Cuisine Wine

NZ Chardonnay Tasting results

13 August 2018 (Cuisine magazine Issue 190)

Chardonnay shines across all of New Zealand’s wine regions, Creek, and Cameron Douglas, New Zealand’s first and only Master Sommelier and Board Member of Master Sommeliers America. says JOHN BELSHAM

“CHARDONNAY IS BACK!” is the catch cry. Well, in my view, she has never left. However, she has had some time to reflect as her more flamboyant peers, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc, have shared the limelight.

She has used the time wisely, consistently proving she is the only varietal that can excel in each of New Zealand’s wine regions. “Chardonnay is the wine style that most accurately expresses our NZ’ness across all of our regions,” says Simon Nunns, who has three decades of experience working with the grape. Since the 1980s, chardonnay has developed into our most complex, harmonious and international white wine. The best examples come from winemakers with the skills to push and respect boundaries whilst also being able to coax the very best in challenging vintages. Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas believes, “Great chardonnay rests in the hands of those who understand the importance of vineyard and soil. A winemaker’s job is to capture that specific terroir with subtle layers of flavours, texture and longevity.”

Top 10 NZ Chardonnay

Hawkesbridge Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2017

Winemaker Jo Gear says the 2017 vintage “was the most challenging harvest I have worked in 16 years. It was cold, rainy and there was huge disease pressure.” Add to that unusual logistic challenges and it’s fair to say it was a vintage that challenged at all levels. However, difficult vintages can also bring out the best in people and in a vineyard, as winemakers and viticulturalists dig deep and stay vigilant to deliver the best result possible. Heather and Milton Staples are the growers for the Hawkesbridge chardonnay. The Rapaura vines are now 25 years old and, with the roots deep into the soils, they are better able to defend against the unusual elements, within reason of course. Gear began working with the vineyard in 2006 and over time has relaxed more on the winemaking front as the resulting juice always performs very well. “Chardonnay is such a clever thing. It loves to be challenged and rises to the occasion to embrace the good. She is also generous and forgiving, so we winemakers love her unconditionally,” says Gear. The Hawkesbridge is naturally fermented and once put to barrel the next additions are time and patience. “I love this wine for its quintessential chardonnay character. It has all the hallmarks of the variety and sits so comfortably with all its inputs that nothing dominates,” adds Gear.

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  • Outstanding 6
  • Excellent 9
  • Very Good 21
  • Good 60
  • No Award 72
  • Total Entries 168