Hawkes­bridge Re­serve Marl­bor­ough Chardonnay 2017 -6 $28 ★★★★★

Cuisine - - NZ CHARDONNAY -

OUR TOP CHARDONNAY has a rich, toasty style that is gen­er­ous and smooth. It com­bines an at­trac­tive use of oak and fruit to high­light flavours of roasted peach, baked ap­ple, spice and cashew notes. The lovely, creamy tex­ture adds to its se­duc­tive com­plex­ity.

A SHIN­ING STAR IN A CHAL­LENG­ING YEAR

Wine­maker Jo Gear says the 2017 vin­tage “was the most chal­leng­ing harvest I have worked in 16 years. It was cold, rainy and there was huge dis­ease pres­sure.” Add to that un­usual lo­gis­tic chal­lenges and it’s fair to say it was a vin­tage that chal­lenged at all lev­els. How­ever, dif­fi­cult vin­tages can also bring out the best in peo­ple and in a vine­yard, as wine­mak­ers and viti­cul­tur­al­ists dig deep and stay vig­i­lant to de­liver the best re­sult pos­si­ble.

Heather and Mil­ton Sta­ples are the grow­ers for the Hawkes­bridge chardonnay. The Ra­paura vines are now 25 years old and, with the roots deep into the soils, they are bet­ter able to de­fend against the un­usual el­e­ments, within rea­son of course. Gear be­gan work­ing with the vine­yard in 2006 and over time has re­laxed more on the wine­mak­ing front as the re­sult­ing juice al­ways per­forms very well. “Chardonnay is such a clever thing. It loves to be chal­lenged and rises to the oc­ca­sion to embrace the good. She is also gen­er­ous and for­giv­ing, so we wine­mak­ers love her un­con­di­tion­ally,” says Gear. The Hawkes­bridge is nat­u­rally fermented and once put to bar­rel the next ad­di­tions are time and pa­tience. “I love this wine for its quin­tes­sen­tial chardonnay char­ac­ter. It has all the hall­marks of the va­ri­ety and sits so com­fort­ably with all its in­puts that noth­ing dom­i­nates,” adds Gear.

2 / Mor­ton Es­tate Black La­bel Chardonnay 2016 (Gis­borne) ★★★★★ -3 $20

A won­der­fully sin­cere wine with mul­ti­fac­eted lay­ers of flavours. Gen­uine fruit ripeness is un­der­scored by flavours of a nutty baked cus­tard, toasty oak and a hint of nut­meg. Creamy and rich, the wine is very tex­tu­ral with a lovely flow­ing yet dry fin­ish mak­ing it very mem­o­rable.

3 / Wairau River Re­serve Chardonnay 2017 (Marl­bor­ough) ★★★★★ -5 $30

With a well-struc­tured mid-palate, great length and fo­cus, this wine is a style that will age with dig­nity. Punchy stone fruit and red ap­ple with a touch of gin­ger, vanilla and bak­ing spices cre­ate am­pli­tude and rich­ness over a fine struc­ture, yet still cud­dly enough to be loved by many.

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