Wine Reviews

Twelve Bloody Chardonnays

Notes by Sue Courtney

Wines were tasted blind


Summerhouse Marlborough Chardonnay 2015

This lustrous gold coloured wine has a grilled peach and pineapple aroma with a subtle smoky overlay. A generous tasting, bright fruity wine with juicy acidity, a steely undercurrent and plenty of vanilla accents in the toasty savoury oak. Recommended by Cuisine. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Gibbston Valley China Terrace Central Otago Chardonnay 2016

Light lemon gold with a subtle biscuity oak aroma that also hints of hazelnut and lemon.  Harmonious and elegant in the palate with touches of nougat, malo-influences, an ethereal white peach infusion and a delicate feel to the creamy finish which is very long with an enticing compounding richness. One to sip and savour. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $34.99.

Penfolds Bin 311 Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2014 - NSW, Australia

Rich lemon gold with stonefruit filling the bouquet and a lifted nutty complexity. Concentrated in the palate with oiliness to the texture, an elegance to the polished spicy French oak, a fresh nectarine and peach fruit profile, a punch of zesty acidity and a long, dry and very harmonious and satisfying finish. 12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $39.99.

Clearview Beachhead Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

This is a moderate gold colour with perfumed peach and vanillin oak aromas then in the mouth it’s full and fat and big and bold and rich and generous with barrel ferment notes, grapefruit, vanilla, peaches and cream and a long tasty finish. Five stars Cuisine. Gold Easter Show. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Penfolds Reserve Bin 15A  Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2015

Lemon gold in hue with a haunting bouquet reminiscent of nougat and toasted brioche then the taste is crisp, dry, steely, and leesy with subtle wild yeast funk, creamed macadamia nut notes and touches of citrus. Echoing a youthful white burgundy it is classy and sophisticated, harmonious and elegant, and very very long on the focussed aftertaste. Trophy winner at the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge.

13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $93.99.

Mills Reef Bespoke Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

Golden coloured with a strong tropical fruit aroma that has the estery scent of ‘banana bike’ lollies and an intriguing woody nuance a little like camphor. The taste is bold, brash and fruity with spicy oak, a hint of cinnamon and lingering butterscotch on the rounded finish. A new label made in a retro 90s style that slots in between the Elspeth and the Reserve. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Limeworks Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016

A golden coloured wine with an attractive, warm, butter shortbread aroma and a delicate floral allure. Bold toasty oak and golden fruit upfront in the palate falls away to reveal soft creamy notes, a nutty undercurrent, a medley of stonefruit and a lingering apricot glaze. 

14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Kidnappers Cliff Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014

Light gold in colour with a delicate lemon and white peach scent together with nutty oak, haunting smoky notes and later, in the empty glass, original Radox bath salt scents. This is an in-vogue reductive, flinty, wild yeast style with all those lovely intricacies that the best wines have with touches of cashew and hazelnut, a background of nougat, delicate nutty oak and a harmonious melon-like sweetness to the finish. Beautifully sophisticated, seamless and long. Five stars and No.1 in Cuisine’s 2017 chardonnay tasting. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $47.99.

Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 - California

Though light in colour it’s big, bold and fruity on the nose and the taste is jam-packed with juicy tropical fruit, mellow oak and creamy, buttery, easy drinking chardonnay goodness. The most popular Californian chardonnay at First Glass, it is easy to see why. Keep the cork screw handy. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Ata Rangi Petrie Martinborough Chardonnay 2014

A moderate gold colour with honey roasted nuts and lifted fruit aromas filling the bouquet with perhaps a hint of stewed rhubarb. Rich, rounded, full bodied and tasty with zesty, spicy notes, hints of caramel and a medley of tropical fruit with underlying peach. There’s a touch of development to this very satisfying wine that has harmonious oak and a warm mealy finish. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $28.99.

Vavasour Anna’s Vineyard Marlborough Chardonnay 2015

This light yellow hued wine has a bold aroma offering up honey dew melon, spicy oak and touches of hazelnut. More spicy and savoury than fruity upfront in the palate - perhaps white currants and citrus notes - with polished French oak and a touch of hokey pokey on the warm, rounded, lingering, mouthfilling finish. 4 stars Cuisine. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $35.99.

Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Sonoma Chardonnay 2015 - California

Citrine in hue with an inviting tropical fruit bouquet and rounded and clean in the palate with the tropical fruit profile continuing together with spice, oatmeal, honeyed oak, touches of butterscotch and a warm juicy finish. Very drinkable and best of all it you no longer need a corkscrew to open it. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $25.99.

Premium versus Budget

Notes by Sue Courtney

Wines were tasted blind

Sileni The Lodge Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
This is a brilliant gold colour. The nose is lemon and oatmeal and the taste is rounded and mellow with warm lemon butter caramel, creamed cashews and savoury oak emerging to linger with a subtle salinity. It’s smooth and satisfying with a deliciously long finish. Not tasted blind, it was served from a 1.5-litre magnum that comes in an impressive presentation box. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $71.99.
Selaks Founders Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016
Light lemon gold in the glass with a leesy, grapefruit bouquet and a fresh juicy taste with zesty citrus tones, smoky French oak and gunflint. A clean modern style with a rounded mouthfeel and seamless flow. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.
Greywacke Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
This bouquet of this light gold wine is smoky and savoury with biscuity notes and cedar. It is bright and zesty in the palate with underlying flinty reductive notes, some wild yeast influences and touches of  caramelised peach crumble with honeyed oak more prominent on the mouthfilling and magnificently long finish where lovely creamy mealy notes linger. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $36.99.
Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014  
Light gold in hue with almost heady aromatics and silky and seamless in its flow with richness to the texture, a touch of rose petal and musky spice notes, spiced strudel apple and a hint of apricot-like sweetness to the finish where there is the most subtle suggestion of hokey pokey. Never OTT, just sublimely ethereal and elegant. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.
Aronui Single Vineyard Nelson Pinot Gris 2016
This straw gold wine is immediately more redolent of Pinot Gris as we know it with vanilla poached pear and quince aromatics following through to the palate. It’s bright, spicy, juicy and appealing with the sweetness level just on the cusp of off dry for all round appeal. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Shaky Bridge Pioneer Series Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 
Deep boysenberry hued with a ripe plummy aroma yet savoury rather than upfront fruity to the taste with a peppery vibe and some vanillin oak tones then, on the finish, succulent juicy plum and cherry fruit wells up from within. Not overly complex but smooth in its flow. 13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.
Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
This aromatics of this deep Burgundy-hued wine are framed with beautifully honed savoury oak and  the woodsmoke scent of smoky bacon. It tastes savoury and a touch gamey with firm, fine-grained tannins, a touch of anise, dried herbs, bittersweet red fruits and a velvety finish where ripe cherry notes emerge to linger. Wild yeast funk adds intrigue to this multi-faceted wine that becomes more generous and thought provoking with every sip. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $44.99.
Alma Gitana Old Vine Grenache 2013 – Carinena, Spain 
The savoury and slightly herbal bouquet of this rich pinky red-hued wine immediately whisks me to Europe. It smells like a classic dry red and it is indeed dry upfront in the medium-bodied palate where firm tannins are tamed by succulent raspberry and red plum fruit, the oak is nicely integrated with a touch of vanilla and the finish is long and juicy. 13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $12.99.
Xavier Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2012 – Rhone Valley, France 
Dark red in the glass with hints of mocha joining brooding red fruits on the nose. Savoury yet succulent in the velvety textured palate with touches of barnyard and mercurochrome infusing dark red fruit flavours with hints of tobacco, a peppery vibe and later a hint of anise. Made from a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre this is a serious, full bodied, textural, mouth-coating wine with a creaminess to the ripe, succulent finish and a very long, pleasing, winey aftertaste. Fantastic wine at a great price. 14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $49.99.
Belasco De Baquedano Llama Old Vine Malbec 2015 – Mendoza, Argentina
Inky crimson purple with a slight herbal nuance to the boiled red lolly bouquet then purple fruits and violets are upfront in the palate that’s characterised by fine tannins with pepper-infused spicy accents, charry oak, an edginess to the fruit like you get in tamarillo (but not tamarillo) and a long juicy finish. 14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $21.99.
Belasco De Baquedano AR Guentota Malbec 2011 – Mendoza, Argentina 
This is almost black in the glass with a sumptuous aroma of blackberries. It’s a very stupendous, ripe, succulent, juicy, meaty, charry offering with mouthfilling tannins yet a surprisingly smooth flow. There’s a touch of vanilla in the woody oak with luscious berries and a hint of rose hip – and while it is fruity, it is foremost savoury with a warm, mouth-coating finish. 15% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $34.99.