Chardonnay (August 2019)

Is Chardonnay storming back into fashion? I haven’t seen any statistics to prove it yet, but keep hearing from winemakers and wine retailers that demand for the classic white-wine variety of Burgundy is surging.

Chardonnay is less popular than 25 to 30 years ago, having lost ground initially to Sauvignon Blanc and then Pinot Gris, but it has long been our most prestigious white-wine variety. No other dry white wines command such lofty prices; many New Zealand Chardonnays are on the shelves at $50 or more and several now command over $100.

The variety is spread throughout our wine regions, particularly Marlborough, Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne. Gisborne is renowned for its softly mouthfilling, ripe, peachy Chardonnays; Hawke’s Bay yields sturdy wines with grapefruit and stonefruit flavours, coupled with complexity and longevity; while Marlborough’s Chardonnays are slightly leaner, in a vibrant, cool-climate, appetisingly crisp style.

Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough dominated this month’s tasting, accounting for 75 per cent of the entries. After the country’s hottest-ever summer, the 2018 vintage produced rich, well-rounded Chardonnays, delicious young, whereas 2017 has yielded intensely flavoured, tautly structured wines, now starting to open out well with a bit of bottle age.