Best Chardonnays in Australia – April 2024 Update


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This is Part 6 of a series we started 3 years ago, and update every 6 months. For a broader background, you can read Part 5 HERE, Part 4 HERE, Part 3 HERE, Part 2 HERE, and Part 1 HERE.


The peachy, buttery, oaky chardies of old seem to be making a comeback, which is promising. We’ve always liked the rich old style chardies, the ones the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement turned its back on, with all the young Turk winemakers producing grapefruit cocktails with struck match overtones, and barely reaching 13% alcohol. Malolactic fermentation, which gives chardies their creamy texture, is out or minimal, crunchy acid and grapefruit are in. What’s wrong with having a choice of both styles, and one in between?

Why is there a debate at all, when there’s a market for different styles. Wine snobs telling us what we should like? Sure, some of the cheap chardies from the turn of the millennium were caricatures of the real thing, but the swing to lean and mean went over the top and punters got really confused. That’s how Sauvignon Blanc become a popular refuge for many.

Why do winemakers behave like lemmings? I’ve had Tyrrell’s chardies that were trying really hard to look like cool climate wines. Even the old Scarborough label went that way in recent years … why don’t our winemakers use the natural assets of our vast terroir, and get their heads around the big market for old style chardies? You wouldn’t believe how many requests I get from my subscribers for good wines of this style. So we’ve included a few more in this update, but be warned: they’re a mixed bag.

Fat Bastard Chardonnay 2021 – $13 at Our Cellar. This wine is everything a good chardy is not, so why are we listing it here? Because the punters love it; it’s the best-selling chardy at Nicks for the last 5 years, they tell us. Other merchants say people buy cases of this stuff. Not surprising since the price is sharp, but everything else is really blunt. We have thick slabs of caramel oak, fruit that lacks varietal definition but is ripe and pineapple sweet. The taste is confected, makes me think of lollies. 87 points. Give it a big miss.

Given the wine’s popularity, the wine deserves more discussion. The guys at Nicks agree that the wine lacks ‘varietal character and depth,’ and add that ‘the palate is full, soft and round in the mouth possessing a sweet vanillin confection like character with some apricot, banana and peach fruit also present. Sweet, creamy finish with a vanillin apricot and banana lolly like aftertaste. A disappointment from this perennial favourite.’

Deep Woods Estate Chardonnay 2022 – $15 at Vintage Cellars. Stone fruits and grilled nuts, a soft rendition of Margaret River chardy from a winery that‘s built quite a reputation for its chardies. It’s rich and round and polished. Nothing’s overdone so it sneaks up on you, softly, softly – you look at the empty glass and wonder where it went. Good value. 93 points.

Petaluma Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022 – $18 at Our Cellar. Modern style, clean, fresh and energetic. White stone fruits and a squirt of grapefruit dominate, with oak taking a back seat. No fireworks here, but a lovely wine: soft and silky in the mouth, good length and fine balance, no struck match nonsense. Drink over the next couple of years. 94 points. 

Robert Mondavi Buttery Chardonnay 2021 – $18 at WSD. Another Californian, and a better rendition of the old-style peachy, buttery and oaky chardy . This example is a touch obvious in the execution as well – the butter is spread a bit thick, as is the vanilla custard, and the oak reminds me of a 4 x 2.

OK, I’m being picky here – the wine costs $20, and the elements will most likely integrate some more with another year or two in the cellar. In the meantime, make sure to drink it with rich food such as baked mac and cheese or Chicken Stroganoff91+ points.

Mondavi Bourban Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2021 – $19 at WSD. This is the better of the 2 Mondavis. Buttery and peachy with some toasty vanilla oak. A touch more subtle than the Buttery version above, but still rich and ripe, peachy and full-bodied. Hints of butterscotch and toasty vanilla oak. The creamy texture adds to the wine’s appeal. Drink over the next 2-3 years. 93 points.

Wickhams Road Gippsland Chardonnay 2022   – $19 at WSD. A much more subtle style of chardy. It’s a little riper and richer than usual after a warm vintage, even a touch creamy, but still Chablis in style. 93 points.

Pedestal Margaret River Chardonnay 2022 – $20 at Nicks. One of Larry Cherubino’s many labels. It shows the finesse Larry brings to all his wines, along with stone fruits, gentle oak and hints of struck matches. Medium-bodied but full flavoured, with great line and length. 94 points.

Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2022 -$22.50 at ED Cellars in Adelaide – last place down under for the 2022 (the 2023 is a leaner style). A pristine, fresh, energetic chardy form this great winery, up there with the Estate in terms of quality, at half the price. Seriously. classy, stylish and elegant, it glides across the tongue with a gentle touch, offering white peaches and cashews. Oak takes a backseat. You get a lot of polish for your money here, and perfect pitch. Brilliant style, reminded me of good Mornington Peninsula chardies and Chablis. Now showing gentle hints of maturity, but it’ll be good for another year or so. 94 Points.

Dog Ridge Butterfingers Chardonnay 2022 – $23 at Our Cellar. It’s not as buttery as it suggests, but it’s buttery enough for me. The oak is kept in check as well, letting the s the gorgeous fruit do most of the talking – ripe peaches and apricots, a touch of vanilla from the oak, good mid-palate weight, medium-bodied (14%), fresh and crisp, supported by a clean line of acid. McLaren Vale in a tux. 94+ points. Good drinking now, but will fill out a little more over a year or two.

Beechworth Wine Estates Chardonnay 2021 – $25 at WSD.  Chardies from this area tend to be expensive, a trend led by Giaconda. This one shares the babbling brook squeaky cleanness and minerality at a more appealing price point. 94 points.

Oakridge Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2022 – $25 at Nicks. Some struck match funk but not overdone, some citrus notes keeping the peaches in check, and roasted nuts in the background. Good depth of flavour here, and good length leading to a dry finish. 94 points. Stylish chardy for the asking price.

Isabel Estate Chardonnay 2021 – $25 – $30 at DM’s (a regular member special). Buying the winery was a smart move by Dan Murphy’s – these are quality chardies at attractive prices. They tend to start life with fairly obvious oak (which integrates over time), but this vintage has produced a more fruit-forward style, rich, ripe and seductive. A lot of Chardonnay for the money. 95 points.

Creamery Chardonnay 2021 – $25 at Our CellarMade by O’Neill Vintners, who make ripe Chardonnays from grapes grown in California – Monterey, Paso Robles and Clarksburg. It’s 100% barrel fermented, sees 100% malolactic fermentation, and spends seven months in American and French oak. It delivers what it says on the label: rich, ripe, buttery and peachy Chardonnay with a creamy texture, backed by toasty oak. The best of the Californians on this list IMHO, and the sharpest price down under. 94 points.

Kooyong Clonale Chardonnay 2022 – $26 at Barrel & Batch. This was a hot favourite a few years back when it sold for less than $20. The tightly-wound, energetic and elegant style has not changed a lot since. An seamless blend of citrus and honeysuckle, nectarines and cashews, finished with a touch of ginger. The fine acidity gives the finish a lift. 94 points

Rosily Margaret River Chardonnay 2022 – $27 at Winesquare. 2022 was a warm, dry vintage, and the wine reflects that with rich and ripe fruit, and adds seamless oak integration. A lovely rich, round mouthful. 94+ points.

Craggy Range Kidnapper’s Chardonnay 2021 – $28 at Crown Cellar. Named the No. 1 winery in New Zealand by the Real Review in 2023. Bob Campbell’s review led me to expect a Kiwi version of Chablis, but instead I found a compact, round, smooth chardy serving nectarines and melons. To my mind it lacks a fine line of acid guiding it toward its conclusion. 93 points.

Garagiste Le Stagiaire Chardonnay 2023 – $30 at Barrel & Batch. Barnaby Flanders is a pinot noir and chardonnay tragic, they tell us. He travelled the world and fell in love with the wines of Burgundy. In 2006 he founded Garagiste Wines on the Mornington Peninsula, where he makes small batch premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This is Garagiste’s value leader. The fruit was  whole-bunch pressed directly to 500-litre puncheons and spent 8 months on lees to build richness. The style is fine-boned and pure, fresh and zesty, fruit-driven with citrus overtones. Oak doesn’t intrude. 94 points.

Neudorf Tiritiri Chardonnay 2022 – $32 at Nicks. From beautiful Nelson on the south island of NZ.  A faint whiff of struck matches leads to an elegant chardy of some complexity. It spent 10 months on lees with monthly battonage (stirring), then went through malolactic fermentation. Peaches, ripe apples, a squirt of grapefruit and some chalky minerals. Chalky minerals  and a creamy texture complete the picture. Subtle and elegant. Delicious chardy. 94+ points.

Scorpo Aubaine Chardonnay 2022 – $34 at The Vine Press. Aubaine is an historic Burgundian synonym for chardonnay and means amongst other things, good fortune. This a great intro to classy Mornington Penisula Chardonnay. White peaches and melons do the talking, backed by nutty oak and a touch of struck match. Good depth of flavour, and ready to drink. 94 points.

Scotchmans Hill Chardonnay Bellarine Peninsula 2021 – $35 at Winesquare. Haven’t tried this vintage but these guys have a great track record for chardies. Here’s is JH’s take: ‘Clones P58, I10V1, I10V3, I10V5, 76 and 95; whole-bunch pressed to barrel, wild-yeast fermentation, lees stirred monthly, matured in new and used French barriques for 12 months. A mouth-filling, rich and creamy palate is striking, but does allow grapefruit to make a limited appearance on the complex, satisfying finish. 95 points, Special Value.’

Merricks Estate Chardonnay 2021 – $34 at Summer Hill Wine. This wine from the Mornington Peninsula is made from 2 batches picked 10 days apart. Both went through the malolactic, and the result is a wine that offers white peaches and cashews and a rich, creamy palate yet retains its natural cool climate freshness. Purity and precision here, classic Mornington Peninsula chardy. 96 points.

Montalto Pennon Hill Chardonnay 2022 – $33.50 at Wine Square. A blend of fruit from Montalto’s Tuerong and Red Hill sites, whole bunch pressed to French oak barriques and puncheons (23% new), wild fermented and stored on lees for 9 months. It went through full malolactic fermentation. White peaches and nectarines backed by cashews from the gentle oak. More intensity and mid-palate depth then I remember from past examples; the creamy texture leads to a long, fine acid finish. A class act. 95 points.

Collector Tiger Tiger Chardonnay 2021 – $36 at Wine Square. Made from Tumbarumba grapes grown at 700 m above sea level by Alex McKay who prides himself on the ‘purity of regional expression and varietal definition’ of his wines. He set up Collector Wines back in 2005 and has built quite a reputation for his Chardonays. Check the story here.

This is cool climate chardy of great intensity, offering stone fruits and grapefruit, maybe a couple of struck matches too many, but I confess that the flintiness adds complexity. Oak does not intrude. Great example of the style. 95 points.

Evans & Tate Redbrook Chardonnay 2021 – $40 at the winery (Fogarty Wine Group), or $36 for club members. The 2019 won 10 gold medals at Australian shows; the 2021 won 3 trophies in Sydney 2023 including Best Wine of Show. The 2021 also topped the James Halliday Chardonnay shoot-out. I haven’t tasted the 2021 yet. The style is refined, complex and textural. Chair of judges Sarah Crowe summed it up this way: ‘Australian Chardonnays are at the top of their game, and the Evans & Tate Redbrook Estate Chardonnay is delivering the highest quality at an accessible price for this level of wine.’

Santolin Gladysdale Chardonnay 2019 – $40 at Nicks. Matured in French oak (30% new) on lees for 10 months. A textbook Yarra Valley Chardonnay made in tiny quantities. Touch of struck match here, not overdone, white stone fruits and polished oak at the centre; the creamy texture stands out, the wine crackles with energy and strikes the balance between fruit and oak to perfection. 5 years old and still fresh, a lovely wine. 96 points. 

Dappled Appellation Chardonnay 2022 – $40 at ED Cellars. Last place down under with stocks of the 2022; the 2023 is not out yet. Shaun Crinion burst on the scene a few years ago, as they say – he had been pretty quiet before James Halliday named his small operation the top new winery of the year. The story is that he went surfing in California about 20 years ago, ran out of money and ended up working for his uncle who was a winemaker over there. He caught the bug and ended up travelling the world, working in various wineries.

Shaun’s 2019 Chardonnay was a perfect example of modern Yarra Valley Chardonnay, a masterpiece of energy, tension and fine balance; he didn’t make a lot of wine in 2020, and it was gone in a flash. The 2021 was a little too uptight for my liking, but the 2022 is a riper, richer customer. The white peach fruit is gorgeous, and the oak lavish, and the wine has instant appeal. What is missing is some of that the energy and tension that made the 2019 so exciting. 94 points.   

Freycinet Chardonnay 2022 – $42 at the Wine Collective. We have to have a Tassie chardy in the line-up. I’ve seen stunning Rieslings from this winery but not their Chardonnays. Huon Hooke’s review starts with ‘a bitter orange-peel, lemon pith, cumquat and nougat range of aromas and flavours. It’s quite unusual but attractive, the palate intense and full, rounded and ample, with a distinct trace of bitterness that helps cleanse the follow-through. The tannins will help it stand up to flavoursome food. Long carry. A generous style of chardonnay, and really classy. 13.5%. 96 Points.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2020 – $45 at Your Wines in an unbroken dozen. 10% off for our first order. This is my top Chardonnay under $50, and this is the last source I can find. The wine judges agree: at the International Wine Challenge 2022 they gave it 3 Trophies, including New Zealand’s first International Chardonnay Trophy (97 points). A touch of gun flint on the nose, there’s rich and ripe peachy fruit backed by some nutty oak and a creamy texture, all fully integrated in a medium-bodied package of perfect pitch. 97 points. Serious Bargain.

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2022 – $42 in a 6-pack at Summer Hill Wine. Cyclone Dovi did a lot of damage to the east coast of New Zealand in 2022, but Kumeu in the outskirts of Auckland but spared Kumeu River, which had another good vintage. Bob Campbell at The Real Review talks about green apple and grapefruit notes and ‘taut acidity that gives the wine a nod in the direction of Chablis.’ After reading his review, I was in no hurry to try the wine.
When I tasted it 6 months later, it was a rich, ripe, almost voluptuous Chardonnay, with white peaches doing much of the talking, backed by some complex elements that suggested storage on lees. As always, the oak is a subtle addition and the integration seamless, and the malolactic fermentation adds a touch of cream to the texture. A lovely surprise. 94 points, heading for 95.

Petaluma Picadilly Chardonnay 2022 (yellow label) – $42 at 1st Choice. (Delivery). I haven’t tried this vintage, but Huon Hooke has: ‘Light-medium yellow with a complex bouquet of toasted nuts, cashew and almond, the palate rich and complex, full flavoured yet elegantly structured, some wheaty notes and there is richness and fullness on palate that finishes right out in a very long-lingering aftertaste. Spicy oak adds extra layers without being intrusive. A faint impression of sweetness sits in the core adding an extra degree of richness. Powerful, satisfying finish. A statuesque chardonnay. 96 points.’

Dog Point Marlborough Chardonnay 2020 – $45 at Summer Hill Wine. ‘Dog Point owns New Zealand’s largest organic vineyard,’ Bob Campbell tells us. ‘It has a proven record of producing good wines in challenging vintages and superlative wines in favourable years. 2020 was such a year.’

I haven’t tried this vintage so I’ll let Bob continue: ‘Intense, mouth-watering chardonnay with lime, pineapple, oyster shell/mineral, hazelnut and subtle spicy oak flavours. A delicious high-energy wine in a rather Chablis-esque style, with purity and power. 96 points.’

Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2022 – $50 at Winestar. Tom Carson has built a great reputation for his Chardonnays and Pinots Noir. I haven’t tried this vintage, but Jane Faukner from the Wine Companion has and says ‘this is an exceptional wine. A perfect amalgam of stone fruit and citrus, zest and spice, savoury oak and cedar, mouth-watering acidity and creamy lees. A delicious wine. Get it while you can. 96 Points & Special Value Star.’

Cherubino Dijon Chardonnay 2022 – $50 at Grevillea. Larry the wizard won the trophy for best white wine producer at the IWSC in London. He makes about half a dozen single vineyard Chardonnays, and this is one of them. I haven’t tried this Margaret River chardy yet but Huon Hooke has: ‘Smoky reduction and traces of butterscotch, hazelnut and nougat: latent complexity here. Refined and subtle, but also really intense and focused, with excellent line and length. A stylish, refined and understated chardonnay that promises to have a bright future. 96 points.

Domaine Naturaliste Artus Chardonnay 2021 – $52 at Summer Hill Wine. This chardy made by Bruce Dukes at Margaret River manages to unite diverse characters into an exciting wine. There’s the opulence and creamy texture that malolactic fermentation produces, backed by spicy, toasty oak. Yet it doesn’t lack a certain finesse, a touch of mineral elegance, and a fine line of acid keep it all neat and tidy. 96+ points. Will improve for a couple of years at least.