Sunday, March 27, 2011

Go Chard or Go Home - Hunter Valley Chardonnay Tasting

The Hunter Valley is synonymous with Semillon - Australia’s finest, most age worthy Semillon at that. It also happens to be the birthplace of modern Chardonnay in Australia, a lesser-known fact. To showcase what the Hunter Valley can do with this most noble of varieties, on 15 March in Sydney, the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association organised a sizeable single blind tasting of 17 Hunter Valley Chardonnays.

The tasting provided all involved with a solid introduction/reaffirmation of what makes good quality Hunter Valley Chardonnay so appealing: a consistent number of  wines with flavours of largely yellow and white stone fruit, some leaning more to green melon, others fig, and less commonly some citrus flavours. The use of oak in most of the wines was evident, though was generally well considered and in balance with the fruit, leading to a creamy cashew nuttiness and subtle spice that did not overpower.

One obvious point of difference on the night was the 2009 Polin Polin Tudor Chardonnay. It had crisper acidity than the norm, more citrus flavours and a subtle almost Riesling-like minerality. Other wines in the line-up, including the 2009 Tyrrell’s Vat 47 was framed by nice acidity and finished surprisingly restrained given the primary fruit on show.

The 2009 Scarborough White Label (reviewed previously on this site) was of typically high standard and an example of sensitive use of quality oak to maximise the end result – typical Hunter Chardonnay fruit profile with the intelligent use of nice oak adding a spicy restrain and complexity to the wine. The 2009 De Iuliis Limited Release was another wine that stood out for its oak/barrel driven complexity with a nice spicy smokiness adding interest.

After tasting the 17 wines, it was clear that the Hunter Valley produces chardonnay in a broadly recognisable style (a riper style with nice stone fruit and sometimes fig flavours, creamy spicy oak and slight tropical fruit in the warmer vintages). However, the tasting also reinforced what we have found in the past – Hunter winemakers are successfully varying the regional chardonnay style, producing appealing ‘point of difference’ wines in the process.

Thanks must go to the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association for organising the tasting (which in included a Shiraz vertical that will appear on RedtoBrown in upcoming weeks as well) – an enjoyable and educational event that effectively showcased what the Hunter Valley has to offer.


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