edited by Sue Courtney
Wine Reviews - Chardonnay
Wine Reviews - Chardonnay
Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Chardonnay notes, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.
[2013 & younger]              [1999 and older] [index]
Alpha Domus Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold. Smoky and savoury on the nose with a great spine of citrus infusing the flavour of this lovely mealy, savoury style with a smoky French oak backbone, grilled peach and a long dry finish. Very very wheaty with a kick of citrus as the full savoury flavours linger. 13.5% alc. $37.95. 10Oct2013.
Aronui Single Vineyard Nelson Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Smoky on the nose with hints of grilled peach. Bold and toasty in the palate with sweet stonefruit flavour - apricot and juicy ripe peach come to mind. Full-bodied with a savoury undercurrent, it's like apricot marmalade on toast with hint of butterscotch lingering and exciting citrus lift to the finish. Plenty to like here. 14% alc. $24.95. 12Oct2013.
Beach House Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This bright yellow gold-coloured soft creamy wine has a caramel nuance to the bouquet and is full of juicy stonefruit and rock melon flavours. It's incredibly tasty with a lovely mealy richness to the lingering finish and while it was only a 50:50 hit with the tasters in the room tonight, it's great drinking at a great price. 13.5% alc. $17.99. 16Oct2013.
Black Barn Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Gorgeous, nougat and fig aroma with a lovely nutty oak infusion. Spicy and vibrant in the palate with harmonious toasty oak, grilled peaches and butter cream, all the while an exciting savoury mealy character in the background. Glorious. 13.5% alc. NZIWS Gold Medal Tasting 9Sep2014.
Black Estate Waipara Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold coloured with mealy nuances to the scent where smoky nutty notes waft through. Broad and creamy in the palate with a harmonious citrus note and a long rounded finish – yet still seeming like it needed to unfold so screwed the cap back on and tasted again a couple of days later. It develops into a rich, smooth, creamy wine with a citrus brightness, a lovely savoury backbone accented with oak spice, a long mealy nutty finish (hazelnuts and cashews) and hints of butterscotch too. Worth waiting a while. 13.5% alc. $38. 2May2014.
Brightwater Lord Rutherford Barrique Nelson Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Medium light gold. Grapefruit and caramel on the nose carry through to the palate. A powerful wine with spicy oak, peach, melon and nectarine and a harmonious touch of citrus as the flavours linger. Long and creamy. Loads of malo too, it seems. Balance, structure and finesse. 13.5% alc. NZIWS Gold Medal Tasting 9Sep2014.
Charles Wiffen Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light yellow gold with grilled peach on the nose that carries through to the juicy palate where there is well-balanced savouriness with mealy barrel ferment flavours that are very desirable. Full-bodied, mouthfilling, smooth and satisfying. My rating: Just delicious. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 19Feb2014.
Church Road Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Bright citrine gold with a tantalising aroma where nuts, pineapple, apricot, vanilla and nougat come to mind. But quite a contradictory savouriness in the palate - almost marmite - or is it charred oak - saying that it is not a big oaky number, it's just that the fruit is hidden behind. An intriguing wine that opens up well in the glass with a very good finish. 13% alc. $29.99. 10Oct2013.
Church Road McDonald Series Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Medium gold with a bold citrus tang to the scent and tangy citrus abounds in the palate together with tropical fruit, melon, toasty oak, cream biscuits and malo notes in behind. Doesn’t want to be overly chilled and needs a big glass to open up at this stage of its life. 13% alc. $29.99. 26Mar2014.
Clearview Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold coloured with a desirable mealy, creamy oak scent, it's rich and bold but beautifully balanced in the palate with concentrated peach and a touch of oak spice. Mouthfilling and long with a deep savoury presence and a flinty seam that is keeping it quite tight at this stage of its youth it will open up more with a little more time and won't disappoint followers of this wine. 13.5% alc. $37.99. 13Nov2013.
Coupers Shed Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 Light yellow gold with a tempting creamy butterscotch and smoky savoury oak bouquet and a bright spicy taste with a toasty richness, grilled stonefruit and touches of grapefruit on the long savoury finish where the fruit and oak are in harmony. Garnering complexity from the three years of bottle age and pretty smart drinking. 13.5% alc. $15.99. 6May2015.
Crossroads Milestone Chardonnay 2012 – Hawkes Bay (sc) Light golden coloured with a ripe stonefruit bouquet and light, fresh, soft creamy flavours with citrus and juicy tropical fruit nicely supported by savoury nutty oak. Tasty and easy to enjoy. 14% alc. $14.99. 28Aug2013.
Crossroads Winemakers Collection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This is a completely different style. There's subtle hint of grapefruit to the smoky French oak bouquet and it tastes sophisticated and creamy with a strong mealy influence, and stonefruit and citrus in harmony. It's still young and svelte and will continue to develop beautifully. 13.5% alc. $36.99. 23Oct2013.
Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Nougat, lime and vanilla chantilly cream flavours ripple over the dry savoury backbone, there's an increasing toasty richness and a touch of grapefruit on the finish. Does not want to be to chilled and is more of an aperitif style. 13.5% alc. $24.99. 23Apr2014.
Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Rich yellow gold coloured with a toasty bouquet and powerful stonefruit and tropical fruit flavours underpinned by spicy oak, a mealy savouriness, a mouthfilling caramel-like richness and a long, mouthcoating finish with an exciting citrussy tang. Beautifully harmonious and out to impress. 14.5% alc. $29.99. 16Oct2013.
Giesen The Fuder Clayvin Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Greeny gold hued with abundant grapefruit on the fragrant bouquet where a tantalising touch of smoky oak wafts through. Full-bodied and fulfilling in the warm rounded palate, there is wild yeast to the fore of this beautiful Chardonnay that is rich and long with a sensual long-lasting finish. I thought this delicious. 14.5% alc. $49.99. 22Oct2014.
Greywacke Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) “Oh yum” was my first impression from the tantalising bouquet that is bold yet seductively smoky with grilled peaches, hints of grapefruit and reductive leesy notes, then the wine flows through the palate so seamlessly with gorgeous savoury notes, touches of honey and toffee, beautifully honed spicy oak, hints of stonefruit and a full fleshy finish with haunting wild ferment funk and a lingering French oak smokiness. My personal favourite on the night. 14.5% alc. $37.99. 23Mar2016.
Isabel Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) The lovely ripe character of this fleshy wine fills the nose and it's smoky, creamy and spicy in the palate with grilled stonefruit, soft mealy nutty notes and a freshness to the lasting finish. 14% alc. $21.99. 8Jan2014.
Jules Taylor Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with an inviting butterscotch nose and it has that soft creamy butterscotch taste with a polished savoury oak in behind, juicy tropical fruit and a zing of citrus adding freshness to the bright lingering finish. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 29Jan2014
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light lemon gold hued with a lemony mealy biscuity sweetness to the refined bouquet and a little funky wild yeast action going on too. A malty, savoury style of chardonnay with beautifully integrated elegant French oak, a little tickle of zesty acidity, a subtle nuance of pineapple and a long dry finish that lets you ponder over the lasting flavours. What many people would call minerally, it has all the markers to gracefully age. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 8Jul2015.
Kumeu River Mate's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 – Kumeu, Auckland (sc) Lustrous yellow gold. Very savoury on the nose with lovely polished oak notes and a fresh nutty mealy character coming through. Zingy and fresh on entry to the palate, the grapefruit-like nuances in harmony with the butterscotch-coated oak, a lovely nutty savoury undercurrent and a long full finish. The texture is fine and silky and there is great mouthfeel and presence all the way through. 13.5% alc. $72.99. 5Feb2014.
Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This is a gorgeous start to a delicious wines evening and it's served chilled just as it would be at home. It's smooth and creamy with a tantalising peachy aroma and warm, rounded mealy flavours with juicy ripe stonefruit, a zesty undercurrent and a toasty oak finish – it fits the brief beautifully. 13.5% alc. $14.99. 23Oct2013.
Lawson's Dry Hills Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Bright yellow gold. Peaches and custard on the nose with subtle French oak wafting through. Creamy in the palate with a nutty nougat-like richness, peaches and savoury oak layers. There is lovely expansion of flavours as the wine flows with an exciting, slightly funky mealy undercurrent and a zingy twist of citrus imparting brightness and freshness to the finish. Very smart wine. 13.5% alc. $25.99. 30Jul2014.
Lochiel Estate Mangawhai Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with a delectable aroma of nougat, toasty oak and grilled peach that carries through to the smooth, rich creamy palate – the toasty oak and peach joining creamed nut flavours, with almost funky mealy notes and a lovely savouriness too. Juicy and creamy, with a flourish of citrus brightness on the end. Delicious. 14% alc. $20.99. 18Sep2013.
Mahi Alchemy Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) A biodynamic, inorganic wine from the Taylor Vineyard, it's a light gold colour and seems quite restrained on the creamed nut nose. Funky, nutty, wild yeast characters are the most dominant feature in the palate and while it initially seems quite flinty it fleshes out and sweetens to let the subtle citrus and stonefruit shine through. Great presence and length with a long creamy finish but it's been made to age so a wine for the cellar right now. 14.5% alc. $39.99. 5Mar2014.
Map Maker Marlborough Chardonnay Pure 2012 (sc) Light gold. While there is some malo character on the nose it is more definably citrus and honeyed oak and it's creamy in the palate with the zesty citrus brightness a lovely foil to the caramel cream finish. Smooth and seamless in its flow. Yum. 13.5% alc. NZIWS Gold Medal Tasting 9Sep2014.
Marsden Estate Bay of Islands Black Rocks Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with a fragrance reminiscent of pink bubble gum, it's very juicy and fresh to the taste with honey layers to the spicy oak, dried banana a feature of the abundant tropical fruit, and just a touch of apple. There's increasing richness to the savoury finish and the lingering taste is salivatingly dry but the wine would benefit from a little more bottle maturation right now. 13.5% alc. $32.99. 8May2013.
Martinborough Vineyards Martinborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This stylish light golden hued Chardonnay has aromas of smoky savoury oak, creamed nuts and nougat then in the creamy textured palate there’s nectarine, nutmeg, preserved lemon, grapefruit and lots of spicy French all building to a long, full, warm finish. Still very youthful, it should be only very lightly chilled (if you have to) then decanted to show its best at this stage of its life. 13% alc. $36.99.18Feb2015.
Matawhero Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Medium gold with a fresh fruity aroma reminiscent of apricot and tropical fruit that seems unencumbered by oak. Quite zesty on first tasting but then it fattens out - it seems there is some malo influence that is imparting a buttery feel with melons and tropical fruit lingering on the finish. 12.8% alc. $25.90. 10Oct2013.
Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Straw gold with a bouquet of melon and nuts, this soft, very lightly oaked wine has hints of butterscotch and a touch of peach on the lightly spicy finish. Simply uncomplicated Chardonnay for summer quaffing, 13% alc. $18.95. 24May2013.
Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Moderate gold colour with an appealing creamed nut aroma and a taste that is very savoury with creamed nut flavours quite dominant, underlying citrus and rounded peach flavours on the finish where tropical nuances and subtle nougat characters come through. 13.5% alc. $24.95. 10Oct2013.
Mission Vineyard Selection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold. Initially this seems moderately tight and austere with smoky oak and fresh tropical fruit scents. Similarly in the palate with tropical fruit flavours, spicy oak, a touch of zest and a hint of smoky bacon. It expands nicely in the mouth with appealing savoury undertones and a bright citrussy finish. Rather more-ish and a terrific conversation starter wine. 13% alc. $14.99. 20Aug2014.
Morton Estate Black Label Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) There's a sunshine brightness to the golden hue of this classy smelling Chardonnay. The bouquet is polished and the taste is bold, smooth and creamy with seamless flow and complexity from bottle age. A curvaceous Chardonnay with spiced nuts, bottled apricots, toasty oak and a mouthfilling savoury oak-embossed finish where the richness of the golden fruit comes through to linger. 13.5% alc. $21.99. 20Apr2016.
Muddy Water Waipara Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Medium gold. Creamy and toasty on the nose – hokey pokey comes to mind – and smooth and silky as it flows across the palate. It's moderately powerful with mouthcoating richness, savoury nutty oak, funky mealy layers, pineapple and nectarine fruit, a tingle of spice and almost butterscotch-like flavours on the long, rich finish. Natural ferment with 15 months in oak and plenty to like here. 14.5% alc. $26.99. 26Feb2014.
Mt Riley 17 Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) A little restrained on the nose and initially quite steely in the nutty palate yet with tropical fruit brightness and a touch of citrus. Gains momentum with beautifully integrated toasty oak flavours emerging on the long, smooth, creamy finish. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. $24.99. 7May2014.
Nautilus Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with smoky oak, citrus and a touch of grilled peach filling the bouquet, and full-bodied, rich and juicy in the palate with a smooth, rounded, creamy texture yet an exciting freshness too. The backbone is mealy and savoury with smoky French oak rippling through it, the grilled peach fills the mid palate and there’s a nice touch of citrus zest on the end. A lovely rounded savoury wine and very complete. 13.5% alc. $28.99. 2Oct2013.
Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Exotic tropical fruit initially asserts dominance but actually quite mealy, savoury and biscuity with a nutty oak backbone and a creaminess emerging on the long finish that's underpinned with a citrus peel freshness. 14% alc. Screwcap. $32.99. 7May2014.
Nga Waka Martinborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Sun-ripened tropical fruit, oatmeal and sweet vanillin oak on the nose and plenty of buttered toast, nuts and spicy oak flavours. It's super smooth with juicy peach, apricot and tropical fruit surging through and a flourish of citrus zest on the long smoky finish. A great Chardonnay flag bearer for vintage 2012. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 10Jul2013.
Pask Declaration Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This glossy light golden wine is right in the zone. The bouquet emanates a tantalising ripe grilled peach scent and there's more of that in the palate with toasty oak, hazelnut, citrus and some lovely mealy notes in behind. Bold and toasty with power, concentration and a mouthfilling persistent finish, this delicious Chardonnay is a multi-gold and Trophy medal winner and on tasting it is easy to see why because it is simply outstanding tonight. 13% alc. $37.99. 30Jul2014.
Sacred Hill Halo Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with an appealing peachy bouquet, this brims with bold toasty oak in the smooth, creamy, medium to full-bodied palate with a dry savoury finish and layers of butter caramel-coated peaches. Gold AirNZ. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 22Jan2014.
Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light medium gold with inviting with nutty, savoury barrel ferment scents tinged with grapefruit, then upfront bold toasty oak in the palate that softens to let the grilled peach and roasted cashew/hazelnut flavours come through. An incredibly complex Chardonnay with funky, savoury, mealy characters and a vibrant zesty finish rounded out with butterscotch as the long flavours linger. 14% alc. $30.99. 18Sep2013.
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 10 Twin Hills Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with a tempting bouquet of nougat and citrus chantilly cream, and delicious nutty, spicy, savoury flavours with grilled peach, a touch of butter caramel and a zing of citrus that's such a refreshing foil to the rich toasty oak. Powerful and expansive with a long, smooth, creamy finish. 14% alc. $29.99. 25Sep2013.
Sileni The Lodge Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light green-tinged straw with a creaminess to the lightly toasty bouquet, then hot and spicy on first tasting with zingy citrus and savoury oak that sits harmoniously in behind. Full bodied and powerful with youth on its side, then nectarine and tropical fruit on the lingering finish where very appealing butter caramel nuances come through. 13% alc. $24.99. 22Jan2014.
Spade Oak Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Glistening gold with a subtle smoky nuance to the scent, then rich and juicy tasting with tree-ripened stonefruit underpinned by savoury spicy oak becoming bold and toasty then juicy, creamy and mealy with delicious tropical and stonefruit taking over the finish. Seamless. Yummy. The perfect starter wine. 12.5% alc. $13.99. 19Feb2014.
Spade Oak 'Vigneron' Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Bright yellow gold. Creamy and nutty on the savoury nose followed by bold, rich, creamy, nutty flavours with bright stonefruit adding flesh, a hint of lime and a spicy nuance to the smoky finish. Dry yet classy – it's screaming to be matched to something yummy in buerre blanc – crayfish sounds ideal to me. 13% alc. $28.99. 19Mar2014.
Spinyback Nelson Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Medium gold with a full scent that's a little reminiscent of marshmallows. Juicy and rounded in the palate with underlying vibrancy and zest and pleasing mealy nutty notes coming through and though is initially seems very harmonious, it is surprisingly oaky as the flavours linger. 13.5% alc. $17.00. 12Oct2013.
The Landing Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold coloured with a nutty, savoury, sweet toasty oak bouquet, then peach and nectarine fill the spicy vanillin oak palate that's rich, full-bodied and rounded with mealy yeast lees flavours and loads of caramel on the gorgeous lingering finish. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 25Sep2013.
Thistle Ridge Waipara Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Rich citrine gold. Ripe fleshy Golden Queen peach on the nose with creamy oak in behind and full-bodied and savoury in the palate with a buttery smoothness, an initial suggestion of fig then spicy, zesty citrus pulsating through the layers and a vibrant tropical fruit finish. Tasty wine. 13.5% alc. $14.99. 12Mar2014.
Tohu Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 (sc) There's a savoury nutty aura to this fresh, medium-bodied style that has underlying mealy richness and citrus-infused tropical fruit. Finish crisp and clean with unnoticeable oak flavours from the 20% older barrels. 13.5% alc. $21.95. 10Oct2013.
Tohu Marlborough Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 (sc) The aroma is clean and vinously fragrant but otherwise a fairly neutral. Full-bodied and savoury with rich, sweet, mealy flavours and while not overtly fruity, it is rich and textural with a nutty apricot kernel character and a mellow butter layer to the finish where flavours of apple, grainy pears and underlying citrus come through. 13.3% alc. $21.95. 12Jan2013.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Another Chardonnay but such a different style with smoky French oak on the nose and the taste is flinty and dry with hints of grapefruit initially then fleshing out with nougat and mealy notes as it traverses across the palate – but oh so very tight in the glass right now. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 9Apr2014.
Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This glorious Chardonnay has smoky, toasty, gunflinty nuances tantalising the olfactory receptors, these traits following through to the full bodied, complex, savoury palate that has loads of grapefruit, malo, creamed nut and wild yeast complexities. Mouth-filling and concentrated, this to me is complete already, yet knowing how the legendary 2010 Legacy is developing this too will get continue to garner even more complexity with time. A wonderful wine to partner with seafood. Trophy Decanter New World Wine Awards. Gold AirNZ and Bragato Trophy 2014. 13.5% alc. $47.99. 13Jan2016.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light lemon gold with creamed nuts on the nose and youthful bubble gum-like esters in the lightly buttery palate. Fresh on first tasting but rounds out nicely with a touch of nectarine, a zing of citrus, a light impression of oak and a savoury, nutty finish. 13.5% alc. $14.99. 12Mar2014.
Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold with a delicate lemon hue. This seems so subtle on the nose with nougat, citrus and toasted oatmeal. Quite lifted in the palate, malo quite obvious and fruit in the tropical spectrum with a touch of dried pineapple coming through and lovely refined mealy, nutty notes that add to this youthful wine's complexity. Fabulous length. Will open up beautifully over the next year or so. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 20Nov2013.
Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light citrine gold. Smoky, malty nuances on the inviting nose. Full-bodied and spicy with an exciting freshness that is so in harmony with the savoury, leesy, mealy flavours with more wild yeast funk that the two preceding it. Peach leaf in the palate with a toasty grapefruit character and brightness as the flavours lingers. Waikahu and Keltern fruit. Clone 15, 95 and Mendoza fruit. 13% alc. $26.99. 20Nov2013.
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Auckland Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light golden coloured with a gloriously rich sweet toasty oak scent infused with nougat and a stonefruit concentration. Full bodied with mealy, creamy layers, spicy oak, some lovely savoury notes in behind and hints of butterscotch that make it so instantly appealing yet it has the acidity to balance it. It seems more oaky and more toasty than Ihumatao has been in the past. 13% alc. $29.99. 20Nov2013.
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2012 (sc) This light golden-hued beauty is polished and savoury with bright fruit adding lovely freshness to the smoky flavours and a silky caress to the harmonious mouth coating texture. It’s nutty and mealy with juicy white peach and finishes very dry. A magnificent wine that will blossom with more time. 13% alc. $29.99. 9Oct2013.
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Soft acidity and nut butter notes characterise this smooth peaches and cream Chardonnay that has a savoury mealy undercurrent, beautifully integrated oak, a zing of citrus and a lick of caramel on the long seamless finish. Super stylish and delicious already although it has excellent cellaring potential. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 9Apr2014.
Waimea Estate Nelson Chardonnay 2012 (sc) So youthful smelling with estery, floral, bubblegum nuances to the mealy, sweet oak scent then in the palate creamy vanillin oak, a touch of spice, tropical fruit, apple and nectarine, a fresh acid spine, and a touch of toast and caramel on the finish. It's a label that's been so consistent over the years and it will fatten up nicely with time. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 24Apr2013.
Wairau River Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 (sc) Light gold. Chablis-like with a gunflint, struck match aura to the aroma and taste. Fresh and steely with a buttery malo character, a nutty backbone and just light influence of oak. The style of wine to match to seafood in a lemon butter sauce. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. $14.99. 7May2014.
Wooing Tree Central Otago Chardonnay 2012 (sc) It emanates a subtle citrus butter character and is spicy, vibrant and creamy in the palate with a sweet nutty infusion to the polished oak. Silky and stylish with nectarines. And a smooth, seamless caramel coated finish. Very good with pan-fried scallops in a coriander cream. 14.5% alc. $30.00. 12Dec2013.