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Winner Details

New World: Chardonnay, Australia

2014: Gold 3 Silver 3 Bronze 3 Commended 6
2013: Gold 2 Silver 1 Bronze 3 Commended N/A
Must-list status: 70%
Overall SWA performance 2014: B+

Five years ago, if a team of sommeliers had described a line-up of Aussie Chardies as ‘one of the flights of the day’ you would have assumed they were being sarcastic. But there was no doubting their sincerity this year. These were popular wines with every team that took them on.

We first saw signs of the Aussie winemakers breathing life back into the cooling ashes of Chardonnay about three years ago. 2012 saw a few wisps of smoke, 2013 the odd tentative flame, and this year we got an actual proper fire.

Star region was Margaret River, which accounted for more than half the medals, but it was interesting to see that there are good examples of the grape being made from Tasmania through Victoria to New South Wales. Only the Adelaide Hills could feel disappointed with its performance.

Key to the country’s regeneration has been the truly impressive way in which the wineries have managed to ditch the full-throttle, sweet fruit and oak bombs of 10 years ago, and create lighter, more balanced wines.

‘They showed a lot of elegance, with that restraint that has been coming through in recent years,’ said team leader Jenny Mackenzie.

‘At the lower end there is still perhaps too much reliance on “flavour”, but as you move up there is a good sense of region and some very good, complex wines coming through.’

Though the wines weren’t cheap (only one medal under £10 and quite a few up around £20) the tasters had no concerns that, qualitatively, the wines stacked up. So, time for the industry to move on to the next stage and educate the gatekeepers. As Hawksmoor Air Street’s Julian Bicknell pointed out, ‘there needs to be more of a focus on regionality to help us sell these wines’.

From The Tasting Teams

‘You can really see that they are coming back to more elegant styles that fit different styles of food. Whereas before you needed very rich styles of food, now you can match it with lighter stuff as well; food that’s a lot more in tune with modern cuisine.’ Joris Beijn, Marcus

‘At the higher price points I think many of these might struggle to sell, but Australia is getting closer to Burgundy on quality all of the time, and when 2012 and 2013 start coming through, then these wines will increasingly start to look like good value.’ Richard Howard, Blakeney Hotel

‘There’s a definite move to a leaner, more elegant style. The Old-Worldisation of Australian Chardonnay is well on the way.’ Christine Parkinson, Gold List co-ordinator.