1999 Tyrrells “Vat 47” Pinot Chardonnay, Hunters Valley, Australia

A visit several years ago to Tyrrell’s was my introduction to the wines of Australia’s Hunter Valley, and the beginning of my love affair with Australian Chardonnays. Unfortunately, or fortunately, I was weaned on the gold standard — Tyrrell’s Vat 47 was one of Australia’s first Chardonnays, starting in the 1970’s and continues to be one of the benchmarks for excellence for the varietal on that continent.

My tasting experience at Tyrrell’s was phenomenal, as I was able to sample over 19 versions of their Chardonnay from various vineyards and in doing so, understand the impact of the various components that made up the flavors of their wines. It remains one of my most instructive moments in my love affair with wine. Being able to taste wine that was made in the same year in the same way, from the same hillside, yet one with 100 year old vines, and another with 10 year old wines was incredible. Likewise, the vertical tasting of several vineyard designate wines across the 1990’s isolated the impacts of weather and harvest in a way that was very illuminating.

OK. Back to the wine. This remains one of my favorite Chardonnay’s in the world, and while I have tasted a few other Chards recently that I think have edged it out in terms of superiority, it is still awesome by any account, and holds a special place in my heart.

Incidentally, Tyrrell’s continues to use the old and full name (Pinot Chardonnay) for their grapes which can confuse people. It was talking with their winemaker that I first learned that Chardonnay is in the same family of grapes as Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio, each varietal simply being first a Pinot and second a Blanc, Noir, etc. So for future reference, Pinot Chardonnay = Chardonnay.

Tasting Notes:
THIS is what Chardonnays should look like: bright liquid honey gold, a darker yellow than most other Chardonnay’s you will ever see. The nose of the wine bulges with butter cream, honey, and tropical fruits including melon and mango, while the body of the wine contains pinapple, buttered toast, and tangerine flavors with a snappy and then lingering finish. The wine is made in a more European style with a slightly higher acidity to it that makes for a wonderfully refreshing mouthfeel and taste. This really is bottled sunshine.

Food Pairing:
This is a wonderful food wine which complements many things because the oak component is extremely subdued. I’ve drunk through most of the two cases I lugged back with me to the states either as straight cocktail drinking before dinner, or with dishes like lemon and pepper grilled halibut.

Overall Score: 9.5/10

How Much?: $33

Finding this wine can be tough in the states, but Wine Commune currently has it available online.