When I showed this bottle to my friends, the response I got was, “New Zealand Chardonnay? Really?” Yes, really. Though the country is well-defined by its Sauvignon Blanc, it’s by no means the only white wine grape. In fact, in the Canterbury region, where the Mt. Beautiful winery and estate vineyards call home, Chardonnay is the third most-planted grape variety just behind Pinot Noir and, yes, Sauvignon Blanc. So let’s take a taste, shall we, and see what the southern portion of New Zealand has to offer the Chardonnay style spectrum.
About the Wine: The Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes harvested from the Mt. Beautiful estate vineyards located in New Zealand’s North Canterbury region. The fruit was hand-picked then whole-cluster pressed. The juices fermented in combination new and seasoned oak puncheons as well as stainless steel tank. The portion fermented in oak went through secondary, malolactic fermentation. The tank and barrel batches aged separately for nine months on the lees. The final blend was created, then fined and filtered before bottling.
Flavor Profile: Twist the cap off the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay and find savory aromas of grilled peaches, poached pears and a simultaneous roundness (like brown-butter cookies) and, what I call boxiness (reminiscent of a cardboard box).
This Chardonnay is a Champagne-yellow on the pour, presenting just a shade denser in the glass — but no less radiant. Initial aromas are of soft, round tropical stone fruits — apricots, nectarines, mango, guava. Deep breath in and you can sense there’s something more, so swirl and breathe again. This time breathe in flowers — petals, stems, leaves, and all: Yes, it’s perfume-y, yet oh-so-earthy.
The palate of the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay is quite light in body but maintains a creamy baseline. There’s also a thin line of acidity that presents itself at the start of the tasting as a light fizz, but climaxes, evolves, and envelopes the palate for a fun, summer-sunburn finish. Indeed, there’s a warmth that penetrates the heart.
Dominant flavors are of soft nectarines, those poached apples, salt and butter, and agave nectar.
Food Pairing: I paired the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay with a grilled tilapia fillet on top of roasted vegetables. What I loved about this pairing was the softness of the roasted veggies — which included butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and shallots — perfectly paralleled the softer, rounder textures and flavors of the wine, giving in a luxurious mouthfeel. Meanwhile, those same elements in the wine did well to counteract the tilapia, which was seasoned with lemon pepper and, on its own, a bit harsh for my liking.
More Info: I received the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay as a sample for review. (Cheers Suzanna!) Retail: $21.99. For more information about Mt. Beautiful, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Mt. Beautiful website.
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