2016 chardonnay shines

Vanya Cullen amongst the vines (Photo: Cullen Wines)

For a vintage that has been somewhat maligned, 2016 has produced some stunning chardonnays. My latest tasting of 86 wines yielded many thrills, mostly from Tasmania and the Adelaide Hills, but also Geelong, Margaret River, Mornington and Tumbarumba.

The 2016 vintage was hot and early, a concertina vintage which saw grape varieties all ripening at once and some winemakers lamenting that the short ripening season didn’t allow time for the desired complexity to build in the grapes. Added to that, some of Tasmania’s northern areas had bushfire smoke which presented problems, in the Tamar Valley and Pipers River regions.

The top wines were Cullen Kevin John and By Farr Côte Vineyard, both 97 points, followed by Stargazer and Pooley Cooinda Vale on 96. All tantalising wines with finesse and complexity of character.

Adelaide Hills winery Sidewood had two well-priced gold-ribbon wines, especially the Mappinga (AUD $35). It was line-ball with the Owen’s Chardonnay (AUD $50) on my score-sheet, the Owen’s a fraction tighter and seemingly built for the longer haul. From the same neck of the woods was Bird In Hand Nest Egg, also a gold-ribbon wine with lots of future potential.

Sam Coverdale’s Even Keel Tumbarumba also impressed in an overtly butterscotch style, no doubt due to a vigorous malolactic. AUD $35 and good value.

A new discovery for me was Corduroy Wines Mansfield – not from the eastern Victorian highlands as the name suggests, but the Adelaide Hills. It was elegant, zesty and mouth-watering.

It was interesting to look at the alcohols of my top wines in this tasting. Eight of the 14 wines scoring 94 and above had alcohols under 13%. Of the other six, two were 13% and four were 13.5%.

Things have changed, and today it’s rare to see top chardonnay with 14 or 14.5% alcohol that was once the norm. Today’s Aussie chardonnays are fresher, crisper, finer and more attractive to drink as a result. They’ll also age better.

One thought on “2016 chardonnay shines”

  1. Haydn Deane says:

    Immensely enjoyable reading your always excellent wine reviews and in particular the book reviews!
    Chardonnay of recent vintages has reached new heights and I have been very impressed with those from Tasmania!
    You are always appreciated!

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