JWL Issue #063: Is Australian chardonnay any good?

August 6, 2019

After last month’s New York Times article kicking off the Aperol Spritz backlash, Prospect joined in this week. I don’t buy into the backlash too much yet. After all, with taste, all that becomes popular eventually tumbles down. But one thing stood out for me in the article about the drinks serving method.

Few British drinkers may know that the spritz is typically served in a water-glass style tumbler in Italy, not in a wine glass—and certainly not in a jam jar.

Purists will be pleased with The Canton Arms‘ unfussy, stripped back tumbler version then. Personally, I find there’s times when a Spritz is the perfect drink, often after there’s been one too many the night before.

The Canton Arms is one of my all time favourite pubs. A place where I would happily wile away hours eating their food, working through their wine list, and hanging out. This has been made all the better now since they’ve added Adrian Pike’s ortega as one of their tap wines.

This leads me nicely to issue one of The Wine List. The first issue includes a red and a white. The white is the Westwell Ortega Amphora made by Adrian Pike. I first tasted this when recording the Kent episode of my podcast from the amphora, and fell in love with it then. So I am very happy to be able to send this out as one of my first ever wines.

Joining the ortega is Asensio Carcelen’s 100x100 Syrah from Jumilla. This was one of my favourite wines I’ve sampled in the last year and I’ve not seen it anywhere since.

If you’ve not signed up to The Wine List yet, you can now put your order in for box two. Full website coming soon.


I love Rhone whites, and Chateau des Roques Vacqueyras 2017 (~£19 from Davy’s) was no exception. Hay, peach, melon, and white pepper all came together nicely in this rich and rounded mouthfeel of a wine. Yet, despite its richness, there was still a surprising bolt of acidity in here that slowed you down without food.

Myself and some friends recently tasted two chardonnays back to back. One a Petit Chablis made by La Chablisienne (£17ish), which unfortunately felt very underripe, sour, with a funky cheesiness that felt went too far.

By comparison the Barossa Valley Magpie Estate ‘Next Big Thing’ chard (£10-13 depending on location), was far better value. This was very fresh, with some green fruits in there but wonderfully ripe stone fruits too. The finish was long even if the aromas weren’t multi-dimensional. “A great, non-complex, wine” I wrote, which often for a midweek drink in front of the TV is the perfect thing.


But isn’t Australian chardonnay all rubbish?

Australia’s chardonnay reputation has been pretty bad for a long time. For a long time in the 90s, Australia was imitating white Burgundy’s buttery rounded gems, by heavily oaking their wines to the point of no return.

Now, though, Australia’s winemakers are far more restrained. With some making some incredibly atypical displays that really make you question where the wine is from.

Chardonnay is Australia’s most planted white wine grape and has a diverse arrangement of plantings.

The traditional best

  • Margaret River - some of the world’s top chardonnays
  • Adelaide Hills
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Yarra Valley
  • The Magpie Estate chard above, comes from Barossa Valley, a region typically reserved for warmer, full bodied shiraz. Yet, tastes change, and new winemakers lead the way.

Next time you see an Australian chardonnay on a wine list, grab a bottle and take it in with some fresh eyes.

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