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2024 Chardonnay May – Adelaide Hills

A good rhyme always elevates a name, imbuing it with a sense of playfulness and pop while also adding intrigue and allure to pique one’s interest. In the case of the Adelaide Hills, ‘Chardonnay May’ does exactly that. Make no mistake, however, as Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills is as serious as it gets, and the line up I reviewed has more than piqued my interest, it’s opened my eyes to the world class quality of Chardonnay wines being made in the region today. Don’t get me wrong, many producers from the region have consistently made excellent expressions over decades. However, the quality trajectory over the last five to ten years is steep and widespread. Producers large and small, famous and obscure, now have a good hold on how best to capture their cool climate sites in a bottle. Put simply, Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills has never been more exciting.

This month, the Hills are alive with a range of tasting experiences and special offers focused on highlighting the incontrovertible quality of Chardonnay from the region. With a schedule packed full of back vintage tastings, restaurant/bar/bottle shop collaborations, and cellar door features; the month of May provides the best chance to experience Adelaide Hills Chardonnay in all its glory. 

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Varney Wines Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2023
RRP $35 | 94 points

The fruit for this wine is sourced from two renowned Adelaide Hills vineyards in Echunga and Macclesfield. It’s quite sweetly perfumed and lifted out of the gate. Acacia flower, honeysuckle, lemonade, pear and green apple skin are followed by cinnamon bun and apple crumble with a faint glimmer or cedar in support. The aromatic profile is very pure, pretty and moreish as these elements come together. There’s an equally attractive aesthetic to the palate with a burst of sapidity and mouth-filling texture. Pear, nettle honey, cinnamon, green apple and a glimmer of quince paste are loud upfront before being hushed and pulled into linearity by firm, chalky phenolics and a big wash of cleansing acidity. There’s lovely length and elegance to the finish which carries cinnamon, pear, green apple skin bitterness through. Lovely complexity on show, and an interesting journey unfolding in the glass. Very good. 230 dozen produced.

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Michael Hall Sang de Pigeon Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022
RRP $38 | 92 points

‘Sang de Pigeon’ is French for ‘Pigeon Blood’; a reference to high quality rubies, and an homage to Michael’s former life as a jewellery valuer. The fruit for this wine comes from the Bowyer Ridge vineyard in Lobethal, and the Garden Block vineyard in Piccadilly. There’s stubborn smoky reduction at the fore aromatically, before eventually yielding to savoury aromas of salted lemon and lemon thyme. The fruit fills out somewhat after some air and warmth with white nectarine, a touch of taut green apple and a glimmer of lees derived dough notes. The palate is tight and crunchy though with some ample texture. Lemon, white nectarine, green apple, gentle cedar and subtle clotted cream carry with chalky phenolics and citrusy acid. There’s good quality on show here, especially at the price point, it just needs to unfurl. Throw this in a decanter to let it shine. 195 dozen produced.

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Watkins Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2021
RRP $50 | 93 points

A part of the ‘Heritage Series’ which is a tribute to the five generations of Watkins to live and work out of the Adelaide Hills. Clotted cream and yoghurt first up in a reticent aromatic profile. A swirl of the glass uncovers grapefruit pith and zest, bath salts, lemon butter and a subtle briney element, followed by subtle vanillin oak in support. The palate is equally restrained though with more fruit presence – green apple and lemon cut through clotted cream with that briney, salty element thereafter. Loads of creamy, lactic texture here, which interplays with the tight citrus and saline zing before zesty acid and bitter phenolics pull things into line. An interesting and intriguing expression still showing a furled profile at three years old. I’d love to see how this develops over the next five years.

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Sidewood Estate ‘Owen’s Chardonnay’ 2022
RRP $60 | 95 points

This is only the fourth vintage of this wine since the inaugural 2015 release. 100% Mendoza clone from their Mappinga Road vineyard, 10 months in French barrique, 30% new. Very delicate aromatically on first pour. Grapefruit, yuzu, gentle gunsmoke, cinnamon and feint cedar emerge from the glass with air and warmth. There’s lovely restraint here, backed up with complexity and poise. The palate has an ample creamy texture cut by pithy fruit – clotted cream, cinnamon spiced apple, yoghurt and yuzu. Very clean grapefruit acidity freshens and lengthens the palate to a gentle but significant close. There’s a subtlety, harmony and restraint to this wine that draws you in. It’s classy, confident and long with a quiet elegance. Very good. 300 dozen produced.

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Lofty Valley Estate Lani’s View Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2020
RRP $85 | 96 points

Handpicked, estate grown in the Piccadilly Valley. A punch of high quality cedar sits at the fore, before melding with curry leaf reduction, ripe apple, meyer lemon and dustings of cinnamon. There’s brilliant aromatic power and impact here. Air and increased temperature allow the wine to descend into a deeper more stone fruit driven profile with white peach, white nectarine and kumquat sitting beautifully with brown spice and cedary oak. All of this makes for a deep-set, savoury and powerful aromatic display. This is very good, and quite exciting, on aroma alone. The palate is sapid and fulsome, with the oak, baking spices and stone fruits draping across the mouth among a pillowy texture. Amazing pithy acidity holds sway and steers the wine into linearity and poise through a long apple and cinnamon laced finish. Great impact, great power, great complexity. A brilliant expression.

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Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay 2023
RRP $110 | 96 points

Planted in 1979, the Tiers Vineyard is purportedly the first to have been planted in the Piccadilly Valley since the 19th century. It’s a revered site with a history of producing hugely successful Chardonnay wines made by powerhouse Australian wine identity Brian Croser. Aromas of peach schnapps, peach blossom, white nectarine, slithered almond and green apple lift from the glass, before air and temperature unlock cinnamon and lemon thyme. The melding of these aromatic notes makes for a moreish and complex profile. There’s lovely weight and pillowy, creamy texture to the palate which wraps around the stone fruit and spice notes before a tart, apple-drenched acid line and powdery phenolics pull it long, very long, to a focused and balanced close. This is fulsome and intense, but so masterfully tempered by brilliant structure and immaculate balance.

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Karrawatta Anth’s Garden Grand Vin Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2022
RRP $92 | 94 points

Handpicked from a small parcel of high altitude Dijon clone 95 and aged in French oak for seven months. It’s quite subtle and restrained in its aromatic opening. However, what’s there is pretty, fresh, and inviting. Aromas of mandarin, salted lemon, cashew nut and slatey minerality are coerced out of the glass. Some warmth and a generous swirl unlocks white grapefruit, green apple, and sea salt, with some delicate oak notes in the background. This is demure and quiet to begin with, though there’s lovely complexity and salinity to keep you looking. There’s something redolent of quality AC level Chablis aromatically. The palate holds a similar aesthetic, with lovely lees derived creaminess cut by pithy fruit and stony minerality before some chalky phenolics work with the acidity to pull it to a long, gentle, close. There’s a self assuredness about this wine, it says a lot, though with a soft voice. This should develop beautifully in the cellar for those with patience.

To learn more visit: www.adelaidehillswine.com.au/events/chardonnay-may

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