Chardonnay polarises people. But times change and this is a grape that’s moved on – arguably nowhere more so than in New Zealand, which in recent years has started to deliver quality, diversity and great value in spades.

It’s timely, too, given the supply shortages and booming prices of the wines from Chardonnay’s motherland in Burgundy.

We’re Chardonnay superfans and we’ve been licking our lips at how far and fast New Zealand Chardonnay has evolved lately. So it’s exciting to hook up with New Zealand Winegrowers for this sponsored episode charting that dramatic evolution and exploring why there’s more to the land of the long white cloud than Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

New Zealand wine superstars Michael Brajkovich MW (Kumeu River) and Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas give us the inside track, full of eye-opening insights and informed opinion. Including the following quote:

‘I’m just gonna come out and say it: New Zealand Chardonnay can outclass Burgundy.’

There’s a bit of geeking out about Chardonnay winemaking – from oak barrels to malolactic fermentation – all with the aim of better understanding this most shape-shifting of grape varieties, and why New Zealand is doing such a good job with it (clue: a cool climate is key).

We also dive into the fascinating topic of that much sought-after (and also misunderstood) character in Chardonnay sometimes referred to as, ‘reductive’, ‘struck match’, ‘toasty’ or ‘flinty’. We wrestle with the vexed issue of how to refer to it and come up with an absurd but catchy alternative…

Along the way we touch on how the devastating Cyclone Gabrielle has impacted the country as well as vintage 2023. You can support by donating to the Cyclone Gabrielle wine relief funds or buying and drinking wines from the most affected areas like Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne – which ties neatly into our theme given Chardonnay is the leading variety in both those regions.


Links & Notes

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Here are the wines we taste and recommend in this episode. Click on the wine name for the Wine Searcher link to find where you can buy this wine around the world:

Further recommendations

There are loads of exciting New Zealand Chardonnays out there to try. In addition to the above names, we’ve recently liked wines from and admire producers such as:

  • Ata Rangi (Wairarapa)
  • Bell Hill (North Canterbury)
  • Black Estate (North Canterbury)
  • Church Road (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Craggy Range (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Dog Point (Marlborough)
  • Elephant Hill (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Escarpment (Wairarapa)
  • Felton Road (Central Otago)
  • Giesen (Marlborough)
  • Grove Mill (Marlborough)
  • Hunter’s (Marlborough)
  • Millton (Gisborne)
  • Nautilus (Marlborough)
  • Pegasus Bay (North Canterbury)
  • Pyramid Valley (North Canterbury)
  • Te Awanga (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Te Kano (Central Otago)
  • Tony Bish
  • Trinity Hill (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Vidal (Hawke’s Bay)
  • Villa Maria (Marlborough etc)

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