Regional chardonnay styles
I recently completed my annual chardonnay tasting and was reminded just how versatile the variety can be. From the Wairarapa (or should that be “Wellington Wine Country”) south the cool-ish growing conditions seem to favour sauvignon blanc, riesling and pinot noir while to the north of that region the red Bordeaux varieties and syrah are at their best.
Climatic and soil differences do create clear regional differences in style but don’t seem to put a cap on quality.Chardonnay, on the other hand, can produce winning wines in every region. Climatic and soil differences do create clear regional differences in style but don’t seem to put a cap on quality. If I had to pick my strongest chardonnay region I would probably point to Hawke’s Bay which is hardly fair on the lush Millton Clos Ste Anne Chardonnay from Gisborne, the elegant and restrained Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay, Dog Point’s Marlborough Chardonnay or the wines of Neudorf (Nelson), Bell Hill (North Canterbury) and Felton Road in Central Otago.
Three classy chardonnays from three different regions illustrated just how good, and how different top chardonnay can be.
The 2017 Archangel Chardonnay from Central Otago shows wet stone, mineral and floral regional character and winemaker influence, which in this case suggests that the wine has been made with a very light touch. It makes me blush to think that, after tasting my first Central Otago chardonnay I suggested that the region was not the place to grow chardonnay, which in my view wouldn’t get fully ripe. How wrong I was! (NZD $35)
I never doubted that Marlborough would produce top chardonnay – there are simply too many top examples. The 2016 Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay has power and concentration, combined with a seductively silken texture. It will put a smile on the face of the most discerning chardonnay drinker. (NZD $37.90)
The 2016 Te Kairanga John Martin Chardonnay is a good example of the Martinborough style and sensitive winemaking by John Kavanagh, who produced great wines at Neudorf for so many years. It’s a perfect blend of tree fruit and subtle winemaker artefact. (NZD $40)