If you’re a Chardonnay lover, consider exploring Australian Chardonnay. From bright and fruity flavors, to complex and rich oak-aged expressions – this variety is sure to tantalize your taste buds. Let’s explore what makes it so unique.
Australia is renowned for its varietal wines – no surprise given its diversity of soils, climates, and winemaking techniques. The characteristics of these wines depend largely upon the producer; some make full bodied wines that are barrel fermented with minimal oak influence while others favor more ripe fruit flavors with a hint of vanilla and coconut from extended aging in French barrels. Other producers opt for stainless steel fermentation that brings out the intense citrusy notes associated with this variety.
Australian Chardonnays are particularly special due in part to their terroir. Many come from regions such as Barossa and Adelaide Hills which have warm climates, moderate winds and high levels of sunlight allowing grapes to ripen while retaining their natural acidity.
Let’s talk about some of these areas in more detail.
Australian GIs, Regions, & Subregions
Australia is broken up into regions known as GIs (the largest areas sometimes called zones) and those zones have regions which then subregions.
So, the 4 GI’s are: Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales.
Adelaide is technically a “super-zone” within South Australia and. New South Wales which is very confusing, but it’s how the Australians like to do things. This is not to be confused with Adelaide the city or the Adelaide Hills which is a specific winemaking site (near number 11) that is a subregion of Mountain Lofty Ranges. Yes — it’s confusing. Just remember Adelaide is the large generic super-zone, and Adelaide Hills is the smallest, most specific area.
You can see on the map below, the designations within each of these GI’s.
The wines we’re talking about today come from primarily Tasmania (bottom right), Tumbarumba (not shown on this map, but just south west of Sydney), and the Adelaide Hills.
Australian Chardonnay: Penfolds
When it comes to high-end examples of Australian Chardonnay, Penfolds is an obvious choice. For something more affordable, there is the delicious options like their Bin 311 (~$40 a bottle, so not exactly an everyday wine, but a great value) which has fresh tropical fruits, buttery caramelized cashew nut character with a creamy palate. This is also a great wine to add to your cellar for future aging!
The aged versions will evolve into toasted marshmallow, nutty, and creamy flavors. It’s an incredible experience to have an aged Penfolds. Two years ago I had the opportunity to drink a 2002 Penfolds Bin 311 and it was OUT. OF. THIS. WORLD. Of course, proper storage conditions were mandatory for a wine like this, and the vintage was spectacular.
If you want to look into something really, really, spectacular, look at Penfolds Yattarna Bin 144 Chardonnay. Grapes come from the cooler climates of Tasmania and Tumbarumba, providing excellent acidity (great for aging!) and fruit character. Penfolds says that this wine will benefit from some aging (approximately 3-12 years!).
As with many Australian wines, Penfolds sources their grapes from a variety of geographical indications (GIs), including Tasmania, Adelaide Hills Zone, and Tumbarumba subregion. These specific areas provide distinct growing conditions that create unique terroirs for each bottle.
Tasmania is the coolest region of them all, creating high acid, lively and light Chardonnays. Tasmania is actually known for it’s sparkling wines! The Adelaide Hills Zone has higher altitudes which bring cooler temperatures and provide an elegant backdrop – perfect for those looking for something light. Lastly, the Tumbarumba subzone (in New South Wales Zone), is known for producing excellent Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from it’s high mountain soils made of granite and basalt.
These GIs combined with Penfolds’ winemaking techniques make each bottle distinct and exciting – explore them today!
No matter which style you choose – Australian Chardonnays offer something new each time you uncork a bottle! Explore different producers and discover why this variety has become so popular around the world – cheers!
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