Autumn struck with a vengeance this week and with it came the mysterious word autumnal, which always brings out the dictionary nerd in me. So, naturally, I turned to the world’s biggest word nerd today for an answer. Dr Google says that the word autumnal can be used as a noun or an adjective. It can describe not only the time of year but also the type of activities that come with it. Which means snuggling up with another person or a cosy rug because it’s now sufficiently chilly to want to. It also begs for one thing when it comes to wine; slightly heavier styles, which means it’s only fitting to share a handful of the exceptional Chardonnays that I’ve been lucky enough to try this week, in the course of my work as a wine writer and adviser to one of Wellington city’s best stocked wine stores, Regional Wines & Spirits. So, here are my top drops this week.
Affordable and super tasty
2019 Jules Taylor Marlborough Chardonnay $24.99
When Jules Taylor talks about the weather that led up to the ripening of this big, dry, full bodied Chardonnay, she talks about warm, dry, sun drenched days and healthy grapes with smaller berry size than usual. No wonder this Chardonnay tastes so concentrated, creamy and rich, then, but what I love about this wine is its refreshing acidity because it freshness and length to every ripe sip.
The grapes in this wine come from Meadowbank Estate in Taylors Pass and Anderson Vineyard in the Brancott Valley. Whole clusters of Chardonnay were pressed into French oak barrels for wild yeast fermentation on solids with a portion of the wine being tank fermented. The wine sat in barrels for nine months with lees stirring regularly to add body, which comes through in the wine, which drinks well now and can age too.
Experimental wild yeast Chardonnay
2016 Pask Small Batch Wild Yeast Chardonnay $26
This wine is made in small quantities by a big name in Hawke’s Bay wine circles; Pask Wines. What it may lack in volume and availability, it more than makes up for in its full bodied, incredibly rich and savoury style. I love the spicy notes and integration of oak, yeast and grapey flavours which all combine in a seamless style in this tasty experimental wine from Pask. A stunner worth searching for.
Top shelf and worth it
2018 Smith & Sheth Cru Howell Chardonnay $60
Smith & Sheth is a pretty new company on New Zealand’s wine scene which was formed by a bunch of extremely well seasoned wine professionals, including viticulturist and Master of Wine Steve Smith, whose hand shows strongly in this wine, which was made from grapes grown entirely on the much respected Howell Vineyard in Hawke’s Bay. The result is a wine that struts its next level stuff from the first whiff to the last deliciously lingering sip. It’s bright and clean with great concentration without being over bearing. The oak is nicely integrated with concentrated citrus, pineapple and nut flavours and a hint of creaminess on the finish. It’s steely and fresh with great balancing acidity and an is an expressive, powerful drink now. It will age well too.
* Just as I was putting the finishing touches on this week’s blog, along comes a box from Pegasus Bay in North Canterbury, which contains the winery’s latest Chardonnay. I also attended the launch of Astrolabe’s new look and new wines this week. Watch this space next Friday for those two…