Chardonnay is often referred to as the ”winemakers grape” as it is the variety more than any other that can be made into wines of contrasting styles from different regions all whist maintain the essence of the fruit. At Hungerford Hill we delight in producing Chardonnay from two distinctly different regions in NSW – the Hunter Valley and Tumbarumba. These two unique regions are wonderful examples of the diversity on offer to Chardonnay drinkers around the globe. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that lead to these two great Chardonnay and the characteristics of each….
The Hunter Valley is often spoken of in terms of having a Mediterranean climate when in fact the climate is more sub-tropical with maritime influences coming in from the Pacific Ocean to the East. This is primarily the reason behind the region being one of Australia's hottest and wettest. With mountains to the west and north the Valley itself acts as a type of funnel, sucking cool ocean breezes into the area and without these breezes, quality wine grape production would be almost impossible. However, the same cooling breezes also bring with them heavy rainfall and some wild storms in the summer and autumn months which is the most critical time for disease pressure.
The Hunter Valley produces Chardonnay wines of rich flavour and aroma, tending more to the stone fruit and creamy spectrum and lending itself to partial or full malolactic fermentation and bold use of oak. However having said that the fullness of flavour achieved often requires just a hint of new oak to bring out the more spicy notes. Thus we have wines that vary greatly within the region but have the similarity of full palate and robust character. Nestled in the spectacular western foothills of the Snowy Mountains, Tumbarumba is one of the most remote and remarkably unique wine regions in Australia. This alpine high country is dominated by dramatic mountainous landscapes, lush green pastures and classic Australian bushland but it is the vineyards of Tumbarumba that are drawing huge numbers discerning wine drinkers in to its delicious web. Being considered a cool temperate climate, Tumbarumba lends itself to cool climate viticulture and it champion grape varieties wit chardonnay leading the charge. Long dry summers with crisp evening allow the long slow ripening conditions that allow for maximum flavour development.
Chardonnays from Tumbarumba are more elegant and leaner in the style with a greater influence of the citrus and pear characters and mineral acidity. Although that description is the standard there are still variances in the Chardonnays from the region as micro climates add different shades of complexity. Crisp and clean are the most prominent descriptors with the subtle use of French Oak to lift up the fruit purity the most common of examples. If you were to draw any comparison between these two diverse regions in a world perspective it would be to say the Hunter wines are more “White Burgundy” and the Tumbarumba are more “Chablis” in style.
The Australian wine industry owes a big debt of gratitude to the European settlers who introduced viticulture to our wide brown land. The diversity of our continent means Australian winemakers are spoilt for choice, with an enviable variety of climates, grape varieties and winemaking styles.