Featured Reviews

Tony Bish 2016 Fat & Sassy, and Heartwood Chardonnays

05 May,2017
From the beginning, Tony Bish intended his own label wines to be focussed on Chardonnay, his favourite variety, and one that he has become best-known for. To date, he has released the ‘café-style’ Summertime’ bottling, as well as the ‘Fat n Sassy’ wine which caters for those who hanker for the ‘big and bold’ style. More innovative is the ‘Golden Egg’ Chardonnay, vinified in an egg-shaped oval concrete fermenter, which gives unique wines with remarkable textures. His deluxe label is the ‘Skeetfield’ Chardonnay which shows its impeccable provenance from a superb site, and a wine of beautiful complexities.

His latest two wines are a new vintage of the consumer favourite, now labelled ‘Fat & Sassy’, and the inaugural release of the ‘Heartwood’ Chardonnay, both of these from the excellent 2016 vintage. Tony has received plenty of feedback that his ‘Fat & Sassy’ Chardonnay should be fatter. So he continued to evolve the style, to please his customers, but also not compromise his standards of winemaking. There is a limit to how ‘big, bold and brassy’ a Chardonnay can be, in today’s world before it becomes overly blowsy and flabby, with the fruit overwhelmed by winemaker inputs.

The ‘Heartwood’ Chardonnay is Tony’s interpretation of what makes a classic Hawke’s Bay barrel-fermented Chardonnay. ‘Heartwood’ refers to Quercus Robur, or French oak. Tony considers that the ’terroir’ of the oak wood used in making wine, especially Chardonnay is just as important as the terroir in its more common understanding in relation to the land and its environment. Factors such as the correct seasoning, the making of the barrels and ratio of new to seasoned oak are crucial to the character of the wine. Then there are all the other ensuing issues, such as timing and duration of oak contact, fermentation temperatures, topping regimes, and batonnage among many points which have a strong influence on the finished wine. The ‘Heartwood’ Chardonnay can and will be used by Tony in explaining the terroir of the wood to his followers. Here, I review the two new 2016 Tony Bish Chardonnays. www.tonybishwines.co.nz


Tony Bish ‘Fat & Sassy’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Brilliant, even, lemon-gold hued yellow colour with some depth, lighter on the edge. The nose is full and voluminous with broad aromas of fresh, ripe yellow stonefruits at the core, melded with a layering of lemon-curd and butterscotch MLF, entwined with creamy barrel-ferment elements. The nose builds to form a firm, nutty heart. Medium-bodied, the palate has full and rounded mouthfilling flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits and tropical fruits along with layers of creamy oak, and lemon-curd and butterscotch MLF. The wine has a good nutty heart and the palate flows smoothly along a fine-textured line. The creaminess is balanced by fresh acidity, and the wine carries to a creamy, buttery finish. This is a full and flavoursome Chardonnay with layers of stonefruit and tropical fruit melded with creamy and nutty oak and butterscotch layers. Match with creamy seafood and poultry dishes, and roast pork over the next 4 years. Clones 15, 95 and Mendoza, from vines over 12 y.o., 50% barrel-fermented and 50% tank-fermented to 13.0%, the wine aged 12 months in 10% new oak, the two portions exchanging containers after 6 months, the wine undergoing batonnage and 100% MLF. 18.5-/20 May 2017 RRP $21.99

Tony Bish ‘Heartwood’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Brilliant straw-yellow colour with lemon-gold hues and some depth, lighter on the rim. This has an elegantly concentrated and tightly bound nose with good intensity of ripe yellow stonefruits along with nutty lees and oak notes, layered with creamy barrel-ferment elements, with lemon-curd and buttery MLF. The nose has richness, but retains freshness and poise. Medium-full bodied, the palate is rich and mouthfulling with interwoven flavours of ripe yellow stonefruits, nutty oak, subtle creamy barrel-ferment nuances, some flinty and leesy suggestions and buttery MLF. The flavours are balanced and form a fine-textured core and positive line, with fresh lacy acidity carrying the wine to a long and sustained finish. This is a rich, balanced and multi-faceted Chardonnay with stonefruit, nutty and creamy oak, nuances of lees and buttery MLF on a fine, fresh line. Serve with grilled and roasted poultry and pork over the next 4-5 years. Hand-picked Mendoza clone fruit from a Bridge Pa site, WBP and fully barrel-fermented partially by indigenous yeasts to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 11 months in 25% new French oak undergoing 100% MLF. 19.0-/20 May 2017 RRP $35.00
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