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Wine of the Week for week ending 5 Oct 2008
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Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2006
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

On a few of the wine boards and blogs I frequent there's a tendency to make lists of the best. I've done it too. Just very recently in fact with my best of the last 10 years lists.  But look at different people's lists and it's amazing how the same wines appear over and over again. Take New Zealand Chardonnay, for example. Ask people to name their top six and there's the a huge probability that Kumeu River Mate's, Neudorf Moutere and Te Mata Elston will be on their list. As Craig of kiwiwinefanclub says, "only a fool wouldn't include those three".

But what about the up and coming wines, the wines that have shown incredible consistency over the last few years rather than the last twenty years in the case of the afore-mentioned three wines? What about the wines that we can actually buy?

When Craig raised the topic on the Auswine forum looking for a 'top six', I suggested he also consider Church Road Reserve Chardonnay. And now I am going to re-emphasise its inclusion in a Top Six Chardonnay list.

I was in the envious position of tasting all of the gold medal wines awarded at the New Zealand International Wine Show and when I tasted the line up of 22 Chardonnays in the secret room, when I tasted these 22 Chardonnays at a very leisurely pace to write the gold medal descriptions, the Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2006 was in a class of its own.

It was a brilliant clear gold, as were many of the wines, but it had a profound and fascinating smokiness that added an extra dimension of complexity to this already complex, multi-layered wine. There's also a nuance of salty bacon to the aroma and a sweet / savoury palate with grilled stonefruits, creamed nuts and a long, rich tantalising finish.

I had previously written about this wine in May this year . . . . "Honey gold coloured and rich and savoury scented with a nutty creaminess and when quite chilled the toastiness of the aroma and the toasty oak taste is enhanced. As the wine warms up, the funky wild yeast nuances dominate the aromas and in the palate, fleshy grilled peach and spice flavours emerge. A multi-layered chardonnay, one of the best that has come out of 2006, label to watch."

When the Trophy results were announced at the NZ International awards dinner last night, it seem that the Chardonnay judges agreed with me as they voted this wine as Champion Chardonnay.  But that's not all.  When all the 'variety' trophies were handed out there was just one left to announce - the Champion Wine of the Show. This is judged at the end of the competition and the champion wines from their respective classes are lined up on each judge's table for them to vote for their No. 1 and their No. 2 choices. The competition convenor tallies the votes  and the closely guarded secret that only he and a coupleof other people knew, was revealed last night.  John Manley of Nissan NZ presented the trophy and said, "The Champion Wine of the Show is ..... Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2006".

The achievements bestowed on the wine this weekend follow on from the Champion Chardonnay award at the Royal Easter Wine Show in early March.

Winemaker Chris Scott says he really does nothing to the wine - they have good growers who supply the best fruit from low cropped vines.  The hand harvested and hand sorted fruit is pressed into the French oak barrels (58% new) for wild ferment and wild malolactic fermentation. It then remains on its yeast lees for 14 months before racking and blending in readiness for bottling. The finished wine has 14% alcohol and the bottle is closed with a screwcap.

At $33.95 a bottle, it really is one of the country's most outstanding Chardonnays and continues the form that this label has shown since Chris  took over - the third vintage in a row to take out a 'Champion Chardonnay' trophy.  The 2006 is my favourite and it has evolved beautifully in the bottle over the last few months, with seemingly more complexity and depth than ever before.

There will be a few wine show bashers out there but they should  try this wine and see what they think.  Pernod Ricard - the owner of Church Road, is not afraid to put its best wines - that they have the quantities of - on the table to be judged against all and sundry. 

© Sue Courtney
28 Sep 2008

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