail and opened their new cellars and sales complex at the restored Landcross Farm at the approach to McLaren Vale. This vineyard’s not fully bio yet, but as far as chardonnay goes, it’s already as good as moon juice. Peachy – from the grapes – and custardy – from the malo-lactic fermentation, it’s a comforting, smooth, almost mellow white designed for char-grilled crustaceans and chillis. (28.10.6)

Rookery Kangaroo Island Chardonnay 2008
$16; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91++ points
Aha! Guano and gunflint. Spice. Acridity that prickles the nostrils. A naughty Chablis. Delicate dried apple, pear and banana fruits like the mighty Ditters sell down the main street. Banana peel. Jackfruit and pineapple ... this one has enough flesh to cover the grassy sauvignon blanc tendencies that tend to dominate many of Kangaroo Island’s chardonnays. It’s clean, vibrant, firm, and accomplished: nice wine. King George Whiting barely flashed in the pan, lemon juice, fresh pepper. Wedges of pan-fried spud. Take the rest of the day off... 10 OCT 98

Battle of Bosworth Chardonnay Viognier 2007
$18; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points
The peachiness of chardonnay and the frequently overt peach syrup of ripe McLaren Vale viognier could be a bilious sort of brew. Not so here. Fastidious attention to the vineyard detail, lower alcohol, organic growing and making, then letting nature take its course in the winery gives us a creamy, neatly tannic white that could be Alsace pinot gris. In fact, in cleanskin, you could probably pass this off to the big chains as pinot gris. They can’t get enough of that, regardless of what it’s made from. Chêvre on dark rye with raw Spanish onion slices and capers.

Blewett Springs Chardonnay 2006
$12.95; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 91 points
On my top ten, the Blewett Springs sands come close after Schubert’s 8th Symphony. Almost devoid of nutrient, they produce fruit of phenomenal intensity. That Gandalf of wine professors, John Possingham, and partner Carol Summers grew this crunchy unoaked delight. It’s almost great riesling in structure, full of lemons and spice, and tight things nice: honeydew; gooseberry; verbena; white plum; furry tannin and firm cleansing acid. Have it with char-grilled prawns. (13.1.7)

Lenton Brae Southside Margaret River Chardonnay 2010
$26; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 88+ points
Lenton Brae Wilyabrup Margaret River Chardonnay 2009
$60; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 90+++-94+ points  Gotta love Edward Tomlinson.  He sells two Chardonnays, right.  Both from his family’s Lenton Brae vineyards at Wilyabrup, in Margaret River.  The Southside is $26; the Wilyabrup $60.  So what’s the difference?  Barrels.  He picks the grapes by hand, leaves them in the fridge overnight, presses the bunches in the morning and lets the wine ferment in barrels with whatever yeasts are floating about.  A year later he selects the best – “finer; tighter” - barrels for the $60 job, and blends the rest for the cheapie.  He sells the cheapie straight away, and holds the top wine another year.  Simple.  So the Southside 2010?  It smells of lemons and fresh, uncut ginger root.  Lemon verbena, too.  It has a neat, slightly acidulous flavour and feel, like a slightly-oaked Chablis.  It has just the slightest dab of unsalted Danish butter.  It made me instantly think of chicken cacciatore with capers and white rice. It is an honest, straight down-the-line son-of-a-gun Chardonnay that will be fine drinking anytime in the next year or so, and a typical reflection of Ed’s unflinching, hyper-clean, steely/tech style.  88++ points.  And the Wilyabrup 09?  Barely any similarity.  Staunch Burgundian oak floats rather awkwardly on sublime fresh Chardonnay.  It has that acrid reek of burnt sulphur, and estery fruit that brings green bananas to mind.  It is an unflinching, steel and coffee rock business which just sits there reflecting your strange stare off its chrome mirror shades and raw timber interior.  It smells like the house in this Monica Nguyen photograph .  It doesn’t need food now, it needs three years of wear and tear and somebody forgetting to let the dog out sort of thing while the kids learn to walk and talk and go to school.  And then, on that special peaceful moment when they’re gone and everything’s back neat and tidy and the slaves have washed all the crayons off the walls?  Confit of goose added late to a cassoulet, please; fresh thyme on top; plenty of crunchy white bread.  And I mean confit in the proper sense: a method of preserving, not cooking.  Like a full-bore year-old confit in the Agee jars: knock the fat off, and drop your bits of goose in the maturing cassoulet.  So begin preparing your meal in 2014, and eat it with this wine twelve months later.  90+++ points now; 94+ then.  If you can’t be bothered waiting, save $34, drink a toast to Ed’s decade of brilliant Chardonnay, and get stuck into the Southside with your chook.  That’s how it works.    

Marchand & Burch Great Southern Chardonnay 2008
$65; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; drunk 28-31JAN10; 90 points
It's obvious the lads have had a serious go at building this wine into something big, but in a way, they've blown it, forcing too much into it that the Burgundy weather and soil would have instilled quite naturally. It's just a bit too buttery, too obvious, too thick and dull to be truly great. But it's nevertheless a hearty, soulful wine that will soothe the memory of the day for many a right wing businessman. And his wife. On the evening when they've just heard the terrible news. My poverty-stricken friends, who had no idea of the wine's price, thought quite independently that it was sweet, and preferred the leaner, thinner crunch of Paxton's McLaren Vale Thomas Block, which is $23 or something.

Cape Mentelle Margaret River Chardonnay 2007
$42; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 89++ points
There’s a remarkable mixture of acrid edgy oak and exploding quarry amongst the deliciously cheesy, leesy fatty acids that wrap up this smooth chardonnay fruit. But while not really harmonious, yet, the bouquet’s more encouraging than the palate, simply because the wine is far too juvenile to be properly appreciated. It’s balanced, with some highly promising complexity. So it’s safe, but humourless and distant. It doesn’t yet engage me. So. Should I cellar it? Unlikely. Should you? If you have an emotional pull to brash young chardonnays that eventually come good, go for it. 18 NOV 08

Penfolds Cellar Reserve Chardonnay 2007
$34.90; ?? alcohol; screw cap; tasted 20 FEB 09; 1 MAY 10; 89++ points
Available only at the cellar, this is from a tiny single vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. It’s vegetal wine, with salad greens as much as fruits, and it reminds me a little of the petiol smell common in semillon. If this wine were tasted without its rather lofty company, it would be regarded as a good medium-ranking Burgundy from a cooler, drier year.

Mountadam Vineyards Barossa Chardonnay 2008
$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 89 points
Like a neat cheap Chablis, this has no oak, but pleasing feral yeasts and a much wider range of dirts in which to grow, mainly derived from the sandstones and schists which lie beneath the soils, older than god. Chablis grows in Kimmeridgian chalk, which is the same as the Dover cliffs, made from scrillions of almost microscopic oyster shells which were laid there about 140 million years ago. God must have made oysters, but he was only practising then, and made them far too small for humans to eat. He eventually learned to make humans, and then made the oysters a lot bigger, but the rock benath Mountadam is still very, very much older than the Parisienne Basin chalk below Chablis and Dover. The Mountadam beaches were laid down before multi-celled life began. Oh well. This wine goes very well with the larger, modern oyster. It smells a bit like wet flint, and has a pleasing modest creaminess, which will respond perfectly with the sharp brine of your oysters, especially is you enhance them with fresh lemon juice, a teaspoon of Newman's Langhorne Creek horseradish, and a grind of good fresh black pepper, like you can buy in Tony Marino's amazing butchery in the Central Market. If you need an even more intense grrrr, pour some damn near frozen vodka into the oyster, too. Tip the oyster in, praise god, schluck this chardonnay, have a giggle at Chablis, and think about what life was like before multi-cellular life formed. It always makes me thirsty. 10 MAR 09

Bay of Shoals Kangaroo Island Chardonnay 2006
$18; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 88++ points
Mmm. Chablis comes to mind. A cheaper model, but with just a little oak. It’s pretty, with insinuations of lychee, custard apple, and dried banana. A scrape of cassia bark betrays the wood: subtle; suitable. It’s a good bouquet. The palate’s not quite so well structured as that aroma suggests, but it’s clean and soft, neat and tidy, and exceptional at this price. 10 OCT 98

Dudley Porky Flat Kangaroo Island Chardonnay 2008
$16; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 87++ points
Calcrete soils, like those of Watervale near Clare, impart neat tidy flavours to this wine. They’re a bit like the flavours which the Kimmeridgian chalks below Chablis impart to the bonnie, racy wines of that very cool joint. So we get a crisp, lemony wine with hints of grass and leaf, and just the right tweak of creamy, vanilla oak. Perfect for scallops in beurre blanc, tommy ruffs – sorry, they’re southern herring now - in Cooper’s Ale batter, or whole garfish, soused in rock salt, dried chilli, tarragon and virgin olive oil, then smoked gently over redgum. 10 OCT 98

Linfield Road Barossa Chardonnay 2003
($12; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points)
After wasting a prayer mat on some $20-$30 French chardonnays from chill Chablis, it was a laugh to open this. It’s not Chablis, and neither is the Barossa, but it’s from the higher, cooler vineyards of Williamstown, made to a price, and it works in a modestly peachy, mercifully unoaked, Chablis sort of way. It even has a cheeky brimstone edge and a dry, chalky finish. It’s cheaper not to over-oak, see? Try Udder Delights chevre on rye, with oil, chilli and pepper. (11.11.06)

Penley Estate Coonawarra Chardonnay 2004
$19; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 87 points
Although David Wynn, who virtually invented modern Coonawarra, decided it was not great chardonnay country and moved on many years ago, there are determined souls who persist, like Kym Tolley, maker of this inexpensive slurper. It’s certainly not Mersault or Chablis, but creamy, slightly peach-syrupy dry wine for those who like a little flesh on their bones. It’s big enough for tender veal; green chook curry should properly set if off.

Hugh Hamilton The Scallywag Unwooded Chardonnay 2006
$17.50; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 86 points
The PR says Hugh was first to make an unoaked Aussie chardonnay. In 1993. Grrrrr. Aptly, Mark Cashmore was into it by ’83; and David Wynn was soon selling his own timber-free modernistic beauties like hot cakes. This wine lacks the forceful density of the nude Possums Blewett Springs $12.95 model pushed here a few weeks back, but it’s a nice blonde sort of a drink for squiddy lunches on the deck with the odd fag.

Clown Fish Margaret River Chardonnay 2009
$23.50; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 08JUN10; 85 points
Burlap and pale white peach are the aromas; dry as licked chalk is the texture; clean and slightly pears-and-apples is the flavour. Have it with slightly oily-fleshed fish, like redfin or tommy ruffs.

Two Wheeler Creek Kangaroo Island Chardonnay 2007
$17; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 84++ points
Aha! Here’s more of those dunal vegetative whiffs that dominated the Island’s sauvignons blanc: the verbena, jonquill, onionweed and pigface that I usually associate with higher yielding Mornington Pensinula wines. Oxalis and methoxypyrazine. Lemons. The palate’s the same: grassy, clean and green; too simple. It’s screaming out for some old oak, some lees, some malo, some complexity. But then, like the savvy’s-B, it’ll do good things to a parcel of fish’n’chips. Wrap ’em up in a Philip White column, plenty of salt ... 10 OCT 98

Ninth Island Tamania Chardonnay 2008
$22.50; 13% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 11JAN10; 83+++ points
Like many of the Kangaroo Island chardonnays, and the lesser Mornington Peninsula ones, this blithe spirit has that dunal onionweed vegetal reek about it: maybe it's petiols. It's a pleasant enough drink, with finely-ground silica tannins drying its finish, and its balance is cool and austere. But it would be better without those strange greens.

Casa Freschi Altezza Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2007
$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; 83++ points
Sweet poached peach and sabayon are the main aromas; some flash oak gives a shot of perfectly appropriate nutmeg. It smells like a comely dessert. But the palate’s very thick and intense, while taut and closed. The exhalation is a little hot; the fruit too eager to get out the door and flee. The aftertaste is syrup and alcohol. The acid is not apparent amongst all this organo-nerdy intensity. Then there’s a green petiol-like flavour. This wine doesn’t look like it wants to be drunk. Yet. 23 NOV 08

Brand's Laira Coonawarra Chardonnay 2008
$??; 14% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 29DEC9; 83 points
Most noticable about this bottle is the back label. It's another one written by somebody who feels so, well, I dunno ... guilty? ... about what's written there, or what's in the bottle, that they can't quite stretch to printing their precious message in a typeface, pointsize or colour that can be read. It looks about as clear as a watermark. That aside, David Wynn had worked out by about 1965 that chardonnay was not gonna be the star at Coonawarra, which is why he sold out and spent his money establishing Mountadam on the eastern aspects of the South Mount Lofty Ranges on High Eden Ridge. Given all that, the wine is a surprise, having some cheek and complexity and some of that stuff that chardonnay is supposed to have in order to set it apart.

Yalumba Oxford Landing Chardonnay 2007

$7.95; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 83 points
Yalumba commenced this estate near Waikerie in the ’50s. Like chardonnay, the wine smells like peaches and pears. And it has a husky blonde allure, like a tanned, sandy surfer, well-oiled. Board wax, too. The palate’s viscous and comfy, with quite some complexity and depth, and the finish is fit, crisp and adult. Clever Teresa Heuzenroeder has disguised its lowly origins and drought vintage with wild yeasts, maturation on lees, a touch of malo-lactic fermentation, and an inclusion of the previous vintage’s wine from French hogsheds. Very good wine at a stunning price. White meats on the char. (24.1.8)

Two Wheeler Creek Kangaroo Island Chardonnay 2008
$17; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; 81++
Wines as fresh and slender and acidulous as this really need some malo, some oak, some work and a lot of time to fill them out a little. Or you end up with drinks like this: more savvy-B than chardonnay, on account of the cool place it’s grown. And viticulture. Like, this would look good in a Champagne blend, but here, like this, it’s, well, savvy-B. Clean fresh Packham pears, gooseberry, rhubarb, oxalis, nettles: more fish’n’chips, please. 10 OCT 98

Deakin Estate Chardonnay 2007
$10; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 80 points
“I like to think that our wines can be used as ‘school night dinner wines’ for those who just want a good wine with dinner on a week night”, says flak Claire Ellen. Great. She coulda come clean and said “working family wine”, but I spose while schoolkids aren’t yet working for your actual filthy lucre, their little pink palates may nevertheless prefer this to alcoholic raspberry. I do. Peachy, chubby, simple, unpretentious, a little ditzy, with nice chips, planks, shavings or whatever oak they use, and nothing insulting, it’s about right for roast chook with homework. (17 AUG 8)

Isabel Marlborough NZ Chardonnay 2006
$33; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 81 points
Cream cheese, ricotta, custard apple: there are plenty of the half-turned fatty acids of well-made chardonnay here. The juice of canned pears. The kernels of peach stones. The palate’s pretty and juicy, with all of the above, but it’s a bit short and abrupt, like somebody sawed it off half way down. It’d be good with schnapper poached in seawater and riesling with white onions and fresh fennel feathers, then served dripping in beurre blanc. But. 20 NOV 08

Wynn's Coonawarra Estate Chardonnay 2009
$20; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 07JUN10; 78 points
David Wynn had decided that Coonawarra was not right for his beloved Chardonnay by 1970, when he began planting it at Mountadam on the High Eden Ridge hundreds of kilometres hence. But Foster's, the current owners, persist. This has a racy hint of chalky acridity, and while it's a clean, safe glass of slightly slimy ethanol, it's an empty house otherwise.

Drayton's Family Wines Vineyard Reserve Pokolbin Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2009
$??; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap; tasted 07JUN10; 76 points
If this wine, with its trophy and gold from the Hunter Wine Show, is really the best that region had to offer from 09, then duh! What's going down, dudes? It smells light, slightly grassy, and fresh, with the faintest whiff of petiol greens. There's suave, sophisticated oak, too, but not too much. The palate is deicate, persistent, and firmly acidic. It's like a petit Chablis with a touch of wood.

Zilzie Bulloak Carbon Neutral Murray Valley Chardonnay 2008
$10; 13.5% alcohol; screw cap; 73 points
The aficionado may take great care to appreciate how much effort has gone into making this wine appear to have come from a much more prestigious appellation, with its gentle peach, whiff of a passing oak, and even a neat acrid edge, as if it had some wild yeast, lees contact, and serious terroir. But once tasted, and the oily simplicity of the palate is appraised, even given the slightly acrid, chalky finish, one should be forgiven for suspecting carbon is not the only thing that’s in the neutral category as far as this particular chardonnay goes. JAN 08

Nepenthe Adelaide Hills Unoaked Chardonnay 2007
$19.50; 13% alcohol; screw cap; 70 points
Nepenthe was the registered brand of hospital grade heroin before the USA convinced the rest of the west that hammer was a bad drug. Which most of the doctors of the day insisted it wasn’t. There’s not much nepenthe in this bottle. Johnson’s Baby Powder, banana lollies and peachy soap aromas smooch about the glass; it’s as much a bathroom as a drink. It smells pretty, if not precisely something along the lines of gastrology or hammered. With time, greener petiol-like aromas take over, indicating machine harvesting to me. The palate is light and simple, with weedy finishing acidity. I don’t want to drink it. (17 AUG 8)

MacWilliams Hanwood Estate Crisp Chardonnay 2007
$12; 12.5% alcohol; screw cap (imperfect); 60 points
“Australia’s newest white” Mac’s claim; a “new ‘zesty’ style” from the Adelaide Hills and the River, making Hanwood a very big Estate indeed. It smells like the machines picked lots of petiols – vine leaf stalks – with the grapes. It tastes like that, too: bland and cheap, and not my preference, regardless of the dozen bucks and the “top gold” in the Adelaide Wine Show. It has modest texture and weight, and rather tartaric acidity. Mac’s recommend “delicately flavoured meals”. Nope. I’d fry the judges, feed ’em to my dog, and swap the wine for twelve bucks worth of rain.

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