Chardonnay super seconds
A popular exercise in my wine certificate course is a blind tasting between two chardonnays from the same producer and vintage but different quality levels.The price gap is usually greater than the gap in quality, especially when the wine is from a stellar vintage.
I challenge my students to taste both wines and tick the box to indicate which has the most intense flavour, which is most complex, which has the most body, which is smoothest and which has the longest length of flavour.
I am pleased to say that the most expensive wine is usually a clear winner, although after the big reveal the least expensive wine often represents significantly better value. The price gap is usually greater than the gap in quality, especially when the wine is from a stellar vintage such as 2019, 2020 or 2021.
I trawled through my tastings of chardonnays on The Real Review tasted during the past seven or eight months in search of “super second” wines that punch well above their weight. Here is what I found:
At nearly half the price of its exalted Home Block Moutere Chardonnay, this new label promises to be in the same quality ballpark. A supremely elegant wine. (NZD $45)
I accept that the Church Road Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2019 is a better wine but is it NZD $10 better? Both are a great buy at their respective prices. The excellent 2019 vintage seems to have closed the gap. (NZD $24.99)
A no-pressure vintage seems to have favoured chardonnay vineyards with a view of the sea in 2020 and they have thrown in the usual Craggy Range impeccable winemaking for free. A delicious wine at a modest price. (NZD $29.95)
Yes, the Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2020 is a better wine but is it more than twice as good? I’d take two bottles of the Estate any day. (NZD $35)
I have yet to taste Villa Maria’s Single Vineyard and Reserve chardonnays and have little doubt that they will be exemplary, but they won’t change the fact that the Cellar Selection is astonishingly good value. (NZD $17.99)
I am a long-time fan of Clearview Reserve Chardonnay, which gets better and better as the vines and owner, Tim Turvey, get older. I rated the 2019 Reserve one point higher than Beachhead but the latter is NZD $12 cheaper. A bargain in anybody’s language. (NZD $27)