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 Chardonnay, Rest of the New World

2016 Gold: 4 Silver: 4 Bronze: 3 Commended: 10
2015 Gold: 4 Silver: 14 Bronze: 6 Commended: 8

Taking in New Zealand, California and Argentina this year, this section saw wildly differing feedback from our tasters.

Argentina was the star performer. Very few of the country’s entries to this competition are non-Malbec, let along white wine (still less Chardonnay). But on this evidence, perhaps they should re-think that. There was a huge amount of affection for most of these wines, which were deemed to be ripe and joyously flavourful but totally natural and unforced. From cheap to expensive, our tasters liked them. A larger entry would certainly result in many more medals here next year.

California has often found things difficult in the Sommelier Wine Awards, and this was the case again in 2016. Our tasters really did not like most of what they tasted at the lower end (a lot of wines were forcibly ejected from the competition at the early stages) but were positive (verging on rhapsodic) at the upper price levels. If you have a clientele who don’t mind spending big bucks, there are some excellent examples here.

New Zealand was, perhaps, the biggest disappointment. A Gold, two Silvers and a Bronze isn’t bad going for the country, but after a (rare) encouraging performance last year, with 11 medals and two Golds, we were rather hoping the Kiwis would push on this year to cement their place with a grape that ought to be perfect for their climate. Instead, we saw a solid performance that was let down by, quite simply, not enough entries to make the kind of impact that the country should be aiming for. 

FROM THE TASTING TEAMS

‘The last couple of Californian wines were great. The problem at the bottom end is that they were jammy, confected and sweet. The good wines are good, the bad wines are rotten.’ James Hocking, The Vineyard Group

‘The New World has taken on board all the criticism about being over-oaked and blowsy, but now they’re retreating too far…’ Richard Brooks, Caroline Catering

‘I was quite happy with our flight of Argentinian Chardonnays. There was a good range of prices, and at the top end there was real finesse and quality that you can sell instead of top European whites. It gives the likes of French Chardonnay a run for its money.’ Emily Bonsor, consultant sommelier

‘When we try Chardonnay we always think of France – that’s the problem.’ Ivan Vegas, Fox Fine Wines & Spirits

‘The Argentinian wines were a lot better than the Australian versions, in my opinion. They had that middle style with not too much oak, but good balance of fruit. It was all very well integrated, and delivered pretty much across the price points.’ Michael Fiducia, Drake’s Restaurant

‘These aren’t wines that get decanted before being served, and the reduction can hide some quite pretty fruit. Winemakers should think about the consumer when tempted down that reductive path, especially at the cheaper end.’ Natasha Hughes MW, team leader

‘I liked the way the Argentinian wines kept the oak balance, and the acidity was nice and natural – and integrated. Sometimes they veered towards over-ripeness. But these are not hard to sell; the value for money is very good. I would recommend them as lunchtime wines.’ Tamas Czinki, Northcote