Everyone seems to love lists, so I thought I’d put together a list of the top 10 aged Australian Chardonnays, especially since I have had a chance to recently sample back vintages of two that definitely make the list: the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 1998 and the Savaterre Chardonnay 2004.
A couple of caveats. This list is necessarily retrospective. Chardonnay in Australia is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance at the moment, with brilliant new examples of a more balanced and restrained style winning plaudits from critics and consumers alike. As Fiona Beckett recently noted in The Guardian “of all the wines that Australia produces, [chardonnay] has undergone the most dazzling transformation, reminding us what a sexy, sumptuous, delicious wine chardonnay can be.” (Wine: Australian chardonnay comes of age by Fiona Beckett, The Guardian, 13 January 2012)
The newer examples haven’t yet past the test of time, and while wine critics’ drinking windows certainly suggest great longevity, they haven’t been properly tested. Consequently superbly refined wines like Tapanappa’s Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay and the Shaw + Smith M3 Chardonnay, which were both first released in 2005 and 2003 respectively, don’t yet have a long enough track record to make the list.
Regular readers of my blog know that I’m a big fan of research, so for inspiration this list draws on the vast knowledge and considerable drinking experience of Australia’s best wine critics. For aged wines, however, you can’t go past the verdict of the consumer, as many of the finest bottles are snapped up for the cellar and then snapped up again on the secondary market.
One of the best gauges of consumer preference is Langton’s Classification of Australian Wines. It is considered “the form guide” for Australia’s best performing and most prized wines. To be considered in this prestigious classification, a wine must have 10 vintages behind it so that its track record and reputation, both of which are measured through market presence, consistency, volume of demand and price realisations, can be properly assessed.
The first six wines on the list are from the latest Langton’s Classification of Australian Wine V, which was updated in 2010. The last four wines have at least 10 vintages behind them, and their ageing potential have been well and truly affirmed.
Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay, Beechworth, Victoria
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia
Pierro Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia
Mount Mary Vineyard Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Savaterre Chardonnay, Beechworth, Victoria
Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 47 Hunter Chardonnay, Hunter Valley, New South Wales
Howard Park Chardonnay, Great Southern, Western Australia
Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay, Tasmania and Adelaide Hills, South Australia
Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay, Margaret River, Western Australia