Tony Bish 2016 Fat & Sassy, and Heartwood Chardonnays

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.


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

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