Back when Donald Trump’s hair didn’t yet resemble a comb-over and Michael Jackson’s notoriety was still purely about the music, the white wine of choice in Australia was Chardonnay, always. Yes, before Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon wowed our palettes, Chardonnay in the 80s and 90s was big, bold and more often than not heavily oaked – and Australians loved it.
Winemakers too were seduced by Chardonnay’s charms, particularly its versatility, adaptability and widely appealing nature, and we can thank viticulturist James Busby for introducing Chardonnay vines to us all back in 1832. After those early cuttings matured it is said to be Tyrrell’s 1971 Vat 47 Chardonnay (whose vines were said to have been ‘borrowed’ from Penfolds’) that hooked Australia’s tastebuds on the variety, shifted our love of big reds to big whites, and set the 1980s Chardonnay boom in motion.
It was a heady time for Chardonnay, but Australia’s tastes eventually began to shift to more elegant and restrained styles – and it seemed Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon were now in. Fortunately, many talented winemakers knew Chardonnay had more to offer and so they set about freeing it from its ‘Anything But Chardonnay’ reputation. Winemakers did this by allowing Chardonnay to do what it does best – be versatile, adapt, and charm us by the glassful.
Yes, it was time for this beloved green-skinned variety to step out from behind the buttery, vanillin and rich honey characteristics of oak fermentation to show us another side. Soon, Chardonnay’s crisp, refreshing and abundant fresh fruit qualities began to shine through and a new era was born. An era which “reflected laser-like acidity, restraint, elegance and minerality. And the market hasn’t looked back.” – Wine Australia
Today in Australia, in its hometowns of Burgundy and Champagne in France, as well as in many New-World regions, Chardonnay is once again widely regarded as, “the world’s most popular and important grape.” – Wine Cellar Insider. This return to popularity undoubtedly can be attributed to its versatility and flexibility, and as Jancis Robinson acknowledges, a “‘typical’ burgundy hardly exists,” and today it is also true for Chardonnay in Australia.
Our diverse wine growing climates, soil types, winemaking styles, and Chardonnay’s ability to adapt, means Chardonnay can be present itself in many ways, rich and oaky, or fresh-faced and fruit driven…it just comes down to knowing what you like and also where to look. As you might have guessed, at Tumblong Hills we happen to be quite partial to NSWs Tumbarumba for Chardonnays bursting with regional characters that are an elegant, tighter style and feature the likes of grapefruit, white peach, citrus and vanilla.
And speaking of regional characters, our latest release Chardonnay celebrates more than regional finesse in a glass. It also honours a local hero whose story adds richness, depth and a whole lot of flavour to Australia’s regional history. Introducing Sergeant Maginnity – an Irishman who began serving the Tumbarumba region around the same time James Busby’s first Chardonnay cuttings reached our shores, but who sadly died at the hands of bushranger Daniel ‘Mad Dog’ Morgan.
We believe remembering local heroes, such as Maginnity, keeps them fresh-faced in our minds – and what better wine to do it with, than a fresh-faced Chardonnay.