Chardonnay is a grape of many names, usually shortened versions: chard, chardy, card-onnay… more, perhaps. A most adaptable grape to site, winemaking style/input and vintage: yet it has found its mecca in Margs.
Australia is responsible for a really exciting array of chardonnays. Really exciting. There are some steely and mineral laden examples from Tasmania; fine, spicy and acid driven in Victoria (Yarra Valley, Beechworth etc); rich and complex from the Hunter Valley… in fact, if one was to get stuck into describing the different styles from the different regions, we would be here all day. Suffice to say, where there are grapes there is chardonnay and like your group of friends, they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, moods, personalities and virtues. So, what makes Margaret River such a hotspot for chardonnay?
The Gin Gin clone has a lot to do with it, but not everything. Gin Gin is grown elsewhere and hasn’t elevated other regions to the status of Margaret River: so what is it? The clones + the maritime climate + the location of the vineyards (proximity to the oceans, angle of hills, sunshine, sea breeze and all other things) … all in combination form the unique terroir of Margaret River. Add to that the talented winemakers who have chosen to make Margaret River their home and focus, and you’re essentially up to speed.
“an iron-clad structure, intensity with generosity, and sweet fruit with flowing natural acidity” James Halliday
“I spent all last week tasting 2016 burgundies, but the more whites I tried, the more I lusted after the Western Australian alternatives I came across during a visit there last November.” Jancis Robinson
“All five of my favourites of the 22 wines, scoring 18 or 18.5 out of 20, were from Margaret River. What’s great about them is that they have all the tension and precision (as opposed to fatness or, heaven forfend, oakiness) that is currently in vogue but, unlike many Chardonnays from the rest of Australia or even from cooler parts of California such as the extreme Sonoma Coast, they have enough fruit to counterbalance the acidity and austerity.” Jancis Robinson
In the 2020 Wine Companion awards, Margaret River took out twenty one of the top forty two chardonnays in the country – not a bad result for a little region with a comparatively tiny (compared to national) output.
Margaret River was also responsible for five of the twelve Single Varietal awards (Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Sauvignon (and family), Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon Sauvignon Blends), winemaker of the year (Vanya Cullen) and Best Value Winery of the Year (Domaine Naturaliste).
The Margaret River chardonnay style is typified by the presence of ripe yellow peach, pink grapefruit acidity and a savoury salty spice character that underpins it all. If you’ve ever read one of my chardonnay tasting notes you may notice the use of ‘curry leaf’ as a descriptor. I find this in many of the Margaret River chardonnays, although I do not think it is a character endemic to the region. Red apple skins, white stone fruit, brine, crushed nuts/cashews and a fine minerality all feature heavily too. The chardonnays from Margs are distinctive from the chardonnays from elsewhere, primarily due to the shape of the fruit profile, which to my palate, forms a comet-like shape over the palate: rounded and powerful at the front, driven and focused, with a tapering, long, fiery tail into the finish.
International Chardonnay Day is coming up on May 21st, so here are five to get you going:
Pierro Fire Gully Chardonnay 2018
Deep Woods Reserve 2018
Xanadu Stevens Road 2017 (splurge, but worth it)
Vasse Felix Heytesbury 2018 (another splurge, also worth it)
Windows Petit Lot 2017
And one for something a little bit different:
Walsh and Sons Little Poppet (Semillon/Chardonnay blend and bloody delicious, value!)
Part VI – Chardonnay’s the way
While Margaret River is renowned for producing many outstanding wine varieties, Chardonnay – along with Cabernet Sauvignon – has long stood out from the rest.
Said to mainly derive from the Gin Gin heritage clone, a high quality cutting so well suited to the Margaret River climate and topography it has long reigned supreme in the region’s vineyards, Chardonnay grapes have an intense fruit concentration that translates to complex flavours in the glass.
Chardonnay tends to vary drastically on the palate depending on where it is produced; the grapes adapt so well to their surrounding environment that the resulting wines truly encapsulate each sub-region.
Team a grape that reflects its locale with innovative and different winemaking styles, and you’ve got a variety of wine that has and will continue to surprise and impress.
Learn more about the Margaret River Wine Story – Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV & Part V.
Thursday May 21st might be International Chardonnay Day, but we think Chardonnay, the queen of the noble grapes, deserves much more than a day. We thought we would start the celebrations early, and we’d love you to join us.
Now is a great time to invest in a few bottles of Chardy to enjoy at home or with friends, while practising social distancing, of course.
- Visit the Margaret River Wine SHOP and get a few bottles of Chardy as some many of wineries are offering some pretty special wines with home-delivery.
- Specifically, to celebrate International Chardonnay:
- Passel Estate have released a limited edition vertical consisting of three bottles of our elegant 2016 vintage and three bottles of our new release, the 2017 Passel Estate Chardonnay, currently only available in this special six pack. Order now and join Passel Estate’s founders, Wendy and Barry, for a comparative tasting of the two vintages on International Chardonnay Day (details below).
- Cape Mentelle have put together a special 3 bottle Chardonnay Day bundle that features two exclusive back vintages (2011 and 2012) and the current release which received 97 pts by James Halliday. The detailed offer is available here. Offer valid until 22 May.
- Victory Point International Chardonnay Day Offer: 3 bottle offer – one each from vintage 2015, 2016, 2017 for $100. Contact [email protected] to order.
- Calneggia Family Vineyards International Chardonnay Day Offer: 30% off any Chardonnay from the CFV online shop when you use the coupon code intcharday at the checkout. Click here to buy. Offer ends 31 May 2020.
- Peccavi Wines International Chardonnay Day Offer: a limited release of the 2008 Peccavi Estate Chardonnay in a special six bottle pack, available to purchase on the website for $350 including GST and free shipping.
Wed 20 May –
- Don’t forget to pop your Chardy in the fridge….
- Clairault Streicker Wines are hosting a Zoom session exploring the wonderful world of Chardonnay!
@ 4:00pm AWST tune in as Senior Winemaker Bruce Dukes, Viticulturist and Senior Vineyard Manager Chris Gillmore and Distribution & Marketing Manager Dave Cribbin lead an informative and casual chat on Zoom. The wine of the day will be the Clairault Estate Chardonnay 2017. Learn about the winemaking and vineyard behind this award-winning wine, chat all things Margaret River Chardonnay and finish with any questions you may have. Come prepared with a Chardonnay of choice and questions! Bruce, Chris & Dave will be tasting the Clairault Estate Chardonnay 2017. To register your interest, email [email protected]
Thurs 21 May –
- La Kooki 2019 Right Side of Racy Chardonnay Release
- Cape Mentelle winemaker Ben Cane will be hosting a Virtual Tasting session at 4pm AWST/6pm AEST for you all the way from the beautiful and remote Margaret River. He will take you on a journey starting with a history of the region, the estate and then a vertical Chardonnay tasting followed by a live Q&A.
- Visit Passel Estate‘s Facebook page at 5.30pm (AWST) for an in depth tasting and discussion about the queen of the grapes, Chardonnay. Wendy and Barry will be opening a bottle of both the 2016 and 2017 vintages, to compare the merits of each and the differences in the growing and harvest conditions of each year.
Fri 22 May –
- Join Voyager Estate at 3.30pm (WA/Singapore/Hong Kong) in Celebrating Chardonnay Virtual Tasting that we’re hosting for Chardonnay Day. Open to all and is free. Hosted by our Sommelier Claire Tonon with Head of Winemaking & Viticulture Steve James as well as Winemaker Travis Lemm there to impart their knowledge and answer questions!
- Cabin Fever Friday Wine Bar will celebrating our “International Chardonnay Week” by rounding up some of Margaret River’s all-star winemakers and beaming them directly to you – wherever you may be, at 6pm (WA/Singapore) via Instagram Live (follow @cabinfever_au)
Dreaming of doing a Margaret River Chardonnay grand tour? This Chardonnay Trail features a mix of some of the region’s most iconic and some outstanding up-and-comers! Is certainly a great place to start your holiday planning.
From Monday May 18, the travel restrictions from Perth-Peel, Great Southern and the Wheatbelt to the South West will be removed. We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Margaret River Wine Region, but things will be a little bit different as we all adjust to the social distancing measures. Wine Tastings in WA are still not allowed unless having a meal. To see the most up-to date-list of WHAT’S OPEN, make sure you click here.
- For your chance to WIN a mystery 6 pack of Margaret River Chardonnay from Margaret River Wine Association, on International Chardonnay Day (May 21) post a picture of your Chardonnay on Instagram, Tag #margaretriverchardonnay and #InternationalChardonnayDay and FOLLOW @margaret_river_wine
- To celebrate International Chardonnay Day our friends at the Good Food & Wine Show are running a competition to WIN 6 bottles of the regions finest award-winning Chardonnays delivered straight to your door! The prize includes 6 bottles of Gold Medal winning Chardonnay from the Margaret River Wine Show cellar including:
1 x @deepwoodsestate Reserve Chardonnay 2017
1 x @devilslairwines Chardonnay 2016
1 x @evansandtate Redbrook Chardonnay 2015
1 x @heydonestate The Willow Chardonnay 2016
1 x @vassefelixwines Heytesbury Chardonnay 2015
1 x @xanaduwines Reserve Chardonnay 2014For your chance to WIN all you have to do is:
1️⃣ LIKE this post
2️⃣ TAG a wine lover you’d share this with
3️⃣ Both FOLLOW @margaret_river_wine & @goodfoodwine
See Ray Jordan’s Top White Wines from under $40 for some inspo for your summer wine shopping list! There are so many great Margies wines to try, whatever your mood or budget!
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2018 ($39) 95 points
Best value wine
Deep Woods Ivory Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15) 93 points
Deep Woods Ivory Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($15) 93 points
Amelia Park Trellis Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($15) 89 points
Brookland Valley Verse 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($14.95) 90 points
Xanadu Exmoor Chardonnay 2018 ($20) 93 points
Flametree Embers Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18) 89 points
Xanadu Exmoor Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($20) 92 points
Amberley Secret Lane Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($20)88 points
Vasse Felix Classic Dry White 2019 ($19) 92 points
Xanadu DJL Chardonnay 2018 ($25) 95 points
Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Chardonnay 2018 ($22) 91 points
Forester Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($25) 94 points
Ashbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($24.95) 91 points
Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($25) 92 points
Voyager Estate Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($24) 94 points
Hay Shed Hill Block 1 Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($23.65) 94 points
Clairault Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2019 ($20) 90 points
Sandalford Estate Reserve Verdelho 2019 ($25) 92 points
Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2018 ($39) 95 points
Xanadu Chardonnay 2017 ($39) 94 points
Evans & Tate Redbrook Estate Chardonnay 2017 ($40) 94 points
Flametree Chardonnay 2018 ($29) 93 points
Voyager Estate Girt by Sea Chardonnay 2018 ($28) 92 points
Moss Wood Ribbon Vale Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2018 ($32)
Thompson Estate Four Chambers Sauv Blanc Semillon 2018 ($25) 91 points
Domaine Naturaliste Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($27) 94 points
Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($31) 93 points
Leeuwin Estate Art Series Sauvignon Blanc 2018 ($31) 92 points
This list has been taken from Ray Jordan’s Top 100 White Wines & Sparkling, published in The West Australian in November 2019. The final list was chosen from nearly 600 wines submitted from all over Australia and New Zealand, which sell for $40 or less.
Full list click here