Wine critic Huon Hooke has just put up a post on Great Value Chardonnays. He was excited to report that a very moderately priced Tasmanian chardonnay from the Derwent Valley, the Hughes & Hughes Chardonnay 2018 ($34) scored a gold ribbon.

You may recall that Hughes & Hughes is the most recent recipient of the James Halliday Wine Companion’s Best New Winery of Year award. Upon bestowing the gong, Halliday remarked: “Without wishing in any way to denigrate past recipients of the Best New Winery award, this year’s recipient has achieved a level of success we haven’t seen before, and are unlikely to see again.”

Such impressive accolades for a new winery would be surprising if it were not for the expertise and experience of the talent behind the venture. Jonathan Hughes had a seven-year stint as assistant winemaker at Moorilla, the David Walsh owned winery on the grounds of MONA, before establishing the Mewstone Vineyard in 2011 with his older brother Matthew, a former banker. It’s situated on the banks of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in the tiny hamlet of Flowerpot.

Recently expanded to a total of 3.5 hectares, the Mewstone vineyards are mostly comprised of Pinot Noir, but also include some small plantings of  Chardonnay, Syrah, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

The Hughes & Hughes label was started as a second range to allow Jonathan to be “more daring in his winemaking endeavours,” which are informed by styles and techniques picked up from an international career that involved working for top winemakers in Central Otago in New Zealand, Barolo in Italy and Okanagan Valley in Canada.

Grapes for the Hughes & Hughes label are purchased from growers in all parts of Tasmania. The fruit for the Hughes & Hughes Chardonnay 2018 comes from a single vineyard in the Derwent Valley, where the grapes were interestingly harvested over two picks of slightly different ripening levels. (12.0 and 12.8 Baum). The grapes were then whole-bunch pressed to oak (20% new), fermented with Sauvage yeast (60%) and natural yeast (40%). They underwent partial malolactic fermentation while maturing on lees, ageing for 6 months. Here’s Hooke’s 95 point review:

Light-yellow hue with a creamy lees-influenced bouquet, which is grapefruity and very appealing. There’s a subtle buttery note. The wine is crisp and fresh, light and intense, and finishes dry and mouth-watering. It’s tight and fine and lingers well. A superb chardonnay. (3000 bottles made)

By Merrill Witt, Editor