Saturday, March 14, 2009

Joanna Simon in The Sunday Times, February 22, 2009: Loving Chardonnay

A tasting of 20 Australian chardonnays last month reminded me of two things: how much I like chardonnay and miss drinking it as often as I used to and, secondly, what good winemakers the Australians are. Come to think of it, make that a few more things, because it also demonstrated how Australia’s signature style has evolved from fat, buttery and oaky to crisp, elegant and polished and how, in a not unrelated development, alcohol levels have come down from the highs of a few years ago, mostly to a more balanced 13-13.5%.

Finally, if less positively, the tasting reminded me how expensive decent Australian chardonnay has become. The cheapest was £6.99 (McWilliams Hanwood Crisp Chardonnay, stocked by Tesco) and only one other was under a tenner (ignoring some optimistically low prices given on the day). The other 18 wines went from £11-plus to £45, with five over £20.

This wouldn’t matter for Australia if we didn’t have so many other countries’ chardonnays on offer and if so many people hadn’t fallen in love with other grape varieties. But if, like me, you’re still a chardonnay drinker, here are three to try.

2006 Shelmerdine Chardonnay, £11.49
From Australia’s Yarra Valley: toasty, concentrated and fresh (Oddbins).

2006 Coralillo Chardonnay, £9.99
From Chile’s San Antonio region: cashew nut richness and candied peel zing (Marks & Spencer).

2007 Taste the Difference Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, £7.99
Stylish, fresh, nutty and smoothly textured (Sainsbury’s).