“Such progress towards finesse has been made by Australia’s best Chardonnay practitioners recently that I am now looking for serious alternatives to fine white burgundy in the cooler reaches of Australia… from about 2012 Australia has been producing a raft of truly world-class Chardonnay, very much in the savoury, steely, super-crisp style of refined white burgundy, but often with more apparent potential for future development than a typical white burgundy.” Jancis Robinson OBE MW
There is so much good Australian Chardonnay out there right now, it was hard for us to choose just one to offer; however we have gone with a bit of a sleeper that, at a $30 steal, encapsulates the current state of play of Aussie Chardonnay quite well. (We have also included a somewhat exhaustive list of our favourite Chardonnay growers, makers and respective wines below).
This is Chardonnay from a single vineyard named ‘Georges Vineyard’ in the Seville East area of the Yarra Valley, considered by locals and wine trade as ‘Upper Yarra’. Upper Yarra is slightly cooler than the area around Healesville and Coldstream, so suits this fine and sleek expression of Chardonnay; a style that has made international wine folk take notice of Australian Chard. It is by Dylan McMahon and Matt Burton, two young but seriously well credentialled winemakers who are winemaker/ general managers at Seville Estate (Yarra) and Gundog Estate (Hunter) respectively. They joined forces for this side project so they could put their style and approach to a label of their own.
Dylan and Matt are old friends that concocted their new wine label plan whilst driving through the regions of France. The goal was to produce ‘interesting and unique wines that reflect varietal character and terroir’. It is no surprise then, that this Chardonnay has similarities to those of Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet. There is a genuine and intense concentration of lemon pith, stone fruit and pink grapefruit flavours along a juicy core and slippery mouthfeel. The aromas also reflect these flavours, with a stony, flinty influence and some fresh toast, grilled hazelnut like scents.
Dylan’s resume of Chardonnay’s at Seville Estate is one to be aware of. He is a young master of this variety, understanding how to manage and express it with minimal winemaking influence. ‘Elegance and finesse’ are the key to Dylan’s approach, and he manages this by handpicking the fruit, pressing it straight to barrel where it ferments naturally, without any additions. There is no malolactic fermentation (the acid-transformation process that gives Chardonnay a creamy, soft richness), however he employs extended lees contact to build texture and weight through the wine. This approach builds a tension between richness and freshness that is salivating. The wine stays in French oak barriques (225L) and puncheons (500L) for 10 months, allowing for just the right amount of oak influence.
We could have accessed the 2016 vintage here, though 2017 was a stronger vintage in the Yarra and it has delivered a more complete wine. It was a slightly cooler season, allowing for a fresher and finer Chardonnay. It will comfortably cellar for 5 more years, so through until early 2025. The wine will soften in time and continue to add weight. You can expect some of the fresh citrus flavours to drop out and more of the toast and nut flavours to appear, especially toward 5 years.
In terms of food, it is so medium bodied and well structured, with great depth, texture and cut, that it will cover a broad range of foods. Think grilled white seafoods with lemon and herbs, pancetta and parmesan pastas, seafood pastas, roast or grilled chicken, or Friday night fish and chips. Take your choice. We recommend cracking one open soon to get a good look at it as a young wine, and if you like how it tastes, keep working through them. If you’d like to see a bit more softness, give it another 12 months in the cellar.
Other Australian Chardonnay producers that are killing it at the moment, and to consider for the cellar are below. Drop us a line if there are any here you would like to try out, or if you are interested in discussing some of our French counterparts.
- Shaw + Smith ‘M3’ and ‘Lenswood’ – Adelaide Hills
- Murdoch Hill ‘The Rocket’ – Adelaide Hills
- Holyman – Tasmania
- Tolpuddle Vineyard - Tasmania
- A Rodda ‘Willowlake’ or ‘Smiths’ Vineyard - Beechworth
- Bindi Quartz – Macedon
- Curly Flat - Macedon
- Craiglee - Sunbury
- Hoddles Creek ‘Estate’ and ‘Syberia’ – Yarra Valley
- Salo – Yarra Valley
- Serrat – Yarra Valley
- Oakridge 864 – Yarra Valley
- Seville Estate ‘Estate’ – Yarra Valley
- Mount Mary – Yarra Valley
- Mac Forbes ‘Woori Yallock’ – Yarra Valley
- By Farr – Geelong
- Irrewarra - Geelong
- Ocean Eight ‘Verve’ – Mornington Peninsula
- Garagiste ‘Tuerong’ – Mornington Peninsula
- Voyager Estate ‘Estate’ – Margaret River
- Voyager Estate ‘Block 6’ – Margaret River
- Deep Woods ‘Reserve’ – Margaret River
- Cullen ‘Kevin John’ – Margaret River
- Vasse Felix ‘Heytesbury’ – Margaret River
- McHenry Hohnen – Margaret River
- Flametree ‘SRS’ – Margaret River