Chardonnay is the second most widely planted grape variety in Australia, after shiraz. While eminent viticulturists such as Dr Richard Smart exhort us to broaden our drinking horizons and resist the follow-the-mob mentality, relying on just a handful of "international" varieties, we tend to be drinking more of the same. The top five varieties (including cabernet, merlot and sauvignon blanc) make up 75 per cent of our diet. The good news is that there is great variety within a single cultivar such as chardonnay or shiraz. Grown in different regions with diverse conditions, including climate and soil, the chardonnay grape can deliver a fascinating array of styles.
Bowen Estate Chardonnay 2017, Coonawarra $24
While not a recognised chardonnay region, Coonawarra can deliver the goods, and prices are often surprisingly modest. This textbook chardonnay has dominant lemon-citrus aromas and very subtle oak influence, and is intense and vibrant on the tongue. The clean finish is refreshing and appetising. Screw-cap; 13.4 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink now to six years.
Stockists include Red Bluff Cellars, Black Rock and J.W. Cellars, Balwyn (Vic); bowenestate.com.au
La Chablisienne Chablis 1er cru Cote de Lechet 2016, Chablis $40-$55
This is an archetypal Chablis at a high level, restrained yet intense, with refinement, poise and persistence. The bouquet of chalky, stony nuances with traces of fresh herbs and honey, is complex and inviting. It's a unique style of chardonnay and a delicious drink. Cork; 13 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink now to five years.
Stockists Vintage Cellars stores.
Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2016, Marlborough $46
This is a wonderfully tense, mineral chardonnay from a winery most famous for sauvignon blanc. Light in colour, it has a creamy-lees, fresh pear aromas with struck-flint overtones. It's piercingly refreshing and crisp, with bright acidity and great compatibility with seafood. Screw-cap, 13.5 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink now to seven years.
Stockists include Dan Murphy's and BWS stores.