Joelle Thomson

Writer, author, journalist

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Wines of the week... in homage to Chardonnay Day

International Chardonnay Day is on the Thursday before the last Monday in May each year, which means it was last week, making it timely for the release of three new Hawke's Bay Chardonnays from one of the region's key producers. Chardonnay is the world's most popular white wine in terms of grapes planted globally and sales measured around the world. Tony Bish is often referred to as the king of Kiwi Chardonnay and understandably too, since he fashioned the country's first ovum in which to ferment this great white grape and has decades of experience making Chardonnay in the Bay, which is arguably New Zealand's key Chardonnay region, but that's another story - or debate - for another time.

Here are Bish's three new Chardonnays with my reviews. 

Cellar worthy

19/20

2021 Tony Bish Golden Egg Chardonnay RRP $39.99

This is a new release of the evocatively named Golden Egg Chardonnay and it highlights the rich toasty qualities of the world’s favourite white wine, at its best. The wine gains its depth in part due to fermentation in purpose constructed concrete egg shaped vessels, which facilitate greater contact with lees, which in turn release their proteins and flavoursome richness into the wine as they decompose. Aromas of hazelnut and hints of almond add complexity to this full bodied Chardonnay with citrus zest notes balancing its smooth hints of creamy appeal and perhaps best of all, it’s an unmistakably dry style from the first sip to the last. Here’s a Chardonnay for grown ups.

The Golden Egg tastes like the pot of gold under the you know what and it drinks superbly now but begs for a decent year or five in a cool wine cellar to evolve and unfold its deliciousness even further. 

Drink me now

18/20

2021 Tony Bish Fat & Sassy Chardonnay RRP $22.99

This new relase of Fat ‘n Sassy is a lively Chardonnay with a full body and dry style, medium body and zingy finish. It’s fresh and citrusy in flavour with hints of lemon zest at the forefront of each sip. It rates a high silver medal equivalent score from me. Tasty and great value. Hard to beat at this price.

Fat 'n Sassy is one of New Zealand's best Chardonnays under $25 and arguably the best at RRP $21.99. It's a wine made to drink now or soon and will hold for two or three years. 

Impress yourself and friends 

18.5/20

2021 Tony Bish Heartwood Chardonnay RRP $34.99

Heartwood Chardonnay is made from hand picked grapes, 95% of which are fermented in barrel with 5% in a French oak egg shaped ovum at Tony Bish’s Urban Winery in Ahuriri, Napier. The wine is creamy and nutty with dry flavours and complex woody nuances from being aged for a year in Taransaud oak, 25% new, with regular lees stirring (aka batonnage) to enhance the creamy expression of Chardonnay’s full bodied character. This wine is made entirely from the Mendoza Chardonnay clone, grown in the Upper Dartmoor Valley and at Bay View on the coast.

The 2021 Heartwood Chardonnay is an impressive wine to enjoy alone or with friends; its production methods make it a fun party chat or simply cellar it for three to four years and watch it evolve further.

Pictured: The Urban Winery is housed in the former National Tobacco Building, one of Napier city's many art deco masterpieces.