Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

What I am drinking, reading and savouring each week


Tasting note... 2020 Zen Chardonnay RRP $140

This week's WIne of the Week is the third vintage of Zen, one of New Zealand's best quality and highest priced Chardonnays. Does it live up to its name and its price tag? If ever there was a time of year to push the boat out and see, here it is with the silly season upon us. 


2020 Zen Chardonnay RRP $140

New Zealand Chardonnay continues to rise in quality and with it, the styles continue to diversify as winemakers become comfortable in their winemaking skins, so to speak... The latest Zen Chardonnay comes from Hawke's Bay from the superbly high quality 2020 vintage; a hot dry year with near ideal growing conditions in New Zealand's east coast wine regions. The 2020 Zen Chardonnay is the best of the Zen releases to date, says Tony Bish, who did not make a Zen from 2021 or 2022 but hopes to produce it again from 2023 onwards.

Dry, silky in texture and creamy in mouthfeel, Zen has savoury flavours of almond meal and oatmeal, supported by flavour notes of ripe citrus (lemon and grapefruit) and freshly cut nectarine, leading into white peach. Bish ferments and matures this wine in his French Oak Ovum, a large egg shaped vessel, as well as maturing 40% of the wine in new Taransaud oak barrels (40%). The first release of Zen was in 2017 and it's made from old vine Mendoza clone Chardonnay grapes (also known as hen and chicken since some grapes are tiny with high acidity while others are large with soft flavours). These grapes are dry farmed and the wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.