Chardonnay is the wine that arguably put Australia on the world stage. The full-bodied and oaked styles of the 1980s were known as sunshine in the glass, but this ubiquitous variety has evolved since those heady days. Less is more and restraint is the way forward, but that doesn’t mean it now lacks flavour or personality. Think tight, bright and vibrant fruit flavours, all wrapped up in texture, richness, layers and length. Chardonnay is all grown up.
This is also a grape variety that really allows growers and makers to put their stamp on it with their choice of techniques, all while still creating wines that reflect their site and regionality. Terroir reigns, but today's countless styles also reflect the producers’ preferences. Some expressions lie at the richer end of the spectrum, with malolactic fermentation and lees stirring often involved, while other styles are woven a little more tightly, inspiring descriptors that reference the likes of minerality and acidity.
Whatever your preference, you’re spoilt for choice because this variety shines right across the country. Here, we outline a handful of the standout regions and just some of the producers to seek out.
Margaret River, WA
Synonymous with chardonnay (and cabernet), the stunning coastal region of Margaret River enjoys maritime breezes, which combine with the climatic conditions here to create luscious, intense wines known for their vibrant fruit and richness.
Try: Credaro Estate, Clairault Streicker, Vasse Felix, Xanadu Wines
Chardonnay thrives in cool climates, which is what makes Orange such great wine country. Colder conditions combined with some of the highest altitude in Australia create chardonnays that are delicate, showing citrus, melon and apple flavours with excellent acidity.
Try: Printhie Wines, Cumulus, Logan Wines (Mudgee-based, but with Orange wines in the collection), Ross Hill
This cool-climate region is fast gaining a reputation as a premium chardonnay producer. With many other wineries sourcing fruit from this region, these wines are highly regarded for their pure fruit flavours, natural acidity and minerality.
Try: Moppity Vineyards, Nick O’Leary Wines, McWilliam’s Wines, Courabyra Wines
Adelaide Hills, SA
This bucolic region so close to Adelaide has carved a place for itself as an ideal home for a number of varieties, including chardonnay. A diversity of sites across the region’s undulating landscape and cool climate produce wines of structure, intensity and length.
Try: Pike + Joyce, Shaw + Smith, Tapanappa, Bird in Hand
The warmer climate of the Hunter Valley has long produced exceptional chardonnay. Typically showing stone fruit flavours, creamy cashew, spice and nut from oak maturation, these much-loved wines unmistakably reveal their regionality.
Try: First Creek, Tyrrell’s, Silkman Wines, De Iuliis Wines
Mornington Peninsula, VIC
Great Southern, WA
This vast region is marking its place as an ideal home for a range of varieties, but chardonnay is among those that shine. Fine, citrus-dominant expressions also have all the structure and intensity required for great examples of this variety.
Try: Snake + Herring, Singlefile, Larry Cherubino Wines, Frankland Estate