Always buy Chardonnay

by Sally Evans

It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Australia’s favourite white wine. Virtually unknown until the 1970s, Aussie Chardonnay became the darling of the wine world for the big blousy Dolly Parton styles of the 1980s. Its popularity then hit a wall with the 1990s’ ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement. But Chardonnay is back in fashion, with modern versions now made in a more vibrant, elegant and less oak-driven style. Hunter Chardonnay has been a big part of this evolution. Local legend has it that Murray Tyrrell jumped the fence in 1967 to pinch what turned out to be Chardonnay cuttings from Penfold’s HVD vineyard. The result was apparently Vat 47, perhaps one of our first Chardonnays. True or not, Chardonnay has been at the heart of Hunter winemaking for over 50 years and with local beauties like these, there should always be one in your shopping cart.

Keith Tulloch Field of Mars Chardonnay 2018

Echoing the Roman Legion’s taste for grand celebrations, this wine is named after an ancient parade-ground on the banks of the Tiber River. It is part of Keith Tulloch’s flagship range, which focuses on the very best parcels of fruit from micro blocks within their Hermitage Road vineyard. For the 2018 vintage, KT blended fruit from a tiny block of 1968-planted vines with grapes from a new super-quality vine clone planted in 2014. Exhibited for the first time in 15 years, it rocketed to Gold at last year’s Hunter Wine Show. This complex wine takes you straight to the orchard with flourishes of nectarine, orange blossom, and fig, while layers of sweet, nutty oak and savoury minerality create an intensity that justifies a premium price. A serious wine from a serious maker with serious cellaring potential.

RRP $70 (from March 2022)

Audrey Wilkinson Winemaker’s Selection Hunter Valley Chardonnay 2019

The home of one of the Hunter’s great cellar door views also boasts one of its best Chardonnay vineyards. The Agnew Family has been a positive force in the Valley for nearly 20 years, reinvigorating this historic property established by pioneering winemaker (Mr) Audrey Wilkinson in 1866. The 40-year-old vines planted by the front gate of the Pokolbin property produce consistently high quality fruit. Sprinkle in a light touch of French oak and some clever handling by winemaker Xanthe Hatcher, and this attractive wine of creamy lushness, spry acidity and flinty complexity is the result.

RRP $35 |

Tinklers Hill Chardonnay 2019

Generations of Tinklers have been farming in Pokolbin for over 100 years, diligently caring for their iconic vineyards with soil quality and environmental preservation firmly in mind. Small batch production from single vineyard sites began in 1995 under the stewardship of Hunter Legend (2017) Ian Tinkler, and their Chardonnays, currently made by winemaker nephew Usher Tinkler, receive awards year after year. The 2019 Hill Block Chardonnay is an affordable classic full of ripe stone and citrus fruit with elegant oak embellishment. History and tradition resonate in the Tinklers’ atmospheric cellar door, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about this modern beauty.

RRP $30 |

Brokenwood Stanleigh Park Vineyard Chardonnay 2020

Finesse and delicacy are not words some would readily use to describe Aussie Chardonnays of old. But wines such as this, from Brokenwood’s Individual Vineyard range, completely stomp on that out-of-date misconception. The Stanleigh Park vineyard on Wilderness Rd in Lovedale is chosen for the high quality fruit grown in the deep silt soil surrounding Black Creek. Skilfully made using whole-bunch pressing and wild yeast barrel fermentation, it’s a very attractive and sophisticated wine that sings with succulent white peach, zingy grapefruit and sweet cashew nuttiness. Get with the program you ABCers, a new Chardonnay day has dawned.

RRP: $66 |

Winmark Wines Rusty’s Run Chardonnay 2019

Karin Adcock’s Winmark Wines is rapidly becoming a must-visit destination on any trip to the Broke wine district. This picturesque complex, with its cellar door, art gallery, sculpture garden and several accommodation options, oozes taste and hospitality. Winmark is all about Chardonnay, following the early successes of wines produced under the Poole’s Rock label from vineyards established here in 1988 by the late David Clarke. The Poole’s Rock winery and brand, since moved to a Pokolbin base, are now part of the Agnew stable. Rusty’s Run is a new release, the little sister of the impressive Winmark Single Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay. Named after Karin’s beloved kelpie, it is an engaging, lightly-wooded gem, bound to get your tail a-wagging!

RRP $32 |