A $A40 Hunter Valley Chardonnay seeks impressive company – the Lake’s Folly and Tyrrell’s Vat 47 for starters. This, in the context of a wine region that, although it can claim an important place in the history of Australian Chardonnay, is hardly at the vanguard of fashion with the variety. I shouldn’t worry about such things, of course, as it’s all about the juice, right? Sure, but expectations have nonetheless been set.
First impressions are striking in that the nose and, in particular, palate seem very Semillon-ish. I know Semillon has been added to Hunter Chardonnay in years past and one might consider it a legitimate component of the regional style. Whether or not it’s been done here, I don’t know, but there’s a racy streak of textural acidity and the kind of strident citrus that are typical of Hunter Semillon. Once past this, the nose settles to a typically rich, peachy expression of Chardonnay, focus very much on fruit rather than the sort of oaky butterscotch that destroyed Chardonnay’s reputation back in the day. Still, this is hardly a delicate aroma profile, all ripe fruit and pungent, fresh herbs.
The palate is, if anything, even more fruit forward, flopping a big bowl of tinned peaches onto the tongue with a nice dollop of vanilla cream, all supported by a strong streak of acid. This is all rather boisterous and rather less delicate, and may be as polarising to drinkers as the ultra lean, Chablis-esque wines being produced further South. It’s not purely a stylistic question, though; while this is full of flavour, it does lack the sort of cohesion and controlled expression that the aforementioned regional icons usually display. It bounces between its buxom components with a wildness that isn’t entirely convincing.
A very big mouthful of Hunter Chardonnay.