Top 10 Chardonnay – 2022
2nd September/ Wellington tasting event ticket link: https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/394848280837
19th September/ Auckland tasting event ticket link: https://www.eventbrite.co.nz/e/394856976847
I am very excited to announce the Top 10 Chardonnay this year; the calibre is exceptionally high this year, with nine out of ten Chardonnays scoring 19- points and above. These top-quality Chardonnays are from many different regions of New Zealand, including two from Central Otago, one from North Canterbury, one from Marlborough, one from Martinborough and five from Hawke's Bay.
Chardonnay is the second most planted white variety in NZ, with 3,187 hectares planted, accounting for 6% of the country's production. A wide range of styles are produced, and good quality Chardonnay can be found in every region of NZ. Winemakers widely employ barrel fermentation in NZ; some incorporate a portion of stainless steel to keep the freshness of the fruit, while others use high solids in barrel fermentation to create a fuller and reductive expression. Most are aged in seasoned barrels with a small portion of new oak in different sizes; most common are 228L barriques, 500L puncheons and 3,000L cuvees; other ageing vessels can also be found, such as concrete eggs and amphoras. Full or partial malolactic fermentation is a common practice to balance the natural fresh acidity, and ageing on lees to gain a creamy mouthfeel is widely appreciated by winemakers and consumers.
Without further ado, here is my selection of Top 10 Chardonnay.
Auntsfield Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, Marlborough https://auntsfield.co.nz/
Marlborough's first vineyard and winery were established in 1873. This Single Vineyard Chardonnay is planted on ancient Greywacke rock and loess clay soils. The business is managed by two Cowley brothers, Ben & Luc.
Carrick Organic Chardonnay 2020, Central Otago https://www.carrick.co.nz/
This organic producer (certified since 2008) is based on Cairnmuir Road in the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago. 2020 was the first vintage that chief Winemaker Rosie Menzies was solely in charge since the departure of Francis Hutt.
No. 5 to 8
Alexia Happy Wife Chardonnay 2020, Hawke's Bay https://www.alexia.co.nz/
A Wairarapa producer operates in their Urban Winery in Greytown; the fruit for this wine was sourced from Hawke's Bay. The fourth release of this wine, Winemaker Jane Cooper, believes it's the best yet; her less is more winemaking allows the fruit to do the talking.
B.wine Lime Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, Wairarapa https://bwine.co.nz/
Previously Lime Hill Vineyard was rebranded as B.wine. The 1.3-hectare block east of Masterton possesses soils identical to Burgundy; the north-west facing vineyard was planted in 2013, on limestone with a thin layer of clay top soils, following organic precipice. Their 2019 Lime Hill Chardonnay was also in last year's Top 10 Chardonnay. Owners, winemaker and viticulturists Raphael & Christine Burki also run a cellar door in Martinborough.
Collaboration Wines Aurulent Chardonnay 2021, Hawke's Bay https://collaborationwines.co.nz/
Winemaker & proprietor Julianne Brogden collaborates with a handful of delicate winegrowers in Hawke's Bay to create fine wines that reflect their origin. Her minimal intervention winemaking approach ensures limited use of SO2, natural use of oxygen at pertinent stages, no fining agents and minimal or no filtration.
Pegasus Bay Reserve Virtuoso Chardonnay 2019, North Canterbury https://www.pegasusbay.com/
Pegasus Bay is one of the most well-known wineries in Canterbury and New Zealand. The Donaldson family have been in the wine industry since the 1970s, proudly family owned and operated by four sons. Virtuoso Chardonnay is only produced in exceptional vintages, selected from the best barrels made from the oldest undrafted vines in the vineyard.
No. 3 & 4
Radburnd Chardonnay 2020, Hawke's Bay https://radburndcellars.co.nz/
Kate Radburnd is one of New Zealand's most highly respected winemakers, with over 35 years of experience in the industry. Radsburnd Cellars was established in 2017, producing only a single-tier wine, only her very best from each vintage without compromise.
Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Chardonnay 2020, Hawke's Bay https://trinityhill.com/
An iconic New Zealand winery best known for its Homage. The 125 Gimblett Chardonnay is a relatively new wine range from a single vineyard on the Gimblett Gravels; the first vintage was released in 2018, showcasing small parcels that express a sense of place. Warren Gibson has been their chief winemaker since 1997.
No. 1 & 2
Domain Road Defiance Chardonnay 2020, Central Otago https://www.domainroad.co.nz/
Defiance Vineyard is situated on Felton Road in the Bannockburn sub-region of Central Otago; the 7.5 hectares block is planted on loam soils overlaying schist gravels laid down some 450,000 years ago by glaciation. Graeme and Gillian Crosbie purchased the vineyard and planted vines in 2002, and they have a careful and considered hands-on care winemaking philosophy.
Tony Bish Golden Egg Chardonnay 2021, Hawke's Bay https://tonybishwines.co.nz/
The Chardonista Tony Bish focuses on producing a range of five artisan Chardonnay in Ahuriri, Napier, in his Urban Winery, using Hawke's Bay fruit. Golden Egg was first released in 2018, made and aged in NZ-made concrete eggs. Tony Bish's Skeetfield 2019 was in last year's Top 10 Chardonnay and was the only wine ever awarded 20 points out of 20 by me.
Read the full reviews below.
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Auntsfield Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, MarlboroughChardonnay from New Zealand - MarlboroughReview Date : 29-Jun-2022Bright, pale yellow with depth and a green hue, even colour throughout. The nose is softly full, elegantly presented with aromas of citrus and well-proportioned oak details. Lemon sherbet, young stonefruit and citrus peel melded with warm brioche and fine spice. Medium-full bodied, aromas of lemon sherbet, grapefruit, young peach intertwined grapefruit peel, delicate spice, supported and enriched by soft butter, brioche, vanilla and a hint of hazelnut. Oak elements are well-proportioned and poised, contributing to the structure and an opulent mouthfeel. Taut acid tension carries the wine seamlessly to a long, elegant finish. This Chardonnay shows finesse, excellent fruit and seamless acid line with balanced and refined oak influence. Match with pan-fried grouper and butter-poached langoustine over the next 8 years. Fruit from Southern Valleys, handpicked, whole bunch pressed, fermented in French oak barriques to 13.5% alc, extended barrel ageing on yeast lees. 18.5+/20 pts (94 pts) June 2022 RRP $36
Carrick Organic Chardonnay 2020, Central OtagoChardonnay from New Zealand - Central Otago & WaitakiReview Date : 18-Feb-2022Bright, pale yellow with some depth, even colour throughout. The nose is gently full with layers, aromas of citrus, stonefruit overlay elegant oak details of vanillin, spice, subtle nut, acacia and a touch of cream. Medium-full bodied, bright with good energy, aromas of lemon, grapefruit and zest underlying a hint of apricot; almond, acacia, and spice linger on the closing. Excellent acid tension drives a focus to the back palate; the concentration of fruit flesh out on the palate and the well-proportioned oak add weight and complexity. Powdery phenolics add an elegant texture. This is an inviting Chardonnay with great balance of acid tension, fruit and discreet oak elements on a refined texture flow. Match with lemon chicken and pork over the next 5+ years. Handpicked, 100% Mendoza clone, whole bunch pressed, wild-fermented in barrel, daily stirred during fermentation, aged for 14 months in oak, 15% new oak. 14% alc. 19-/20 pts (95 pts) Feb 2022 RRP $36
Alexia Happy Wife Chardonnay 2020, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 16-May-2022Bright, even, pale yellow. This has an open, elegant bouquet, aromas of peach and citrus curd interweaving delicate oak influence. Medium-bodied, lemon curd, pineapple and peach have a taut core, unfolding blanched almond, whipped butter and a lingering closing. The fruit and mouthfeel show elegance and refinement; talcum like phenolics is delicate and ethereal; a gently taut acid line carries it across the palate. This is a refined Chardonnay show beauty and purity of fruit, focus acid drive and a silky, ethereal palate. Match with crayfish sashimi and cheese souffle over the next 6-8 years. Handpicked, pigeaged overnight, then pressed to barrels, wild fermented to 13.5% alc, aged 14 months in barrels, 18% new. 19/20 pts (95 pts) May 2022 RRP $28
B.wine Lime Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2020, WairarapaChardonnay from New Zealand - Canterbury & WaiparaReview Date : 21-Dec-2021Bright, pale straw yellow with a light green sheen, youthful, even colour throughout. The nose is bright, elegantly presented, greeted with softly full aromas of lemon curd, lemon sherbet, subtle notes of raw almonds and spice entwined, underlying minerals. Medium-bodied, vibrant palate filled with aromas of lemon curd and sherbet, along with a hint of zest and apricot, unfolding delicate spices, almonds and pastry. A poised line of invigorating acidity flows with good energy and refined chalky minerals, linger with creaminess to a long finish. The fruit has excellent concentration and freshness, well-balanced acidity and delicate oak details are in harmony. Creaminess added to the weight and texture. This is a refined, harmonious Chardonnay with a citrus core, balanced oak and lees elements on a mineral flow. Match with grouper with beurre blanc and seafood risotto over the next 6-8 years. Fruit from Lime Hill, Mendoza clone, handpicked, whole bunch pressed, fermented to 13.% alc, aged in barrels on full lees for 12 months, 20% new oak. 19/20 (95 pts) Dec 2021 RRP $56
Collaboration Wines Aurulent Chardonnay 2021, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 12-May-2022Bright, pale yellow with a straw-gold hue, even colour throughout. This has a welcoming, gentle bouquet of ripe stonefruit, yellow blossom, talcum spice, unfolding subtle creaminess and butterscotch. Medium-bodied, elegantly presented yellow nectarine, peach and lemon curd melded with yellow blossom; integrated creamy curd and fine nut paste. The fruit shows purity and concentration, and subtle ginger spice lingers. The delicate custard cream mouthfeel carries talcum-like minerals through to linearity. This Chardonnay showcases its pure form with ripe stonefruit, delicate floral and spice adorned with delicate barrel elements on a sleek mouthfeel. Match with roasted quail and ribbit terrine over the next 5-7 years. Fruit from 70% Kokako, Ohiti Valley and 30% Ascot, Havelock North, handpicked, whole bunch pressed, naturally fermented to 13% alc, underwent 100% MLF, aged in French oak barrels on lees for 11 months, 30% new oak, unfined and light filtration. 19/20 pts (95 pts) May 2022 RRP $38.50
Pegasus Bay Reserve Virtuoso Chardonnay 2019, North CanterburyChardonnay from New Zealand - Canterbury & WaiparaReview Date : 29-Mar-2022Bright, pale yellow with a gold hue, even colour throughout. This has a full and compelling bouquet with softened aromas of roasted cashew, acacia, black sesame, flint and spice, interwoven stonefruit and grapefruit. The wine is full-bodied with softness and elegance; aromas of nectarines, apple and grapefruit entwined with roasted cashew, black sesame, flint, acacia and delicate spice. The wine is integrated harmoniously, with softened nutty aromas and flint added strength and maturity; lacy acidity brought energy and freshness to the multi-layered palate. This Chardonnay is harmonious with a complex range of flavours, balance and strength. Match with hazelnut-crusted grouper and crayfish Thermidor over the next 6-8 years. Handpicked, foot-trotted, the non-clarified juice fermented in large French oak barrels (puncheons), 40% new oak, wild fermented to 13.5% alc, aged in puncheons on lees for 12 months, underwent MLF. 19/20 pts (95 pts) Mar 2022 RRP $65
Trinity Hill 125 Gimblett Chardonnay 2020, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 17-Nov-2021Bright, pale yellow with a green hue and some depth, even colour throughout. The nose is softly full with subtle power, slowly growing richer as it aerated, greeted with buttery pastry, almonds and flint, underlying ripe stonefruit and spice mix. Full-bodied, harmonious aromas of peach, apricot melded with lemon curd and a hint of floral, unfolding toasted almonds, butterscotch and barrel spice. Toasty, buttery autolysis added complexion and charm. A slightly chalky texture flows with creaminess; lively acid tension brightens the palate, cuts through the creamy veil, and lingers to linearity. This is a harmonious Chardonnay with great complexity and seamless acidity in its youthful. Match with butter-poached crayfish and guinea fowl over the next 10 years. Fruit from Gimblett Gravels, 64% Clone 95, 32% Clone 548 and 4% Clone 15, fermented in new 500-litre French oak puncheons to 14% alc, went through MLF, 12 months on lees. No fining. 19+/20 pts (96 pts) Nov 2021 RRP $80
Radburnd Chardonnay 2020, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 06-May-2022Bright, even, yellow with depth and a hint of green sheen. The nose is softly full, shows elegance and power; aromas of flint, roasted nut layered with spice, underlined citrus and stonefruit. Medium-full bodied, aromas of lemon, pink grapefruit and peach are intense, integrating elegant toasty oak, prickly spice, hazelnut and warm butter. The fruit is concentrated, packed with flavour and purity, beautifully managed oak details enriched and elevated, and elegantly presented in well-proportion. Supple, chalky phenolic adorned a creamy line. Acid tension keeps the wine balanced and lengthens to a lasting, satisfying finish. This irresistible Chardonnay shows elegant and pristine fruit with excellent concentration and weight, harmonious oak details and a lasting lingering. Match with roasted guinea fowl and ginger & scallion crayfish over the next 8-10 years. Fruit sourced from Magatahi and Bridge Pa, majority old vine with 20% first crop, all Mendoza clone. Handpicked, whole bunch pressed, racked to barrel, some portion with full solids, fermented with indigenous and cultured yeasts to 14% alc, some lees stirred, aged in new and one-year-old barriques for approx 10 months. 19+/20 pts (96 pts) May 2022 RRP $85
Tony Bish Golden Egg Chardonnay 2021, Hawke’s BayChardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 14-Jun-2022Bright, pale yellow with depth and a green hue, even colour throughout. The nose is elegantly presented, concentrated and lifted aromas with a citrus core, stonefruit and a hint of pineapple, melded with delicate spice, subtle bread dough, and creamy elements. Medium-bodied, a focused palate carries lemon, lemon curd and pineapple passing through crushed rocks, unveiling delicate spice, chamomile, almond butter and a hint of creamy yoghurt. The mouthfeel is sleek, combining smooth flowing creaminess and crisp minerals texture. The wine shows concentration of fruit with underlying power; seamless acidity carries the wine effortlessly to a long lingering. This stylish, sleek Chardonnay shows refinement and elegance with concentrated fruit, seamless acidity, and well-portioned spice and texture. Match with kingfish tataki and langoustine over the next 6-8 years. Handpicked Mendoza clone Chardonnay, fermented and aged in NZ made concrete egg-shaped fermenters, full MLF. 13.5% alc. 19.5-/20 pts (97 pts) June 2022 RRP $42.99
Domain Road Defiance Chardonnay 2020, Central OtagoChardonnay from New Zealand - Central Otago & WaitakiReview Date : 06-Apr-2022Bright, even, pale yellow with some depth. This has a gentle and enticing bouquet, nuances of stonefruit, citrus underlying floral melded with subtle creaminess and elegant oak details. Medium-bodied, sweet-scented, lively fruit of peach, lemon and grapefruit are well-proportioned, adorned by white and yellow blossom; lemon curd, prickly spices and a hint of toasted hazelnut linger to a long, harmonious finish. Creamy textured palate flow seamlessly and effortlessly with lacy, integrated acidity, leaving a clean, moreish linger; very fine, powdery phenolics added to the texture. This is a harmonious Chardonnay with perfectly ripe fruit, acid precision, and well-balanced oak elements lend a lasting, memorable finish. Match with butter-poached langoustine and whitebait tempura over the next 6-8 years. Handpicked fruit from Defiance Vineyard in Bannockburn, whole bunch pressed to tank, transferred to French oak barriques for fermentation to 14% alc, aged 9 months, 23% new oak, full MLF. 19.5/20 pts (97 pts) Apr 2022 RRP $32