The first 20/20 pts wine goes to… Tony Bish Skeetfield Chardonnay 2019
What should a 20/20 points wine taste like? I didn't know until I tasted it. It was quite an experience!
It was pretty, punchy, seamless, elegant and then some. It moved and changed on the palate, and was beautifully intriguing as it continued to open up. At first, I scored it 19.5+/20 pts because there's no such thing as a perfect wine, I had marked it down a little, to allow some room for improvement. But then, I had an epiphany, and I thought this is actually so bloody perfect this might be the one! Why am I marking it down?
I tasted a bit more; going through the notes with my palate, and finally concluded that I could not fault it. It was an exciting moment when I realised... this is my first 20/20 point wine!
I am not surprised to be awarding my first 20/20 points to a Tony Bish wine. Tony has long been regarded as a Chardonnay master, known for his work establishing famous Chardonnays like Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay. I first learned about Tony and his way with Chardonnay twenty years ago when I was working at Spoon by Alain Ducasse in the InterContinental Hotel Hong Kong. And come to think of it, that might also be the first time I met Tony!Tony has a consistent winemaking style, avoiding excessive overt oak toastiness, keeping sulphides and malo in check. He prefers Taransaud French oak barriques and most wines went through 100% malolactic fermentation. The most important element is to allow the vineyard remains the hero. I found Tony's wines have great energy, seamless acidity and a silky flow of creaminess that's never too obvious, but always present in just the right amount.
Tony Bish Wines produces six Chardonnays.
- Fat & Sassy was the first of the range (first vintage - 2013). It's a very affordable, great quality, delicious everyday Chardonnay.
- The Golden Egg (first vintage -2015) is made in 1600 L concrete egg-shaped fermenters.
- Skeetfield, (first vintage 2015) the fruit comes from old, dry-farmed Mendoza clone fruit from Denis Gunn’s vineyard in the Ohiti district of Hawke’s Bay, 100% barrel-fermented and aged in new and seasoned Taransaud French oak. A higher portion of new oak than Heartwood.
- Heartwood, the fruit from Bridge Pa Triangle, also 100% barrel-fermented and aged in new and seasoned Taransaud French oak, made from the heartwood of Quercus Rober French oak.
- Zen (first vintage - 2017) Skeetfield block fruit fermented in the one and only French oak ovum egg in the country and new Taransaud French oak barriques.
- Skin In The Game is the most recent Chardonnay added to the range. This wine sees minimal handling – fermented with skin contact and aged in concrete egg.
Here I reviewed the brilliant vintage of 2019 of Skeetfield Chardonnay, the first wine I’ve ever awarded 20/20 points (Tony's first 20/20 too!). You can also find my reviews for the 2019 Golden Egg and Zen, both superb expressions of the vintage as well.
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Tony Bish Skeetfield Chardonnay 2019, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 31-Mar-2021Brilliant, bright, moderate yellow-gold, slightly lighter on the rim. The nose is voluminous and refined, an elegant bouquet of lemon rind, peach and apricot, entwine with toasty barrels and spice, and custard tarts. Medium-full bodied, calm and integrated flavours of crunchy lemon sherbet, lemon rind, and stonefruit interweave barrel spices, toasted hazelnuts, along with baked custard tarts. The flavours are well-proportioned and refined, multi-layered with punches. The smooth and seamless palate flows with chalky textured mineral, with the perfect amount of acidity and great energy, reminded me of Chassagne Montrachet's fine drops. This is a harmonious, elegant Chardonnay with all the trimmings in perfect proportions. Match with pan-seared foie gras and grilled langoustine over the next 8-10 years. Dry-farmed Mendoza clone handpicked, whole bunch pressed. 100% barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc, 60% new Taransaud French oak. 100% MLF, battonage, on lees for 12 months. 20/20 pts (100 pts) March 2021 RRP $60
Tony Bish Golden Egg Chardonnay 2019, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 31-Mar-2021Bright, pale yellow-gold with a slight green hue, even colour throughout. The nose is softly presented with clarity and layers, aromas of lemon sherbet, stonefruit are elegantly in proportion, unfolding delicate lifted spices, subtle almonds, faint floral and lemon curd. Medium-full bodied, soft aromas of lemon sherbet, zest and curd, adorn by white peach, white spice, along with almonds and a yoghurty creamy line. The fruit shows ripeness with elegant balance, driven by a lengthy acidity precision. The wine possesses a smooth and seamless flow of sherbety acidity with a mineral edge; delicate spices tingle on the palate and provide brightness to an elegant, long finish. This is a classy Chardonnay with beautiful fruit balance, seamless acidity line on a charmingly chalky palate. Match with tiger prawns and kingfish over the next 6 years. Handpicked Mendoza clone Chardonnay, fermented and aged in NZ made concrete egg-shaped fermenters, full MLF. 13% alc. 19+/20 pts (96 pts) March 2021 RRP $40
Tony Bish ZEN Chardonnay 2019, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 31-Mar-2021Bright, pale yellow-gold with some depth, faintly lighter edged. The bouquet is voluminous with purity, aromas of roasted hazelnuts, barrel spice, melded with yellow peaches, citrus, brioche and a wildflower, chamomile underlay. Medium-full bodied, the palate is well-rounded and smooth, aromas of lemon curd, yellow peaches, have an elegant core, adorned by wildflower, chamomile underlay. Restrained roasted hazelnuts, barrel spices grow in volume, added structure to the well-rounded palate, the subtle spices and pure fruit intensity lead to an elegant, lengthy, lingering finish. The palate is buttery in the most elegant way, along a chalky mineral line; buoyant acidity flow smoothly and seamlessly. This wine has elegance yet has the rawness and authenticity that intrigues and blow-my-mind. This is a unique and authentic Chardonnay in the purest and most elegant form, with strength and intensity. Match with squid-ink risotto and crayfish over the next 6-8 years. The third release, single-vineyard Skeetfield block, Mendoza clone. Handpicked, fermented in French oak ovum egg and new French oak barriques to 13.5%. Full MLF. 19.5 pts (98 pts) March 2021 RRP $140