Chardonnay makes a comeback

One of the great pleasures of my job is the diversity of wines that cross my path. They may be from tiny boutique, or large-scale producers, local and international with price points that span the gamut. While prices at the top end generally continue to rise with inflation, at the lower end things have remained remarkably stable.

A key factor in that price pressure has been the change in liquor licensing laws in 1989-90 allowing supermarkets to sell wine. Their buying power, and "stack it up and watch it fly" promotional activity has arguably put both a handbrake on price, while also helping to democratise wine by removing some of the "old snob factor" that could surround it: being able to buy a bottle with your groceries keeps it all down to earth.

That’s not to say that supermarkets are the only avenue for good-value wines. There can be a misconception that specialist wine shops are by nature "expensive" — in reality, a significant portion of the offering of any good wine shop or liquor store worth its salt, will be focused on the sort of wines that we can all afford to open any night of the week.

Several online retailers also focus on value-for-money offerings.

While the sheer volume of sauvignon blanc produced here means that economies of scale and market forces keep prices low, the other grape variety that has seen remarkable stability in price is chardonnay, our second-most planted white grape variety. Part of this is due to the years that it spent in the doldrums when it was rather out of fashion. But chardonnay is definitely back.

Many of the great-value chardonnays come from our largest producers. Their ability to make large volumes consistently well to hit price points is a skill very evident in the wines featured today.

2019 Villa Maria
Cellar Selection
Hawke’s Bay
Price: $17.99
Rating: Very good to 
Ripe fruits with peach, dried fruits, banana skin and toasty nuances. Oak notes of vanilla and spice lead the palate, along with a basket of tropical fruits and a squeeze of citrus to keep this fresh: grilled nuts and lime as the palate fattens. Good fruit weight and nicely integrated. There’s lovely drinkability and appeal to this. 
2019 Selaks
Hawke’s Bay
Price: $16.99
Rating: Excellent
Subtle but attractively-expressed nose with mixed ripe fruits backed by hints of oatmeal, given a savoury touch by a hint of licorice. Rich and generous palate layering oatmeal, grilled nuts, oak spice, tropical fruit and a little fruit jube. A sweet fruit core runs through this showing good flavour intensity and a long, appealing close. Lots of ingredient for the price.
2018 Church Road
Hawke’s Bay
Price: $19.95
Rating: Very good to
Sweetly perfumed with smoke, ripe stonefruits and vanilla pod, bonfire embers later. Starts off light and zesty in the mouth but quickly builds and grows. A little buttered popcorn melds with the stonefruit and white peach. The oak is noticeable yet tanginess creates a nice counter to retain freshness. A delightful flavour on the close.

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