Top picks of New Zealand chardonnay's 2016 vintage

by Michael Cooper / 23 September, 2017
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New Zealand chardonnay. Photo/Getty Images

Wine columnist Michael Cooper lists some of the best New Zealand chardonnays of 2016.

If you could drink only the white wine of a single grape variety, what would it be? For me, the selection would be easy, because as a source of deeply satisfying, full-bodied dry whites, chardonnay is unparalleled.

At the end of the warm, heavy-cropping 2016 vintage, winemakers picked chardonnay as a highlight. There’s now a great array on offer, from fresh and buoyantly fruity to powerful, rich and complex.

Beach House The Levels Stoney Beach Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016 •••••

This already delicious, classy wine was estate-grown in The Levels Vineyard, Te Awanga, and fermented and mat ured in French oak casks. Fragrant and full-bodied (13% alc/vol), it has highly concentrated, ripe stone-fruit flavours, enriched with toasty oak, and excellent complexity. $35

Hunter’s Unoaked Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 ••••

This single-vineyard wine was handled solely in tanks, rather than barrels. Drinking well now, it is mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), with strong, vibrant grapefruit and peach flavours, moderate acidity and a long, fully dry finish. $19

Lake Chalice The Raptor Marlborough Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

Unexpectedly classy for its price, this refined wine was made from hand-picked grapes and fermented and aged in French oak barriques. Fragrant, mouthfilling (13% alc/vol) and creamy-textured, it has vibrant peach and grapefruit flavours, leesy, biscuity notes adding complexity, and a finely poised, persistent finish. $23

Selaks The Taste Collection Hawke’s Bay Buttery Chardonnay 2016 ••••

If you like soft, buttery chardonnays, try this. Mostly barrel-fermented, it is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with ripe, peachy flavours and strong buttery, toasty notes – as you’d expect. $22

The Boneline Barebone Waipara Chardonnay 2016 ••••½

If you are looking for an unoaked, chablis-style chardonnay, this beauty is hard to beat. It’s not at all brash, but still full of personality. Mouthfilling (13% alc/vol), it is fresh and vibrant, with pure, delicate, citrusy, peachy flavours, lively acidity, a minerally streak and excellent vigour and length. $23

Vidal Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016 ••••

Bargain-priced, this wine was fermented in French oak barriques. It is full-bodied (13% alc/vol), with vibrant grapefruit-like flavours, a subtle seasoning of biscuity oak, fresh acidity and youthful vigour. $20

Wine of the week

Pask Small Batch Gimblett Road Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2016 ••••

Estate-grown, this attractive Hawke’s Bay wine was fermented with natural (wild) yeasts and barrel-matured. It is fresh and elegant, with substantial body (13% alc/vol), lively, citrusy, peachy flavours, gently seasoned with oak, good complexity, and a fragrant bouquet. $25

This article was first published in the September 9, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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