Decanter Magazine recently conducted a blind tasting to come up with a list of the “Best Chardonnays in the world (outside Burgundy).” Nominated for consideration by top wine critics were the finest chardonnays from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. 80 wines in total were tasted. (The Best Chardonnays in the world (outside Burgundy) by Stephen Brook, Decanter Magazine, March 2015)
While the Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from New Zealand was crowned “Wine of the Tasting,” four Australian wines made it into the top 10 list of “Outstanding Wines” (South Africa came in second with three wines on the list):
In fact, at a blind tasting in Australia, Brook confidently placed the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Margaret River 2010 as a Burgundy! He describes it as “a magnificent, limpid, complex Chardonnay, with broad shoulders but rarely showing excessive oak or heft.”
Certainly top winemakers like By Farr’s Gary Farr are drawn twwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaao the Burgundian style of making chardonnay. Wines, which at their best, are hailed for their complexity, nuance, finesse and ageability.
The grapes for this wine are grown on the same vineyard as the pinot noir used for the acclaimed By Farr Sangreal Pinot Noir. It’s a very exposed north facing site of red loom soil over limestone, which lends a magnificent minerality to both wines.
The De Bortoli & Shelmerdine PHI 2007 comes from the Shelmerdine family-owned Lusatia Park vineyard in the Upper Yarra Valley. The high-elevation, well-drained red basalt soil vineyard is generally regarded as Yarra Valley’s finest.
Like Farr, De Bortoli winemaker Steve Webber prefers a fairly non-interventionist approach to winemaking in order to allow the character of the special terroir to shine through. Typically, the grapes are whole bunch pressed, barrel-fermentated with natural yeasts and allowed to undergo a malolactic fermentation before ageing in barrel for nine months.
The Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 is another example of a wine that is beautifully expressive of its site.
Set in the foothills of the North East Victorian Alps in Beechworth, the Giaconda vineyards sit on soil composed of 450 million year old granitic loam over decomposed gravel and clay.
Here the clay allows sustained water-release to the vine roots, minimising the need for irrigation, and the poor quality top soil naturally keeps yields low. The site situation – a south east facing slope not exposed to direct sunlight – allows the chardonnay to enjoy a slow ripening period, creating greater flavour complexity and higher natural acid levels in the wine.
First released in 1986 and still made today by Giaconda founder and winemaker Rick Kinzbrunner, this toasty and powerful wine is often compared to the finest Puligny-Montrachet grand crus.
by Merrill Witt, Editor