Hunter Valley Chardonnay: Exploring Meerea Park’s Captivating Elixir 

Hunter Valley Chardonnay: Exploring Meerea Park’s Captivating Elixir 

Just as the pendulum swings, consumer’s palates oscillate from grape to grape and style to style. Sometimes, it’s seasonal, but other times it’s just that a change is as good as a holiday. The phenomenon is nothing new – we’ve seen the waxing and waning of the passion fruit flavoured sparkling wines of the 1970’s and the rise and fall of Lindeman’s Ben Ean Moselle in the 1980’s. I just can’t imagine what my parents were thinking! Now, we might wonder who in their right mind would drink that stuff, but it was probably the biggest selling wine of the decade. 

Recently, I found myself privy to a conversation between work colleagues about Chardonnay; and more particularly, which style and region was the best. There were a couple who proclaimed to not like the grape at all, and while a handful were fans of the leaner style that was linear and tightly held by racy acidity, the majority preferred the plush and ripe styles that they described as ‘fruit driven’ and even ‘creamy’. And it got me wondering; if most average wine drinkers prefer that style, why are so many winemakers aiming for the Chablis style that is sophisticated and lean, rather than fruit driven and balanced by oak?   

Australia is undoubtedly blessed when it comes to Chardonnay. We have world class examples being made in all sorts of climates and in varied terroir. From the hillside regions like Beechworth, to the Mediterranean climate of the Margaret River and the cool climate of the Tamar Valley in Tassie, the styles are distinct, but quality is high. And if the modern consumer wants ripe tropical fruit flavours with a mouth filling sensation, then, the warmer and humid Hunter Valley seems the obvious home of what seems to be the ‘style of the moment’.   

The Hunter Valley has a warm climate and with climate change upon us, will only get hotter. And that might be problematic for varietals like Riesling and Pinot Noir, but it certainly isn’t going to present a difficulty for Chardonnay – especially when to consumers, forwardness and ripeness of fruit seems to currently be more important that a tightly bound finish.   

The region is home to wineries that produce cracking ‘chardies’. I love the Silkman Chardonnay and of course, the super-premium Lakes Folly. But for a style that is likely to be a partygoer’s palate-pleaser, it’s hard to go past the Meerea Park Alexander Munro ($55).   

The current vintage of the premium Meerea Park Chardonnay is 2022 – a year that had its fair share of challenges in a generally wet season. Fortunately, the Casuarina vineyard near Pokolbin from which the fruit was sourced, managed to avoid the worst of it. Delicately extracted using whole bunch fermentation, the fruit was matured in 50% new French oak and given 10 months of rest prior to bottling. And the result is quite outstanding!    

Gyrate the glass and take a whiff to find aromas of cashew and spice emerge; characters that meet tropical fruit, nectarine and even a hint of white melon on the palate. It’s not the ‘creamy’ or ‘buttery’ style that my dear mother likes to drink, but there is a delightful ‘toastiness’ that adds to the complexity. It’s hard not to love the melancholy balance of stone fruit and citrus as it dances through the middle and leaves a seductive trail of nut and oak, in an encore of Bruce Springsteen proportion!   

It might not be lean cheek sucking style that some cool climates produce, but with medium weight, terrific fruit and the balance, grace a poise of a ballerina, I reckon that the 2022 Alexander Munro is sure to appeal to a broad range of Chardonnay lovers. 

As published in The Courier Mail.


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