The current issue of Decanter magazine features an article on the best Chardonnays (outside Burgundy).
The article reports the results of a recent tasting by three leaders in Burgundy/Chardonnay/New World wines: Stephen Brook, Jasper Morris MW and Steven Spurrier.
Brook is an expert on many regions including California; Morris is the director of buying for the ancient (ca. 1698) London-based wine merchant, Berry Brothers & Rudd, and is the author of one of the modern references on Burgundy, Inside Burgundy (2010); Spurrier, of course, is known throughout the wine world for many things but is perhaps most famous as the man who put California wines on the map with the now-legendary Judgement of Paris.
The tasting covered some 80 wines from around the world made with the Chardonnay grape : Argentina, Australia, California, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa and Ontario. The wines were selected for tasting by an editorial panel independent of the tasters and they were tasted blind – the only thing the judges knew was grape variety and alcohol level.
There was no pattern where one region or style dominated the results. The best wines were distributed widely across the zones represented in the tasting with two Canadian wines achieving high scores. These wines were a Norman Hardie Prince Edward County 2012 (named a best-value wine by the judges) and a VQA Niagara Peninsula Tawse Estate 2011. In fact, the judges recorded the unexpectedly strong performances by wines from Lombardy and Niagara as the only surprises in the competition.
The panel selected a New Zealand Chard as the top wine of the tasting: Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Terrace 2012. This wine was cited for “finely expressed summer fruits”, “invigorating raciness and minerality”, “discreet oak influence… to support the structure of the wine” and a “long finish”. I have always considered Martinborough as an under-appreciated region and this performance demonstrates the quality and style delivered by makers in this place.
There were two runners’-up: a Lombardy Chardonnay made by the esteemed maker of Franciacorta, Ca’ del Bosco, and… the Niagara Chardonnay made by Tawse Estate (!).
This is a big deal: not only does this result demonstrate that a wine from Ontario can perform admirably against some of the best Chardonnays made anywhere, but most importantly this assessment is made by top-tier international judges – who bring no predisposed bias to the process.
The Tawse was described as showing ripe citrus and pineapple aromas – quite exotic with attractive florality. Good attack, with concentrated fruit and high acidity, showing real intensity and pungency. Discreet, fresh and very persistent. An extremely classy wine.
Classy, indeed! Hearty congratulations are due to vigneron Moray Tawse and winemaker Paul Pender. A big huzzah should also be extended to Noman Hardie for the strong showing of his PEC Chard.
Well done, Ontario!
Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2015.