Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


What to drink when it's cold and you love white wines

"What can I drink when it's cold but I don't feel like red wine?"

Good question. Enter Chardonnay. 

It is often referred to as the red wine drinker's white wine because good quality Chardonnay tends to be full bodied with barrel fermentation, oak ageing and the creamy conversion of zesty malic acid (naturally in grapes) to creamy lactic acidity, found, as the name suggests, in milk, cheese and cream. These factors all make Chardonnay easily relatable for red wine drinkers, who also regularly enjoy the influence of oak in wine.

These eight new Chardonnays are fresh out of their wineries. Here are my professional ratings on these wines. 

2021 Te Kairanga John Martin Chardonnay RRP $40

John Martin Chardonnay is named after the eponymous founder of the town from which this wine is made, Martinborough. This wine is full bodied, dry, smooth and displaying firm acidity to balance flavours of fleshy white peach and lemon zest. The 2021 vintage was a dry, warm year in Martinborough and this wine expresses this favourable climate with its hot days, cool nights and great long flavours that come from the cooler temperatures in the region, adding length and longevity to the wine's flavours and agreeability. 

2022 Te Kairanga Runholder Chardonnay RRP $35

Aromas of fresh caramel and cream combine with fresh citrusy flavours on the front palate, leading into a bright crisp Chardonnay with a lingering finish. Very good quality wine for enjoying now with its soft, smooth palate and mouthfeel. It can also evolve and hold for up to five years, developing nutty, complex flavours. 

2021 Martinborough Vineyard Home Block Chardonnay RRP $40

A strong positive vintage (warm, dry weather) and old vines give this wine its impressive flavours of ripe peachy stone fruit aromas. Barrel fermentation provides a creamy mouthfeel and buttery aromas which add appeal and are underpinned by medium acidity adding drive and a core of depth to the wine.

2020 Vavasour Papa Chardonnay RRP $40

Succulence city. This wine has mouth wateringly enticing acidity adding complexity to the rich citrus flavours of this wine, which shows its cool climate origins in the Awatere Valley, south of Blenheim. Winemaker Stu Marfell coaxes ripe lemon and grapefruit flavours into a full bodied, silky, creamy textured dry white with a diverse spectrum of stone fruit and citrus flavours. This wine highlights the greatness of Marlborough Chardonnay.

2022 Grove Mill Wairau Valley Chardonnay RRP $45

A new release from an old Marlborough wine brand. Grove Mill is one of Marlborough's earliest wineries in the modern New Zealand wine industry and has had a rebranding to modernise its look and feel. This Chardonnay is also a modern style with its medium body and intense lemon zest and grapefruit flavours aligned to its smooth creamy mouthfeel and medium finish. Good drinking now or over the next two to three years. 

2020 Mt Difficulty Ghost Town Chardonnay RRP $45

Cool climate aromas of green pepper and fresh herbs lead into a full bodied, crisply fresh wine with aromas that suggest a cool region of origin. The region in this case is the Lowburn Valley in Central Otago and 2020 was a relatively cool year. The wine has a medium body, high acidity and aromas of lemons and green apples with a medium finish. Good quality and suitable for drinking now, especially with creamy dishes, which will marry nicely with the bold acidity. 

2022 Rockburn Central Otago Chardonnay RRP $32

Cool climate acidity is balanced by smooth, creamy, textural mouthfeel in this wine, which is made from hand picked grapes from two different sub regions of Central Otago; Parkburn and Gibbston Valley's Back Road Vineyard. Fermentation in a combination of stainless steel and French oak provides depth and creamy fleshy mouthfeel to the wine with high but balanced acidity giving great length and drive to every sip of this lovely wine. This is an extremely more-ish Chardonnay with enormous appeal and bold flavours. 

2022 Wild Earth Chardonnay RRP $29.99

Chablis-esque flavours shine through in this smooth, creamy, subtly powerful Chardonnay from the evocatively named Wild Earth winery in Central Otago. Grapes from the elevated hillside Highgrange Vineyard in Pisa were fermented in barrels, approximately 10% new, to give this wine its soft, textural qualities and full body. The long citrusy finish comes from the cool nights in the region, which provide fresh acidity and drive to each sip of this lovely wine.