Call That A Challenge?

I’m writing this post on a Friday night with a glass of Mornington Peninsula Chardonnay to keep me company. I can’t say too much about how good it is, as I do casual work for its producer and don’t wish to stand accused of bias. It’s a bit like refusing to save a drowning man because you work for the company that makes the lifejackets, but there you have it.
Bonnezeaux Gonzo is in its infancy, and there are certain strategic points that have yet to be worked out. One of these is how to tackle the Chardonnay thing: does its brilliance need a bombshell or is it a question of attrition, a barrage of allusions to its wondrousness to leave readers dumbstruck?
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For now I’ll go for the latter, because it’s getting late and I’m onto my second glass. So here’s a little rave about some already raved-about wines, based on my notes from the recent Sommeliers Australia tasting of trophy-winning wines from the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge at Vue de Monde.
We blind tasted three flights of four wines, all of which came top in their region. Discovery of the day for me appeared in the first bracket. It was the Ridgemill Estate WYP Chardonnay 2012 from the Granite Belt in Queensland. It has a floral, orange-blossom nose with grilled nuts, leading into a full-bodied palate of ripe peach, apricots and honey and finishing long with apricots and lemon slice.
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The second flight was all Victoria, and a strong showing it was, too. The most distinctive was the Galli Estate Pamela Chardonnay 2011 ($60) from Sunbury. This was taut, mineral and intense, with ruby grapefruit and green apple followed by a pure citrus and stone fruit finish. The acid was bracing, hard even, but it worked for me. I was also very taken by the Seville Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (RRP for the 2011 was $33) from the Yarra Valley, which I liked even better than the previous vintage, which recently came up trumps at the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Full-bodied with nuttiness, cream, peach and grapefruit, what really took me here was the way it powered through the back palate. Such drive to back up that generosity.
But my favourite of this bracket was the A.Rodda Smiths Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 from Beechworth ($38). It all seemed to be on show from the first sniff – smoke, nuts, peach and lemon – and yet the palate was toned and restrained, with fresh, pure nectarine and citrus fruit meted out ahead of a finish that was creamy, long and moreish.
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Then the final flight, which featured Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2009 ($70) from the Hunter Valley (for some dumb reason I’m always surprised by how much I love this wine – and the 2009 is looking super fresh), and the Xanadu Chardonnay 2010 ($35) from Margaret River (which seemed a bit obvious and plump at first, but in time showed depth and nuance). It also contained the Penfolds Reserve Bin 10A 2010 ($95) from the Adelaide Hills, a wine with quite a reputation – well won, I’d have to say. It had complexity in spades – spice and zing, a bit of grip and a gamut of pure-fruit aromas powerfully expressed. Gorgeous.
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The 10A was my preferred wine of the bracket, followed by the wine that came top in the Halliday Chardonnay Challenge: the Seppelt Drumborg Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($40) from Henty. It was flinty and fine-boned with a lovely lemon-lime acid line, great fruit purity, and – a feature of many of these wines – effortless drive. It was complete and utterly delicious.

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