This infinitely flexible grape is grown and vinified in all 63 regions, and accounts for half of Australia’s white wine grapes and wine. Incredibly, before 1970 it was all but unknown, hiding its promise here and there (Mudgee was one such place) under a cloak of anonymity. It was there and in the Hunter Valley that the first wines labelled chardonnay were made in 1971 (by Craigmoor and Tyrrell’s).
Its bold yellow colour, peaches and cream flavour and vanilla oak was unlike anything that had gone before and was accepted by domestic and export markets with equal enthusiasm. When exports took off into the stratosphere between 1985 and 1995, one half of Brand Australia was cheap and cheerful oak-chipped chardonnay grown in the Riverina and Riverland.
By coincidence, over the same period chardonnay from the emerging cool climate regions was starting to appear in limited quantities, its flavour and structure radically different to the warm-grown, high-cropped wine.
Another 10 years on, and by 2005/06 the wine surplus was starting to build rapidly, with demand for chardonnay much less than its production. As attention swung from chardonnay to sauvignon blanc, the situation became dire. Lost in the heat of battle were (and to a degree still are) supremely elegant wines from most cool regions, Margaret River and Yarra Valley the leaders of the large band.
Constant refinement of the style, and the adoption of the screwcap, puts these wines at the forefront of the battle tore-engage consumers here and abroad with what are world-class wines.