Liquid Gold: The Top 20 Chardonnays to drink this Australia Day

Posted on Jan 16, 2019

This time each year this blog has focussed on Australia’s top cabernet shiraz wines.

The blend as popularised by Penfolds Bin 389 is Australia’s gift to the wine world after all so what better way to celebrate the pending arrival of the national day?

But, as the nation gathers up Eskies, plastic cricket bats, tri-color zinc and car pennants ahead of its traditional assault on the beaches, we’ve had second thoughts.

Not about the date itself. The Greens, the Darebin council and other bien-pensants can rage about nasty old Arthur Phillip and the colonial invaders as much as they like.

But what we really find hard to swallow is a warm mouthful of rich red wine in the middle of the customary January heatwave.

So this year we’ve decided to celebrate the Great Australian Chardonnay.

Chardonnay – known colloquially as chard or chardy – is almost as famous for planting the Australian flag on the world’s wine consciousness as cab shiraz. A wave of graduates trained at Adelaide’s Roseworthy College emerged in the early 1980s and quickly established their mastery of the versatile grape. This technical ability coincided with boomtime economic conditions that encouraged an excess of everything. In chardonnay’s case that meant oak.

Chardonnay quickly supplanted riesling as the nation’s favourite white wine. Consumers lapped up the style’s rich, buttery flavours and its deep yellow hues cemented the wine’s position on British “off-licence” shelves as “Sunshine in a Bottle”.

Then – like the overheated property market, twenty-somethings driving around in 3-Series BMWs and Paul Keating’s double-breasted Zegna suits – Aussie chardonnay faced its inevitable denouement.

The arrival of double-digit interest rates and the recession that Keating assured Australians they “had to have” ushered in a new austerity that sought a different style of wine. Out went Australia’s overblown chardonnays and in came….NZ sauvignon blanc.

Chardonnay retained its position as Australia’s most heavily planted white variety over the ensuing 30-odd years but struggled to retain its sales primacy against the onslaught of the Kiwi “sauvalanche”.

But now chardonnay is finding its feet again. After a lengthy period in which winemakers tried to disown the past by pursuing a “lean & green” style that found more favour with wine show judges than consumers the pendulum has swing back towards a richer middle-ground. Overseas judges are once again praising Australian chardonnay as some of the best in the world.

We have compiled the 5000 scores awarded to the 1826 chardonnays shown at Australian and NZ wine shows last year. This is the deepest and broadest review of Australian chardonnay available anywhere.

The big winner of 2018 was Western Australia and the Margaret River in particular. WA wrested back the title of Australla’s best wine chardonnay producer from last year’s top region – the Adelaide Hills. WA chardonnays in our Top 50 enjoyed an average score of nearly 90 at wine shows last year compared with 88 for Adelaide Hills examples.

So raise a chilled glass of chardonnay this Australia Day and celebrate a wine that mirrors the ups and downs of the nation itself. Here are the Top 20 chardonnays of 2018 (listed alphabetically):

Brookland Valley “Estate” Chardonnay 2017
Coldstream Hills Reserve Chardonnay 2017
De Bortoli DBWS Chardonnay 2017
Deep Woods Reserve Chardonnay 2017
Evans & Tate Broadway Chardonnay 2016
Evans & Tate Broadway Chardonnay 2017
Evans & Tate Karridale Chardonnay 2015
Evans & Tate Redbrook Reserve Chardonnay 2015
Evans & Tate Redbrook Reserve Chardonnay 2016
Flametree SRS Wallcliffe Chardonnay 2017
Millbrook Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2017
Moppity Coppabella Crest Chardonnay 2017
Moppity Coppabella Sirius Chardonnay 2017
Penfolds Cellar Reserve Chardonnay 2017
Penfolds Reserve Bin A Chardonnay 2017
Sidewood Mappinga Chardonnay 2016
Soumah Equilibrio Chardonnay 2017
St Hugo Eden Valley Chardonnay 2017
Tyrrell’s Belford Chardonnay 2017
Willow Bridge G1-10 Chardonnay 2017


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