By Mel Brown
The thing about New World Chardonnay is that it can enhance any feeling at any time of day, anywhere. There are big slutty ones, delicate fine ones, un-oaked ones, chunky ripe ones, pure ones, ones with outlandish fruit and ones that sniff at even a nuance of fruit.
For instance, I'd be more inclined to drink big slutty ones over a long lunch, un-oaked ones for breakfast and delicate fine ones before a dinner party, hence my initial comment, there is a style for every moment. In New Zealand we're lucky, our Chardonnay reputation is second to none, we produce a range of styles across every region, (this is the only grape planted and produced successfully everywhere in NZ) and we're beginning to become incredibly popular on a global stage for the production of our Chardonnay. There's also an added bonus; the value is quite simply astonishing when you compare to our Old World Burgundian friends. SO much so, that when our dear friend Jancis Robinson attended one of the New Worlds greatest blind (chardonnay) tastings, Kumeu River came out on top nearly every single flight against French Chardonnay’s more than triple the price. Think this is probably proof enough, that you all should start listening. But hey, if you need more convincing continue reading...
It is always the case, we want to compare New World wines with the Old World wine regions of Europe whenever we get the chance. It’s understandable, these regions are famous for a reason, they have been making the best wines in the world unanimously for hundreds of years. The key differences with Old World winemaking and New World winemaking is the climate and soil types, but almost more importantly is the culture and winemaking traditions and ethos. This is one of the key areas we believe the New World has an advantage!
New World winemakers from NZ & Aus are often quoted as saying they use Old World techniques and traditions but add their own pioneering spirit to the wine they make. Another interesting advantage is Australian and New Zealand winemakers are not limited to the restraints of a DOC. They make wine with any suitable variety (based on their terroir) with the freedom and flexibility innovation requires.
One of the key flavour profiles that usually makes a New World wine obvious in blind tastings is the presence of concentrated fruit flavours such as peaches, pears and citrus. The prominent fruit flavours are a result of both the climate and the winemakers of the New World.
One of the biggest concerns wine drinkers that aren’t familiar with the New World style may have is whether or not Australian and New Zealand Chardonnay can age as well as their Burgundy counter parts. Rest assured, this is not the case! but more on that very soon...
In my eyes New Zealand struggled up until 4-5 years ago, much thanks to Australia managing to ruin the public perception of Chardonnay - especially here in the UK. The catchphrase ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) was coined and drinkers turned to Sauvignon in their droves. Wind forward a few years and Australia (thankfully) have resurrected themselves, honing in on quality over quantity.
There has certainly been a premiumisation toward Aussie Chardonnay, (thank goodness) and more than ever are we understanding stylistically the quality these Australian Chardonnays and wine regions are truly capable of. It’s hard to pinpoint the best Australian Chardonnay regions, but if I had to pick my top 3, in order, it would go like this Beechworth, (concentrated glory) Margaret River, (vivaciously seductive) Tasmania (attitude central).
It’s fair to say that both New Zealand and Australia have now defined a sense of style and have earned a presence on the world stage. This has been orchestrated by each and everyone of the producers who have worked tirelessly to work toward a bigger and brighter future for New World Chardonnay. If you haven’t been paying attention to New Zealand or Australian Chardonnay, take a look now because this is only the beginning. Strap in people!
Ok, so lets talk about oak and its influence and the subsequent over oaked abuse on Chardonnay during the 1980s. But before we get going on this one, oak is not bad! In fact it has many benefits and can be thee necessary component for making the greatest Chardonnays! Ageing wine in oak has been occurring since the Roman times - at first only as a means of light weight, cost effective transport but eventually the benefits of letting the wine age a little longer was discovered. Ageing Chardonnay in oak can improve its colour with a lovely golden hue, impart unique flavours such as vanilla and spice, soften the wine and create wines with a big round mouthfeel. The key with Chardonnay that has spent time in oak barrels is balance. If the oak flavours outshine the fruit, then we start to slip into the wine styles that were prevalent in the 1980s and a new generation of ABC members will be born. Lucky for New Zealand & Australian Chardonnay lovers, we have some amazingly balanced sexy wines that we can’t get enough of over here in the UK! Below is our picks for each of the countries:
New Zealand oaked Chardonnay example:
Australian oaked Chardonnay example:
These are the heavy hitters, the wines that deserve time in the glass to open up and evolve, the wines that we dream about EVERY DAY at The Specialist Cellars… These are the wines that Burgundy have taken notice of and rightly so. We are talking Icons such as Kumeu River from New Zealand & Cullen from Australia. These New World Chardonnays display and elegant balance of fruit, oak influence, and acidity. These are some of the best Chardonnays from New Zealand & Australia, And let's get real here - some of the best Chardonnays in the world.
If you want to buy one of the best Australian or New Zealand Chardonnays we recommend you take a look at these two below… life changing stuff!
New Zealand Iconic Chardonnay example:
Australian Iconic Chardonnay example:
Chardonnays that have minimal or no oak influence are generally from the cooler wine regions. Most of New Zealand’s wine regions are considered cool climate and we certainly excel in making sexy linear Chardonnay with character. In Australia there are a number of epic pockets of cool climate wine regions that are really starting to build some serious momentum. With these cool climate Chardonnays we can expect fresh vibrant wines due to the higher acidity and often mineral and even gunflint characteristics.
The recommendations below are New Zealand & Australian Chardonnays are wines that anyone who loves Chablis should try:
New Zealand unoaked Chardonnay example:
Australian unoaked Chardonnay example:
I know we said from the start that this article would have a definitive answer for who’s Chardonnay was better - New Zealand’s Chardonnay or Australia’s Chardonnay. But the answer is both countries are making some bang’n Chardonnays! We say sink your teeth into the wide range of styles available from both countries and get more Chardonnay in your life!
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New Zealand’s wine industry is almost solely based on the success of Sauvignon Blanc. Certainly by volume with almost 90% of the wine New Zealand exports being Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand has been making wine commercially since 1851 but it’s success with Sauvignon Blanc is reasonably new.