Chardonnay has had a bad reputation in recent years, with the grape tarnished by a trend for big, bold and aggressively oaked version of the wine which was sought after back in the 80s.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before demand for bigger, punchier and excessive Chardonnays reached its peak and wine lovers grew tired of feeling like they were chewing on a dirty wet log.
But good news – the grape is back, it’s been revamped and it’s better than ever! Is Australia to thank for that? We think so!
The Wine Pig has been banging on the Chardonnay drum for a while now, sometimes, its seems, to an empty audience. But what’s not to love about the crisp, elegant, modern style of this wine which we’re confident will take the world by storm.
Our love for all things Chardy starts in the cold climate Victorian region of Yarra Valley, where The Wine Pig offers a huge congratulations to our top five Chardonnays and their producers.
For the Chardonnay lover in all of us.
Clonakilla, Canberra District – 2014 Tumbarumba ChardonnayIt’s no secret that The Wine Pig has fully embraced its new and growing love for all things Chardonnay and Clonakilla now has raised the bar for Chardonnay producers Australia-wide. It has the classic cream and oak textures while also dishing some melon, pear and spice characters. Truly wonderful.
Coldstream Hills, Yarra Valley – 2011 Reserve ChardonnayThis fine and beautifully balanced Chardonnay by Coldstream Hills has the classic Yarra Valley notes of white peach and citrus, finished off with hints of French oak which add a little punchiness to an otherwise fresh and vibrant wine. It’s elegant, seamless and incredibly sophisticated.
MountAdam Vineyards, Eden Valley – 2013 High Eden Estate ChardonnayThis is a superb 2013 High Eden Chardonnay by Mount Adam Vineyards in Eden Valley, South Australia. An amazingly deep flavoured wine with fantastic body. Packed full of stonefruit notes with an additional hint of nuttyness. A wonderful elegant Chardonnay! Thank you Mount Adam!
Fox Gordon, Adelaide Hills – 2015 The Empress ChardonnayThe 2015 vintage of Fox Gordon’s ‘The Empress’ Chardonnay has lashings of the classic stonefruit and French oak but with the added perk of these classic flavours being complemented by delicious blood orange and toasted nut notes. It’s acidic, it’s oaky. It’s fresh and it’s creamy. In all, it’s seamlessly balanced and deliciously quaffable.
TarraWarra Estate, Yarra Valley – 2013 Reserve ChardonnayObviously, being in the Yarra Valley, you don’t have to go far before bumping into a delicious cold climate Chardonnay. Creamy, buttery and fantastically smooth, this Chardonnay mixes its hints of oak with beautiful stone fruit aromas leaving you wanting more and more with every sip.
De Salis, Orange – 2013 Lofty ChardonnayDe Salis's 2013 Lofty Range Chardonnay sits right at home in The Wine Pig's favorite Aussie Chardonnays. Located on the edge of Mt Canobolas in Orange, NSW, the cool climate helps create a perfect fullbodied wine. In keeping with the De Salis style, this Chardonnay is complex, rich and has great big flavour while at the same time managing to maintain the perfect balance. It truly needs to be tasted to be believed!
Punt Road Wines, Yarra Valley – 2014 Chemin ChardonnayThis is up there as one of our favorite Chardonnays from the region. A perfect example of a cold climate version of this beautiful wine. The Wine Pig just can’t get enough of the buttery, creamy texture which is perfectly balanced with some light acidity and a hint of zing.
Seppelt, Victoria – 2013 Jaluka ChardonnayAgain from the Yarra Valley, as one of the country’s most iconic producers, Seppelt certainly didn’t disappoint with this deliciously lively and fresh wine. It’s fruity and crisp without the sharp acidity sometimes found in other varietals, while keeping the creaminess of a traditional Chardonnay on the lower end. You are guaranteed to impress your friends with a bottle or several of this over the weekend.
Grant Burge, Barossa Valley – 2012 Summers ChardonnayMeanwhile, this Chardonnay is a little different. Although based in the warmer climate of Barossa Valley, the grapes are actually collected from Grant Burge’s cool climate Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley vineyards. Grant Burge has actually created a very soft and naturally acidic Chardonnay wine which could even rival the Yarra Valley! This is definitely a winner for the dinner table.
Evans & Tate, Margaret River – 2015 Butterball ChardonnayThe Wine Pig tops of this list with a Chardonnay for fans who yearn for more of the qualities in the old days – its packed full of extremely rich, butter flavours with a touch of stonefruit and melon characters all encased in a smooth, luscious wine. It leave you yearning for more!
Married winemakers and co-owners Candice Helbig and Frewin Ries founded CRFT Wines in 2012, turning a lifelong dream into a reality.
Their winemaking philosophy is simple: preserve what the vineyard grew and create balance and harmony, leaving a minimal winemaking footprint.
Sourcing the fruit from seven South-Australian vineyards across Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley and Eden Valley, the duo do an amazing job of championing the diversity of soils and climates across the regions
Candice and Frewin live in Carey Gully in the Adelaide Hills with their two dogs, Angus the Labrador and Cooper the Jack Russell Terrier.
Here Candice shares her wine story and talks to The Wine Pig about her love and passion for all things wine.
Why did you decide to become a winemaker?
I grew up in the Barossa Valley and have been surrounded by the wine industry my entire life. After high school my dad helped me get a job on a bottling line, which eventually evolved into laboratory work, and then on to wine making. I had been intrigued by every aspect of being a winemaker, how exciting and varied the career was and I was inspired by the winemakers around me and what they were creating.
I then enrolled to do the Bachelor of Applied Science in Wine Science through CSU and haven’t looked back!
What attracted you to the Adelaide Hills wine region in particular?
The beauty of the hills and it’s diversity for making exception quality wines of many styles. It is particularly perfect for growing Pinot Noir and Grüner Veltliner – two varieties Frew and I are incredibly passionate about.
It’s also a very unique climate for growing wines. We get the warm-to-hot days perfect for ripening and flavour development. But our nights are cool-to-very cold, which is perfect for slow ripening and maintaining natural acidity. It’s this quite extreme diurnal temperature variation that makes our region so unique and perfect for premium wine growing.
Can you describe your winemaking style, and how it differs to your peers in the region?
Our winemaking style is all about allowing the wine to evolve and to be itself, allowing the wine to be the focus and for it to be an honest reflection of the site. We don’t want our wines to become a reflection of what happened to them in the winery. Our style is about purity and expression. We want our wines to be lively and harmonious. We’re not aiming to produce a particular ‘style’ of wine, more so we are making the each wine to best reflect the site.
Which of your wines are you most proud of and why?
It’s hard to decide! I think the Pinots are probably our proudest achievement so far. The wines are very distinctive and they continually surprise us with how they develop and age. Pinot changes dramatically as it matures, it’s a very intriguing variety to make.
What most surprises people about CRFT Wines or the wines you produce?
The difference between each wine. People have been genuinely surprised and excited about the individuality of each wine. You know, we can always tell people our story and why we are doing what we do, but when people actually experience our story for themselves through tasting our wines, it is just amazing. People really get it.
What are you drinking now, and what are you cellaring?
We’ve been drinking quite a lot of the Kalleske wines from the Barossa Valley. These are stunning wines, so incredibly well made and perfect for aging. Where possible we try to get our hands on single site wines of the varieties we produce for drinking and cellaring. Wines that are well made and reflect terroir/site are what we want to drink.
It’s the end of a long day. You’re sitting down to your favourite meal and a great wine to go with it – what would that be?
It’d have to be an Austrian Grüner Veltliner from Domäne Wachau (any one of their nine Grüners will do!).
What is the most exciting thing coming up for both you and the business over the next 12 months?
We are in the process of setting up our own small winery which is very exciting and a dream come true for us both. Our other big news is we will be making another two single site Pinot Noirs in 2016. This will bring our range to five single vineyard Pinot Noirs!