Another summer Saturday passed by swiftly, sped toward evening by one more free tasting at our fancy Grey Lynn store. This time it was Chardonnays, with eight of our best wines set up for customers to sniff and swirl. And employees may have had a chance to do the same. All in the name staff training, you understand. Yes, at Caro’s we take training seriously – and we often take our work home with us. Anyway, the benefit is that we can share the experience with far-flung readers. Because these Chardonnays were carefully chosen for serious quality and value.
Highlights included the gorgeous Talmard Macon-Uchizy and the Bouchard Rully – both from Burgundy. From New Zealand the Astrolabe Province Chardonnay was predictably elegant and complex, but unexpectedly expressive – coming across as the day’s ‘biggest’ Chardy. (Watch out Hawkes Bay, Marlborough is showing the advantages of big, open aromatics). But the wine of the day may have been the Ata Rangi Petrie Chardonnay, which was medium-bodied and fresh but very complete, with a harmonious and rounded feel that hit all the right spots.
In what follows, these favourites on the day will appear with a star beside them. The order is how we tasted them – from light and fruity to full and round. And we have included all the wines tasted, so you can decide which you may want to take home yourself…
* 2015 Talmard Macon-Uchizy, $23.99
Harmonious and simply delicious, this bright and fruity Maconnais is perhaps the most accessible aperitif Chardonnay in store. A full estate wine from a boutique producer, the cheap price belies the high quality: it is simply unpretentious, that’s all. Peachy apple and citrus accompany delicate tropicals in a bright, gently oily mouthfeel that finishes with an almost imperceptible touch of chalk – just enough minerality to complete this charmingly fruit-forward style. Typical of the Macon-labelled style, yet far more generous and delightful than most. Gorgeous.
* 2014 Bouchard Rully Blanc, $33.99
One of the staff favourites, this Rully is youthful and highly focussed now but offers obvious potential and lots of Burgundy dimension for the price. Deep citrus flavours are steely and long, with a layered palate of rarified fruit and chalky earth. A fine, salivating finish lingers on stoney characters and a subtle whiff of gunflint. This showing is not as fruit-forward as many 2014s -yet – but it offers serious value in Burgundy for the decanter or cellar.
* 2014 Ata Rangi Petrie Wairarapa Chardonnay, $26.99 (sold out at discounted price)
Very stylish and complete, this was probably the wine of the day (at least for the Kiwi palates). There really wasn’t anything it lacked – it had roundness and a lightly creamy texture but was at the same time medium bodied, bright and mineral. Subtle wet-stone freshness was seamlessly rounded by mealy, nutty, and buttery notes. The fruit too was in a balanced spread, with fresh citrus and light stone fruit melding nicely with riper hints of marmalade and topicals. Both rich and light, both ripe and fresh, both focused and layered with effortless nuance: this was superb quality, and beautifully made. Consequently it was hard to decide where to put it in the tasting lineup. It came across as gentle – hence only the third wine – but it equally had the generosity and presence to be further up the order, among the richer wines.
2014 Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Chardonnay, $19.99 (discounted)
From old hands in Marlborough – now emerging as premium and single-vineyard experts – this mid-level Giesen ‘Brothers’ wine was generous and classic Marlborough. The aromatic was expressive and open knit with a nice dusty, spicy oak character supported by bread and fruit notes. Fine citrus and apple in the mid-palate finish again with a return to lingering dusty, mealy oak. Large German fuder barrels add a delicate and aromatic character to the oak, making it a sophisticated statement in Marlborough Chardonnay – and superb value.
2015 Tony Bish ‘Fat and Sassy’ Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, $19.99
From the legendary winemaker for Sacred Hill, Tony Bish, this is a masterful and super-value wine for the rich but sophisticated Chardonnay palate. In fact the old school Chardy style gets a reformed and refined treatment here, with classic hedonistic notes of toffee apple, ripe stone and citrus fruit and buttered toast coming in a seamless integration that feels both rich and elegant. Butterscotchy and effortlessly delicious, this is one of our biggest sellers for good reason.
2015 Theory and Practice Hawkes Bay Chardonnay, $19.99
A creamy and ripe Chardonnay from the ex-Dry River consultant Ant Mackenzie, the Theory and Practice was presented from an ice bucket and seemed a little cold for this style – but still showed as generous, easy and non-linear. Slightly more rustic and less sophisticated than the Tony Bish, it had a broad, big nose of stone fruit and some tropicals with meal, oak and mineral aromas almost masking a complimentary touch of slight funk. The beautifully integrated palate of ripe citrus, ripe apples and stonefruit lingered to a finish of buttery, mealy minerals. One of our best wines in the generous style, the Theory and Practice has dimension and pedigree for the price.
* 2015 Astrolabe Marlborough (Province) Chardonnay, $25.99
It shouldn’t have been surprising for this to be the last wine of the day, given a slightly higher price – like the Ata Rangi. But it was impressive to see this classic of Marlborough appearing ‘bigger’ – while remaining fresher – than the Hawkes Bay wines. It was as if, like the Giesen, the bright fruit and penetrating aromatics of Marlborough had such an open, expressive, mouth-filling effect that it came across as rich – even though the actual aromas and flavours were never ‘fat’, ripe, or overtly fruity. Instead it remained a checklist of sophisticated Chardonnay stuff: lemony citrus, apple and white stonefruit characters are defined but restrained, while the slightly creamy mouthfeel stays perfectly lively and long thanks to stoney mineral acidity. The whole package is beautifully framed by mealy notes and classy, toasty oak. A technically perfect Chardonnay, it has everything while being refreshing and simply delicious to drink. Marlborough Chardonnay is climbing up the order, literally!