The Chardonnay Masters – Asia 2020

The Chardonnay Masters – Asia 2020, which took place at Mr Wolf restaurant in Hong Kong’s Central district, saw a panel of five expert judges blind-taste more than 30 Chardonnays. The results showed that the wines on offer were diverse with attractive qualities.

One of the most widely planted grape varieties in the world, Chardonnay is enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Versatile in style, the wine can pair well with an array of cuisines.

“Generally, it is smooth and gentle, with an aromatic profile that varies according to the region and climate where it is grown. In terms of the use of oak, over oaked Chardonnay is no longer the mainstream; instead, winemakers are using it in moderation to give their wines a buttery mouthfeel and toasty vanilla aromas,” said Zachary Yu, sommelier and director of SommTech.

The competition celebrated Wakefield Taylors One Giant Leap Chardonnay 2018, whih achieved the top accolade of a Master medal in the competiion. Judged in the Oaked Under HK$100 category, the wine offered exceptional value for its price point.

“The expression is very fresh with a bouquet of beautiful floral and citrus notes; the profile is very well balanced, especially the oak. With this price tag, the wine is a great surprise,” said Tersina Shieh, an experienced wine judge and marketer.

The overall 2018 vintage in South Australia’s Clare Valley was warm and dry. The weather was relatively calm and winemakers were spared from major heatwaves, resulting in the highly aromatic wines with very pure and distinct characteristics.

Two of the estate’s other Chardonnays, namely Wakefield Taylors Jaraman Chardonnay 2018 and Wakefield Taylors St Andrews Chardonnay 2018, were also recognised with Silver medals in the competition.

Margaret River estate Vasse Felix is another Australian winery the judges raved about in the competition, as it scooped two Gold medals. In the Oaked HK$151-200 category, Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Chardonnay 2018 caught the panel’s attention due to its “elegant, juicy, generous, lingering and highly drinkable” profile, according to Yu.

Meanwhile, moving up to the price bracket between HK$301-500, Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2018 was another high performer. Anty Fung, a wine specialist and manager of Hip Cellar, said, “the wine shows great finesse. It has good tension, mineral structure and a long finish.”

The competition also proved that Sauvignon Blanc powerhouse, Marlborough in New Zealand, boasts equally outstanding Chardonnay production. Marisco Vineyards Craft Series ‘The Pioneer’ Chardonnay 2016 picked up a Gold medal in the Oaked HK$201-300 flight.

Shieh found it to be “a pleasant wine with a nice blend of fruit and oak flavours and good acidity”. Hailing from the same region, Leefield Station Chardonnay 2018 took home a Silver medal for achieving “a good balance of oak, fruit and creaminess”, according to Yu.

Again from the same price range, another highlight of the competition was a Gold medal winning Bourgogne Blanc by Francois Labet, one of the region’s pioneers of organic viticulture. The panel was impressed by the performance of Francois Labet Vieilles Vignes Chardonnay 2018.

Eva Ma, senior marketing executive of EMW Fine Wines, said, “The nose is so complex, which unveils hints of chestnuts and smokiness. On palate, it exudes a sweet flavour with much freshness.”

Greek wine is on the rise around the world and the country never ceases to surprise drinkers with its continually improving quality. Bearing a price tag between HK$100-150, Alpha Estate Ecosystem Chardonnay Tramonto 2018 impressed our judges.

“I am captivated by the palate, which offers notes of Meyer lemon, orange peel and yuzu. It’s a very perfumed Chardonnay with impressive palate weight and a refreshing finish. It’s an excellent wine that offers great value,” said one of our judges.

The panel also enjoyed some exciting discoveries from regions that aren’t well-known for Chardonnay, such as Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay 2019 from Israel, which offered pretty lemon and white flower aromatics.

Another appealing expression was Emiliana Gamma Reserva Chardonnay 2019 from Chile, liked by Shieh for its intense acidity and juciness; and Cavit Maso Torsella Chardonnay Trentino Superiore DOC 2019 from Trentino in Italy, which hooked Ma with its perfumed nose and balanced structure. The comeption highlighted that there are great value Chardonnays being made around the world to suit all palates.

Unoaked

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under $100HKD
Barkan Vineyards Classic Chardonnay Judean Hills Israel 2019 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana S.A. O Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Viñedos Emiliana S.A. Gamma Reserva Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2019 Silver

Oaked

Company Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
Under $100HKD
Marisco Vineyards Ltd The Ned Chardonnay, 10.99 – Marlborough, New Zealand Marlborough New Zealand 2018 Bronze
Marisco Vineyards Ltd Leefield Station Chardonnay Marlborough New Zealand 2018 Silver
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors One Giant leap Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Master
$100-$150HKD
Alpha Estate Ecosystem Chardonnay Tramonto Florina Greece 2018 Gold
Cavit s.c. Maso Torsella Chardonnay Trentino Superiore Doc Trentino Italy 2017 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Cellar Select Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2019 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylor Made Chardonnay French Oak Clare Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors Wakefield Jaraman Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Silver
$151-$200HKD
Australian Vintage McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Silver
Australian Vintage Nepenthe Pinnacle Ithaca Chardonnay Adelaide Hills Australia 2018 Bronze
Treasury Wine Estate Penfolds Bin311 Chardonnay Tumbarumba Australia 2017 Silver
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix ‘Filius’ Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Gold
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix Estate Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Bronze
Wakefield / Taylors Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Chardonnay Clare Valley Australia 2018 Silver
$201-$300HKD
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2018 Bronze
Australian Vintage Tempus Two Pewter Chardonnay Hunter Valley Australia 2019 Silver
Australian Vintage McGuigan Personal Reserve HR Chardonnay Trentino Italy 2018 Bronze
Francois Labet Francois Labet Bourgogne Chardonnay Vieilles Vignes Bourgogne France 2018 Gold
Marisco Vineyards Ltd Marisco Vineyards Craft Series ‘The Pioneer’ Chardonnay, Marlborough New Zealand 2016 Gold
$301-$500HKD
Vasse Felix Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay Margaret River Australia 2018 Gold
Vina Concha y Toroa Concha y Toro Amelia Chardonnay Casablanca Valley Chile 2018 Bronze

The Cabernet Sauvignon Masters – Asia 2020 results

While Australia and Chile are well known for the quality of their Cabernet Sauvignon, other countries are snapping at their heels, with China and Israel in particular impressing in our annual blind-tasting competition, writes Alice Liang.

Robust yet approachable, Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a staple in consumers’ cellars. “In Hong Kong, Cabernet Sauvignon has become a brand name for people to go after,” said judge Jessica Ochoco, senior sales executive at Altaya Wine. “Most of them encountered the grape variety because of Bordeaux, but thankfully, after getting on with the first growths, they are willing to explore the same variety made in other regions.”

The dbAsia Cabernet Sauvignon Masters brought together entries of 100% Cabs along with blends made up of at least 50% of the grape variety from popular New World countries, such as Australia and Chile, to up-and-coming gems, namely from China and Israel. The panel was able to explore the potential that the grape variety can offer.

As one of the world’s biggest producers of Cabernet, Australia showed how good it is as a producer. Penfolds, the powerhouse of Australian wine, achieved a Master with its exceptional Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2017.

The Cabernet-dominant blend impressed independent wine educator Rebecca Leung with its “supple concentration of vibrant fruit and floral flavours”. Leung said the wine was ready to enjoy now.

The panel also raved about the wines from Wakefield Taylors. Priced under HK$100, both Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon won Gold as they proved to be outstanding value for money.

According to Derek Li, Group Sommelier at JIA Group, the former has a “juicy and firm tannin structure topped with mint and herbal notes”, while the latter offers “an intense fruit flavour with a hint of cedar wood”.

Moving upscale, the winery’s costlier wines were awarded Silver medals. Hugo Poon, head of sourcing at Quintessentially, said: “The Wakefield Taylors St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (HK$250) boasts an impressive iintensity. The acidity integrates with the sweetness perfectly. Meanwhile, in Wakefield Taylors’ The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, I spotted rich scents of coffee, vanilla and cherry with a nice finish.”

Chile is another country well known for good-value Cabernets. A couple of New World Cab stars are produced in Central Valley regions such as the Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley. In our competition, Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, costing less than HK$100, took home a Gold medal. Li said:

“The wine exudes rich and intense flavours of plum, violet, nutmeg and cinnamon. This is an easygoing wine that I find very enjoyable.” Meanwhile, Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda 2015, a Cabernet blended with Carmènere, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, was awarded a Silver medal in the competition.

Other hightlights in the competition included Silver medallists Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 and Viña San Pedro Tarapaca Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2019. Both wines are good value, having a price tag of less than HK$100, showing the value of Chilean Cabernets.

As an emerging wine-producing country, China shone in the competition by showcasing the graceful development of its wines. Hailing from Tianjin, Dynasty Fine Wines received Silver and Bronze medals respectively for its Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2008 and Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia 2010 respectively.

Carrying a price tag of HK$301 and above, the panel preferred the former as “it offers a lot of tertiary notes such as espresso coffee, caramel, toffee, and dried plums, while being powerful in style,” said Ochoco.

The Upper Galilee region in Israel has started to gain a good reputation for the wines produced there. Situated at a high altitude, Barkan Vineyards is located in the cooler northern part of the region. The high performer stood out in the competition by winning two Gold medals. Named according to the height at which the grapes are grown, The Altitude Series achieved recognition from the panel.

In particular, Gold medallist Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 delivered “a fantastic body and richness,” according to Vincent Chue, beverage director at Tapa Room. He added: “The use of oak is apparent, but it is well balanced, and shows high drinkability.” Meanwhile, Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore 2016, which also won a Gold medal, showed a totally different profile. Li said: “The wine is pleasing and elegant. I am attracted to the intense characters of cassis, roasted coffee beans and nutmeg.”

Unoaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
V.E.S.A. Birds of Paradise Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vinedos Emiliana O Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
V.E.S.A. Gamma Reserva Central Valley Chile 2018 Bronze

Oaked – 100%

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Taylors Taylors Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Taylors Taylors Reserve Parcel Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2018 Gold
Viña Carmen Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vinedos Emiliana Indigo Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Tempus Two Pewter Series Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Silver
Vina San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Viña Santa Rita Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Nepenthe Altitude Cabernet Sauvignon Adelaide Hills Australia 2017 Bronze
McGuigan The Shortlist Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$300
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 624 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Gold
Allegiance Wines The Artisan Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2014 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 585 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Barkan Winery Altitude Series 720 Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee Israel 2016 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield St Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2017 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Etiqueta Negra Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Katnook Estate Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Australia 2017 Bronze
HK$301 – HK$400
Dynasty Wisemenship Collection – Ravissantia Tianjin China 2010 Bronze
HK$401 – HK$800
Dynasty Premier Royal Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Tianjin China 2008 Silver
Taylors Taylors Wakefield ‘The Visionary’ Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Silver
Allegiance Wines Unity’ Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Australia 2015 Bronze

Oaked – Blend

Winery Wine Name Region Country Vintage Medal
HK$<100
Luis Felipe Edwards Family Selection Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Chile 2018 Gold
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Silver
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon- Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Viña Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley Chile 2017 Bronze
Taylors Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon Clare Valley Australia 2016 Bronze
Vina Chocalan Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Vina San Pedro Gato Negro PeRRRfect Red Blend Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
Alpaca Alpaca Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot Central Valley Chile 2019 Bronze
HK$101 – HK$200
Vina Chocolan Gran Reserva Origen Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Silver
Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
Viña Carmen Carmen Delanz Alto Jahuel Maipo Valley Chile 2018 Bronze
HK$201 – HK$350
Luis Felipe Edwards Doña Bernarda Colchagua Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal El Principal Metropolitana Chile 2015 Silver
Vina El Principal Memorias Metropolitana Chile 2016 Bronze
HK$351 – HK$500
Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz Barossa Val Australia 2017 Master
Barkan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Superiore Galilee Israel 2016 Gold

Chardonnay Masters 2015: the results

Purity of fruit and regional superiority were among the keynotes of this year’s Chardonnay Masters – with Australian expressions of the variety earning special praise from the judges.

Chards-of-class

Few grapes are better at highlighting brilliance than Chardonnay. With a relatively neutral character, the variety is able to transmit the essence of place, as well as cellar techniques, and thus, the skill of the winemaker.

It may not be a grape with a strong character, but it’s one that punishes poor site selection and winemaking with unbalanced, bland results, while rewarding, magnificently, those who understand where it thrives and how it likes to be handled.

With that in mind, the Chardonnay Masters is always a particularly revealing tasting, showing more clearly than any other where is best for this grape and, within that, which producer is on top. And with Chardonnay’s truly global scope, there are always some surprises – new corners of the wine world where this grape can bring about exciting results.

About the competition

In a crowded wine competition arena, The Drinks Business Global Chardonnay Masters stands out for its assessment of wines purely by grape variety rather than by region.
Divided only by price bracket and, for ease of judging, whether the style was oaked or unoaked, the blind tasting format allowed wines to be assessed without prejudice about their country of origin.
Wines were scored out of 100, with those gaining over 95 points being awarded the top title of Master. Those earning over 90 points were given a Gold, those over 85 points a Silver and those over 80 points a Bronze.
The wines were judged by a cherrypicked group of Masters of Wine on 2 December at Aveqia on 2 St Bride Street, London. This report features only the medal winners.

Among these this year was Austria’s Thermenregion, source of Leo Aumann’s first-rate Chardonnay from Traiskirchen, which gained a Gold alongside some famous names in the £20-30 price band, from Margaret River’s Larry Cherubino to America’s Saint Michelle and Jackson Family Wines.

On the other hand, this year’s tasting confirmed the superiority of certain places. So, initially, when it comes to sparkling Chardonnay, Champagne still rules, with beautiful blanc de blancs coming from Drappier, Gosset, Philipponnat and Nicolas Feuillatte, all of which achieved Gold medals or above.

Nevertheless, England is not far behind, as shown with the Mayfield Essence Pure Chardonnay Brut – a Sussex-sourced Silver medallist – alongside two Champagne brands from quality-minded co-operatives: Chassenay d’Arce and de Castelnau. But overall, one country, if not region, stood apart for the consistent quality of its Chardonnay – and that was Australia.

WIZARDS OF OZ
Taking home all four of this year’s highest awards, that of Master, the nation proved that it is rightly famous for Chardonnay, above all from Western Australia and the Yarra and Adelaide Hills regions in the south.

Importantly, this wasn’t just at the very highest price points. For example, Jacob’s Creek Reserve Adelaide Hills Chardonnay was deemed the best of the £10-15 flight, while Hardy’s HRB Chardonnay from the Yarra Valley gainedone of just two Golds in the £15-20 band.

Moving over £20, the Tapanappa Tiers Vineyard Chardonnay wowed tasters with its complexity, generosity and balance – and, with a price tag around £30, relative to great Burgundy, it was deemed excellent value too. The Tiers vineyard may be well known to Australian wine aficionados as one of the great places for Chardonnay down under, but it was pleasing to see that confirmed when the wine from it was pitched against the global competition.

Other greats from Australia included Chardonnays from Larry Cherubino and the Burch Family in Western Australia’s Margaret River and Porongurup regions, respectively.

Chards-of-class 2

SUPER CHABLIS
However, we shouldn’t allow Australia’s success this year to overshadow the great results from elsewhere. In the unoaked category particularly, France, or rather Chablis, showed its superiority, with the premier cru Vau de Vey from Romain Bouchard the only example to achieve a Gold medal for over £20, while the tasters were impressed by the quality of the fruit from Italy’s Giusti, best known for its upmarket Proseccos.

This latter wine highlighted the Italian aptitude for harnessing flavour and freshness from relatively neutral white grapes.

As one would expect, the majority of wines had been exposed to oak, and among the less expensive examples, alongside the aforementioned Adelaide Hills Chardonnay from Jacob’s Creek, New Zealand’s Sileni Estates showed the impressive price-quality ratio possible with Hawke’s Bay whites. Moving up the price ladder a touch, as well as the Hardy’s HRB – discussed above – Chile’s Viña Undurraga stood out, adding weight to a widely-held belief that Limarí is this South American nation’s best place for Chardonnay. It was also good to see Burgundy compete in this price bracket. Achieving a Gold too was Château de Santenay’s Hautes Côtes de Beaune from a monopole called Clos de la Chaise Dieu – an exciting find for Burgundy lovers on a budget.

Over £20 and particularly beyond £30, we found ourselves enjoying some extremely impressive white wines, among which were the previously mentioned examples from Australia, but also brilliant Chardonnays from the US, in particular Cambria in Santa Barbara, Saint Michelle in Horse Heaven Hills and Cakebread in Carneros. Outside the US, New Zealand’s Marlborough showed that its terroir is suitable for grapes other than Sauvignon Blanc, with Giesen’s The Fuder Chardonnay, which is sourced from the Clayvin Vineyard, gaining a Gold.

What did the judges think?

ANNETTE SCARFE MW
The tasting left a positive view on Chardonnay; it was encouraging to see wines displaying purity of fruit without too much make-up. I did not find myself discussing oak on every wine as most were well-balanced and not overworked. Generally, while the entry-level wines were good value for money, there was noticeably more complexity and structure to be seen by trading up.

EMMA SYMINGTON MW
I was pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of sub-£10 unoaked Chardonnays – in terms of their fruit character, balance and even finesse. In contrast, I was expecting more quality from the mid-range oaked Chardonnay, although we had some great wines in the £10-15 and £15-20 brackets. It was only once we got above £20, and particularly above £30, that we found some truly great Chardonnays – and here we had some exceptional wines.

MILES CORISH MW
The tasting confirmed that the best Chardonnays are coming from Burgundy and, in our session, from top-quality Australian producers. This was my predominant view before the tasting and it still remains. The better wines showed a balance between winemaking technique and a purity of fruit. Perhaps this was best displayed in the top-notch examples from Australia, where I found ripe stone fruits tastefully intertwined with hints of toast, reduction (but in a good way) and roasted nuts.

The judges

Left to right: David Round MW, Stephen Skelton MW, Annette Scarfe MW, Sally Easton MW, Emma Symington MW, Sarah Knowles MW, Jonathan Pedley MW, Miles Corish MW and Patrick Schmitt MW

Chards-of-class 3

 

 

 

 

 

CAPE CRUSADER
And finally, a special mention must go to South Africa, where Uva Mira Mountain Vineyards from Stellenbosch gained a Gold and a Master in the final flight of the day – a excellent performance, particularly when one considers the competitive set.

So, those were the highlights, and overall, as Annette Scarfe MW commented: “The tasting left a positive view on Chardonnay; it was encouraging to see wines displaying purity of fruit without too much make-up.”

Furthermore, although the entry-level Chardonnays were good value for money, there was noticeably more depth, complexity and structure as one moved up through the price bands. In short, to quote Miles Corish MW: “The tasting confirmed that, at its best, Chardonnay is the most beguiling of all white varieties.” It also, as expected, provided a clear view of the grape’s greatest global terroirs.

Click ‘next page’ to see the full list of wines that were available…

Logo