Great chardonnays of the world on show

The Villa Maria winery and vineyards, which are the source of fruit for the 2019 Villa Maria Ihumatao Chardonnay. (Photo: Villa Maria Wines)

A Seat at the Table is a compelling documentary by producer David Nash. Nash asks whether New Zealand wine is now good enough to sit alongside some of the world’s most famous players. He interviews many notable wine names and offers a New Zealand versus Burgundy tasting as evidence that our Chardonnay can certainly step up to the mark.

My top wine was also the least expensive. It was 2019 Villa Maria Ihumatao.

The New Zealand versus Burgundy tasting featured four flights with four serious white Burgundies and one Kumeu River Chardonnay in each. The wines were judged blind by distinguished European wine judges. Kumeu River came first in three flights and first equal in the fourth flight – compelling evidence that Kumeu River Chardonnay at least can foot it with the best.

More evidence that New Zealand deserves to be in the Big Boy’s Chardonnay Club emerged at a Villa Maria sponsored Great Chardonnays of the World tasting, where three of their wines were stacked up against a very impressive international line-up of masked bottles.

Flight 1: Taut, mineral and fine

Flight 2: Elegant, harmonious and ethereal

Flight 3: Dense, sophisticated and complex

My top wine was also the least expensive. It was 2019 Villa Maria Ihumatao. It’s a concentrated chardonnay with grapefruit, tree fruits and oyster-shell characters. Very pure and defined. A seductive wine that has the X-factor. Wonderfully textural.

It is available from the winery cellar door. I bought a case and opened one bottle, which absolutely confirmed my first impression. This is a truly great chardonnay and a bargain at NZD $49.99. There is a chance that the vineyard may be sold and the vines uprooted, which would be an absolute tragedy.

My second choice was Domaine Coche-Dury Meursault 2018. A concentrated Burgundy with layers of flavours including nutty oak and mineral-saline characters. A supremely elegant wine.

Third place went to Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet Grand Cru 2017. A creamy-textured wine with tree fruit, citrus fruit, and nutty barrel fermentation characters. Gets a tick in all the boxes but lacking the X-factor. A nicely-made wine with lovely acidity.

Fourth place was a long-time Aussie favourite, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018, an intense wine with impressive depth of fruit and a hint of oyster-shell. An elegant, seamless chardonnay with impressive power delivered with great subtlety.

Fifth was Domaine Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru 2017. A New World style with appealing fruit sweetness and concentrated citrus, hazelnut and ginger characters. A rich, mouth-filling wine.

Fourth place was a long-time Aussie favourite, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2018, an intense wine with impressive depth of fruit and a hint of oyster-shell.

Sixth was Domaine François Raveneau Montée de Tonnerre Chablis Premier Cru 2015, smooth peaches-and-cream, with a silken texture and fruit sweetness nicely balanced against fruity acidity. An appealing appley wine showing a little bottle age.

Seventh was Catena Zapata Whites Stones 2017. Rich, ripe tree fruit and nectarine flavours, with reasonably prominent oak and a saline tang. An ethereal texture. A very New World style. An elegant wine.

Eighth place went to Walter Scott Seven Springs Vineyard Eola-Amity Hills Chardonnay 2018. It’s quite a ripe chardonnay with tree fruit, peach, nectarine, toasty barrel-fermentation characters and a flinty-mineral influence. A moderately complex wine with good weight and richness.

Ninth was Villa Maria Taylors Pass Chardonnay 2019. A bright, high-energy chardonnay with hazelnut, oyster shell, biscuit and toast flavours plus a pleasing savoury edge. A youthful and quite chunky wine.

Tenth was Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Grand Cru 2017. A ripe, peachy and quite concentrated chardonnay with restrained, spicy oak. A mouth-filling wine with peppery tannins adding structure.

Eleventh went to Hyde de Villaine Carneros Chardonnay 2018. Accessible, ethereal chardonnay with tree fruits, white flowers, almond, marzipan and a subtle saline influence together with sweet, nutty oak.

Twelfth was the Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard 2019, a controversial style that I have absolutely loved when tasted in different company, but in this tasting I found it a little too reductive. Quite intense tree fruit, smoky and appealing mineral flavours.

Thirteenth went to Errazuriz Las Pizarras Chardonnay 2019, a very New World style with citrus, grapefruit, apricot and mineral characters. A fine-boned chardonnay with quite assertive acidity adding energy.

Fourteenth wine was the Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2018, a developed wine in a warm-climate style, with an oily and slightly coarse texture and pronounced oak. Plenty of flavour. Could be a crowd-pleaser.

Fifteenth was Giaconda Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2018. I found it quite reductive and a little too tough. It’s possible it was a dodgy bottle but bottle age might also help.


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