Tag Archives: Wine tasting

Tasting Shiraz blind – Penfolds Grange Shiraz Wine Challenge

Ever tasted wine blind? No I don’t mean blind drunk…cmon, it’s all about responsible drinking. I’m talking about tasting wine without knowing where it comes from.

Quite often many people associate the quality of a wine with the price tag. What you really should be doing is letting your taste buds do the talking, not your wallet.

You may recall in a previous post that I was off to a Shiraz wine tasting night. That Shiraz wine tasting night was in fact a Shiraz challenge, which was held at Armadale cellars – a quaint wine cellar nestled in inner Melbourne.

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Armthat adale Cellars

This challenge does what the name suggests, and challenges your taste buds to pick the correct Shiraz wine label you’re tasting. The best bit, a Penfolds Grange was hidden in the mix for you to try and pick!

The challenge was hosted by Phil, the founder and owner of Armadale cellars. Phil’s energy and enthusiastic approach to wine was infectious. He took all of the superior snob out of wine and made it something that everyone could relate to.

Before starting the challenge, Phil stated that it was like a ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’ – all great, fabulous and unique wines, with one standout winner. Phil set us the challenge to nominate at the end which Shiraz would make our top three ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’.

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To kick the night off, each of the 20 guests were greeted with a glass of sparkling Shiraz. Phil then put the challenge to us early and requested for us to guess where the sparkling Shiraz hailed from. Knowing that Victoria is strong in the sparkling Shiraz game, I called out ‘The Grampians’ as the region. ‘Correct!’. Phil revealed that the sparkling Shiraz hailed from Best Wines. It was a brilliant sparkling Shiraz, smooth, crisp and not overly sweet. It now tops my fave sparkling Shiraz’s.

Click here to see my top sparkling Shiraz in Australia – ‘Hello Sparkling, hello Shiraz, hello Sparkling Shiraz’

Question – What is the plural word for Shiraz? As Jane from Fabulous Wine Ladies Society puts it, it’s ‘Shirazeses’

Let the challenge begin

In front of me sat 12 wine glasses filled with tastings of Shiraz. Alongside the glasses was a list of the wines in alphabetical order that ranged in price from $60 to $100, right up to $850 – the price of the Penfolds Grange.

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Glass after glass, after glass!

Before we got into the challenge, Phil took us through some key things to look out for when tasting, including the climate where each wine hailed from.

With each different climate, the flavours and aromas of the wine change.

  • Cool climate wines exhibit characteristics of red berry, white pepper and herbal notes
  • Warm climate wines exhibit characteristics of blue fruits like blueberries, ripe red berries, black pepper and herbal notes.
  • Hot climate wines exhibit characteristics of darker berries such as black currents, black fruits, plum, licorice, black pepper and olives.

Alongside these flavours also comes secondary flavours, such as oak characteristics, where younger wines can tend to take on a more oak flavour.

After we had a good understanding what to be on the look out for, the tastings began.

The wines were randomly placed, and were not in any order of price or region. This made the challenge even more interesting and exciting. What we did know, however,  was that the grange was hidden in the last set of the 4 tasting glasses.

I must admit, while I’m not blessed with the finest palette, I am training the taste buds to be more receptive. This involves tasting many different wine varietals that hail from different climates, and regions. By tasting an array of different wines, the taste buds become more attuned to picking up on different flavours of fruits, spices, and other fun flavours like licorice, toffee and mint. Alongside picking up on flavours of a wine, the colour is also another key factor of knowing where a wine hails from; a lighter colour indicates a cool climate region, while a deeper colour indicates a warmer region.

After a lot of analysing wine colour, sniffing aromas, and sipping each wine, you will be pleased to know that out of the first 8 wines, I managed to get 3 right.

Much wine, very hard!

Bring on the Penfolds Grange

When it came to tasting the last 4 glasses, it was known that the grange was sitting amongst them. Going through and taking quick sips, I could instantly taste that glass #3 held the almighty grange.

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Lucky number three in the fourth row!

It tasted like a very well-aged and matured wine. Vanillian notes made it smooth on the palate, and didn’t leave an acidic after taste in your mouth. While it was pleasant to drink, it didn’t rock my world. In fact, there were other wines in the tasting that rocked my world. My top three in the ‘Miss Universe of Shiraz’ were:

  1. Paradgim Hill Col’s Block 2013 (Cool climate Shiraz)
  2. Hently Farm The Beast 2014 (Hot climate Shiraz)
  3. Bendigo Pondolowie (Warm-Hot climate Shiraz)

The result

In the end, I ended up getting 7 out of 12 correct! That’s a pass in a teachers book!

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Once the challenge had finished, we were served up delicious lamb pies with a side salad from local baker Phillipas.

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For a hard earned thirst…

For anyone who loves their Shiraz, or is simply wanting to develop their skills and knowledge in wine, this is a fantastic way to do it. It’s challenging and fun, and the Armadale Cellars crew make you feel very welcomed.

Not only do they do Shiraz wine tasting challenges, but they also do a Champagne wine tasting challenge. In this challenge, they hide a glass of Dom Perignon in the mix. Now this is one sparkly wine challenge that I’d love to try!


Until next time winos,




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How much would you pay for a bottle of wine?

It was announced a couple of weeks ago that Penfolds had released an exclusive range of their Grange wine, complete with a price tag of $3,000.

How much?!

Yep. You read it right. $3,000!

Penfolds have blended three of their best Shiraz vintages, the 2008, the 2012, and the 2014 into one wine called ‘g3’, and there’s only 1,200 bottles of them in the world.

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So what makes Penfolds so special and gets people excited like Christmas day?

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Here’s why:

Penfolds winery is one of Australia’s oldest wineries, located in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Established in 1844, the winery originally produced sherry and fortified wines. After many generations and 100 years later, the winery shifted focus and started to produce ‘table wine’. In the 1950’s Max Schubert, Penfolds chief winemaker at the time, went on a trip to Bordeaux to learn the art of making quality wine. Upon his return, Max ended up producing what we now know today as ‘Grange Hermitage’.

Fact – Hermitage is basically another word for Shiraz or Syrah. The Grange Hermitage is made mostly from Shiraz, with a hint of Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Max Schubert the wine master!

Funnily enough, when Max had started producing Grange Hermitage, Penfolds management  and critics slammed it saying that it was rubbish. He was even banished from making it! Despite the knock down, Max continued to make Grange Hermitage in secret. Years later, Penfolds management decided to taste the original wine made back in 1955. After years of it being in storage, it turned out that it was a tasty one and Penfolds went on to reinstate the making of it!  This first vintage went on to win many awards and gold medals. Go Max!

Today, Penfolds Grange Hermitage has gained global recognition and is considered the most premium wine in the world.

What’s the g3 taste like?

With the wine being so unique and rare, the only tasting that occurred was in Hong Kong at the Liang Yi private museum in Sheung Wan. Unfortunately I was unable to make it to  Hong Kong for the tasting, so here’s one review for you to read:

“There’s a depth and density to the rich black fruit that is a hallmark of Grange, with the fruit wrapped up in mature flavours of warm oak and damp earth and sweet leather, as well as youthful characters of dark spice and fine, firm, lingering tannins. In other words, you can see the contribution that each of the three vintages, 2008, 2012 and 2014, brings to the wine, but it all marries together seamlessly.” Max Allen, Australian Financial Review, 19th October 2017

Despite missing out on this g3 tasting opportunity, I will be tasting a Grange Hermitage soon at a Shiraz tasting night at Armadale Cellars in Melbourne, and I cannot wait!

Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to let you in on my opinion of this experience.


Until next time wino’s



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On the Twentieth day of Christmas my wine rack gave to me a SubRosa Chardonnay

Chardonnay rhymes with Tuesday right?

This Chardonnay is an absolute cracker in the lead up to Christmas. It’s a Chardonnay hailing from SubRosa wines in the Grampians – a cool climate region in Victoria, Australia.

Behind this brilliant wine is brilliant winemaker Adam Louder. Adam has many years of experience in the wine industry, having worked in Bordeaux, the Napa Valley, and now in Australia. Adam’s wealth of experience really shows in SubRosa’s wine case, and this Chardonnay is no exception. The grapes are handpicked, and are pressed as a full bunch, which is means less fruit damaged, and tonnes of flavour.

The wine is refreshing, and I feel has a slightly modern take on the classic Chardonnay. With melon and citrus flavours coming through, it has a slight acidity level to it. While some Chardonnay’s are big on that big buttery taste, this one is not so much, and is an absolute delight to drink.  The other big plus is that it comes at a price tag of $25! Everyone’s a winner!

The name of the wine also has a great story behind it:

“SubRosa is latin for under the rose. In ancient times, a rose was hung over the table as a mark of secrecy. What was said or happened around the table, stayed at the table.” http://www.subrosawine.com.au



Here I’ve paired the SubRosa Chardonnay with a fresh home made pasta topped with Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus in a white wine sauce

Until next time winos,





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On the eigtheenth day of Christmas my wine rack gave to me a Mac Forbes Pretty Young Things EB15 Syrah Nouveau 2015

An underground winemaker doing all the right things when it comes to wine.
Mac Forbes is a winemaker based in the Yarra Valley. Mac sources his grapes from 3 of his own vineyards, along with partnering vineyards in the area.
Mac’s really distinguishing trait is his approach to wine making – minimal intervention.

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Mac Forbes himself  Credit: http://www.macforbes.com.au

What is minimal intervention?

It’s basically not interferring with the grapes in the wine making process. That means dumping the grapes into the barrel and letting them ferment, with limited use of pumps to move the wine around. It also means not adding things like acid and yeast, and only adding small quantities of sulfer. Most wineries add these ingredients to balance out the wine, and enable longer preservation.

Minimal intervention is very much about ‘why mess with the grapes, if you’ve already got the best grapes around?!’

The other brilliant thing about Mac’s wines is that you won’t find a tasting note on his bottle. Rather than influence your taste, he prefers you to make up your own mind.

“We have chosen not to provide traditional tasting notes for any of our wines. Our wines hopefully capture vineyard life and vitality. As such the wines are constantly evolving. The only tasting notes that matter are yours.” http://www.macforbes.com


Mac Forbes Cellar Door located right in town in Healesville

So here’s my take on his Pretty Young Things EB15 Syrah Nouveau

Featuring a deep plum colour, the flavours are very much like fruits of the forest, with blackberries and blueberries popping out. Not big on tannins, but instead is rather silky, with a smooth finish, just like a Sunday morning.

Until next time winos,



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On the twelfth day of Christmas my wine rack gave to me a Catena Malbec

Malbec Monday

Malbec is a grape variety that hails from France, and is usually blended in Bordeaux wines. While the grape hails from France, the country that really makes this variety shine is Argentina.
In France, the weather and soil conditions are not ideal for Malbec, and tends to be very prone to disease, which is why the variety is used in many blends. Pop the grape in Argentina, and it thrives – the hot, high altitude climate is perfect for Malbec.

Malbec is quite similar to a Merlot, with its plum like flavours, but with a little more character and depth.

The wine that takes out number 12 in the wine advent calendar is the 2014 Catena Malbec.


Deep, and rich in burgandy colour (typical of a Malbec), the Catena has a very fragrant, earthy aroma. It’s smooth and silky, and has distinct oak and pepper notes.

Go on, treat yourself to a Malbec Monday. You deserve it!

Until next time winos


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Fabulous night with a fabulous bunch of ladies from the Fabulous Ladies Wine Society

Ladies, do you love your wine? Consider yourself fabulous? Well this is the place for you, the Fabulous Ladies Wine Society. It’s a group that was founded by the fabulous lady herself, Jane Thomson. The idea behind the formation of this society was to bring together ladies that love wine in a space that’s fun, friendly with no judgement. The society has a number of features from fabulous wine reviews, to fabulous events, and fabulous wine offers from some great wineries.




I attended my first event a couple of weeks ago – The Fabulous Ladies Wine Soiree with Koonara Wines. It was such a great evening, and was so much fun, that I thought I’d share my experience with you.

The event was held at the Vincent hotel in Middle Park Melbourne, and was hosted by Koonara Wines from the Coonawarra wine region. On arrival, I was greeted by the bubbly Jane herself, and a glass of bubbly Koonara goodness – a Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay. It was delight to sip on. A zesty, slightly sweet wine with a dry finish.

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

The room filled up quickly, and was a buzz with so many fabulous ladies.
Once we all got ourselves seated, Jane introduced herself and explained what we were up for – some good food and good wine.

Bring it on!


She also introduced us to Nicole Reschk. Nicole runs the Koonara winery alongside her husband Dru. Throughout the night Nicole explained each of the varieties, as well as the history and workings of the winery.

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

One of the best parts about this winery is that they try to keep everything as organic as possible, and it really shows in the quality of wine they produce. She also explained the idea behind the label – Angel Wings

“When wine is stored in oak barrels, a percentage of that wine evaporates – winemakers call this the ‘angels share’. What is left, is their gift to us.”


Thank you Angels!

At the end of the evening there was a clear favourite in my books; the Shiraz reserve. The moment I tasted this Shiraz my tastebuds were singing. A smooth, well rounded Shiraz, French oaked, with hints of berries.

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity


By attending the event, we also had the opportunity to buy our picks of the night. Jane put it perfectly that we should be buying direct from the winery, to ensure the profits go straight back in to the wine makers pocket. Well said Jane, I could not have put this better myself. And that’s exactly what I did 🙂


me with the fabulous Jane

A fabulous night that I can not recommend highly enough! Be sure to get yourself along to the next event – Melbourne Ladies Fabulous Champagne Masterclass


Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Credit @fabulousladieswinesocity

Until next time winos,

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Melbourne Food and Wine Festival – Dal Zotto Wines

In Australia there are over 2,400 wineries. In Victoria alone there’s just over 700 wineries – the most of any state in Australia. Go Victoria! (Sorry other states!)

So many wineries, so many wines to taste!




Thankfully, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival helped us out in tasting some of Victoria’s best wineries in a one-stop-shop at the City Cellar showcase, on the banks of the Yarra River. While there were many brilliant wineries on show, there was one standout for me – Dal Zotto Wines.



Dal Zotto Wines is located in the King Valley region of Victoria. This region is approximately a 3 hours drive from Melbourne up the Hume freeway, nestled at the base of the Alpine National Park .

What makes King Valley unique is not only the amazing mountainous region it’s surrounded by, but also it’s migrant heritage. Many Italian migrants settled in the King Valley back in the 1940’s and 50’s. Along with the migrants came many European wine varieties including Pinot Grigio, Tempranillo, Barbera, and the infamous Prosecco. In fact, the King Valley can be considered Australia’s home of the Prosecco.


There’s no place like home for Prosecco than the King Valley 


Dal Zotto Wines prides itself on its family values and heritage. With Dal Zotto founder Otto Dal Zotto being the planter of the first vine of Prosecco in the country, why wouldn’t you be?!

Who better to shine through these family values than Patrick, Dal Zotto’s colourful salesman. As soon as you meet Patrick, his energy and love of wine is infectious. Not to mention his love of food. He took us through each of their wines they had for tasting, and explained the flavour and characteristics of each. He even recommended using their Prosecco to make a mojito! Wow this guy loves to experiment. Something I’ll need to try out.




If you do ever see the Dal Zotto Wines stand at any of the numerous wine shows that pop up in and around the country, be sure to drop by and say hi to Patrick!



My final take home picks of the day were:

Dal Zotto Wines Rosato 2013

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When you come across a Rosé as good as this one, pick it up and take it home with you. You’ll have no second thoughts or regrets.


Dal Zotto Wines Pinot Grigio 2015

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A classic Italian variety that stays true to how a Pinot Grigio should be – Crisp, fruity, with a clean refreshing finish.


Until next time winos,




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Olivier Magny – My Jamie Oliver equivalent to wine

For anyone who knows me, knows I’m a Jamie Oliver fan. A big one too. When it comes to the world of wine I think I’ve found my Jamie Oliver equivalent.

Meet Olivier Magny – a French Sommelier/Entrepreneur/Author


The man himself. Olivier Magny

I came across Olivier through his SBS show ‘The Grape Escape’.
In the series you travel along with him throughout the French wine regions, visiting many wineries, and learning about the wine making process along the way.
His excitable nature and approach to wine is infectious. His mantra is all about removing the intimidation people may have with wine, with a purpose of making it fun and factual, which I love.

In his series, one of the key highlights for me was when he visited the champagne region – it was so interesting to learn the process of making champagne from picking, to fermentation, through to storing. This all finished with learning how you should open a champagne bottle – my life changed forever when I saw this. simples tip the bottleThe trick is, rather than twisting the cork, you should twist the bottle instead. Simples!


Another region visited was the Bordeaux region. This took me back to my holiday in 2013 where I visited Bordeaux. He even ran in the Marathon du Medoc! What a champion.

Along with this great series, he’s also written a book ‘Into Wine’ (which I’m currently reading), and even founded Ô Chateau, Frances’ number one wine school located in Paris. It’s even home to a wine bar with 40 glasses on the menu to choose from. 40! With so many glasses on tap, I hope one day to visit his wine bar, as I’m sure his collection would be ‘superbe’.

Me in Paris! Oh how I want to go back!

Me in Paris! Oh how I want to go back!

Until next time wino’s,


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Shiraz, Shiraz, Shiraz – it’s the Heathcote Wine & Food Festival

So it’s been a few weeks since my last post. I guess you could say I was busily researching wine…

Now that we are in full spring mode, wine tasting events are popping up everywhere. One festival that I went to heathcote wine festival - wine barrellrecently was the Heathcote Wine & Food Festival, or as I call it ‘The Heathcote WINE Festival’.

Heathcote is a small rural town, nestled in central Victoria (90 minutes North of Melbourne). The wineries based in and around Heathcote proud themselves on magnificent reds. With hot-dry summers, cool-wet winters, and sitting on rich Cambrian soil, this wine region is a Shiraz’s paradise. If you’re ever hard pressed when it comes to choosing a red, one from the Heathcote region will certainly satisfy.

The festival is plonked on the grounds of the Heathcote Showground’s, with over 40 wineries on site. While no Bertie Beatle showbags were anywhere to be seen, there was certainly the opportunity to create my own little showbag of goodies to take home with me; which is exactly what I did.

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Not a cloud in the sky

Upon entry, I was handed a glass with the festival name etched on it for keeps. Woo-hoo! Gotta love a free wine glass.

Going against the words of advice from Beyonce ‘to the left-to the left’, I took a right and started off with tasting at Tellurian Wines – which had a mixture of reds, whites and a rose on offer. One particular variety up for tasting, that I had never tasted before, was called ‘Fiano’ – A light, slightly sweet Italian variety with lemon and pineapple notes. Perfect chilled on a warm summer’s day.

With the overwhelming amount of wineries, and only one day to taste (the festival goes over two days!), I had to be choosy where to tip my glass.

Glass tipping time!

Glass tipping time!

Tips on choosing where to tip your glass:

Fewer people at the tent, the better.

    • As deceiving as it looks, a tent with fewer people can look like the wine is no good. Don’t be taken by this, in fact this is where I found some of the best wine was located. Not only does it give you more time to taste and discover, but it also gives you a chance to have a proper chat to the wine sellers/owners. Here is where you can find out some little gems of information, such as the best year for wine in the Heathcote region – just between you and I it was 2010. You’re welcome.

While they say don’t judge a wine by its label, do it.

    • I chose places that had either interesting names, or labels attached to them – makes for an interesting wine tasting experience.

Tar and RosesTry something different

    • Try wines not stocked in mainstream stores like Dan Murphys. This is a chance to spread your taste buds. Enjoy it.
    • Taste different varieties. You never know what you might come across – just like my new found love of Fiano.
Something was really really funny

Something was obviously really really funny

Throughout the day I was making like Santa, and making a list and checking it twice. At the end of the day, I went back to the wineries I ranked ‘top tasting’, to make my purchases, and created my very own Bertie Beatle showbag.

My purchases for the day:

Downing Estate

2011 Shiraz

This winery was crowned ‘Best Red Wine of Show’!

Downing Estate


2014 Fiano

tellurian wines

Tar and Roses

2010 Nebbiolo

Tar and Roses Nebbiolo

Trust Wines

2011 Trust Shiraz

Trust Shiraz

Peregrine Ridge

2005 Winemakers Reserve Sparkling Shiraz

Peregrine Shiraz

While the next Heathcote Wine Festival may be another 12 months away, do yourself a favour and go treat yourself to a drop of that Heathcote goodness. Better still, go pour yourself a glass of Fiano. You wont regret it.

Leaving the grounds with my showbags

Leaving the grounds with my showbags

Until next time winos,


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Yay or Nay for the Chardonnay – Australian wine lovers it’s time to charge your glasses

No matter how you pronounce it, whether it’s “Shar-don-nay” or as TV funny ladies ‘Kath and Kim’ put it, “Car-don-nay”, Chardonnay is finally back. Yay!


A few years ago, the Chardonnay market was huge, largely positioned towards the affluent wine drinker. What used to be known as an expensive bottle of plonk, wineries saw an opportunity to jump on board, and produce a cheaper variety that would be suitable for all wine drinkers – cue the influx of terrible Chardonnays.  This is what I like to refer to as the ‘Kath and Kim’ era of Chardonnay – the era that really ‘boganified’ the Chardonnay. These lower quality Chardonnays were the types that made your right eye twitch, and neck pull back in a strange and uncomfortable way.



For me, this ‘Kath and Kim’ Chardonnay era ended one fine evening when I was at a wine tasting event sampling an array of Sauvignon Blancs. A winemaker stopped me in my path and handed me a glass of Chardonnay. He insisted I try it, stating – “it will change your life”. Wow, change my life? How can a wine change my life?

I finished off my Sauvignon Blanc tasting, and took the glass of Chardonnay in hand. With one eye on the glass, and one skeptical eye on the winemaker, looking like a deranged person, I took a sip. With that one sip, my mind was blown. Finally, the great tasting Chardonnay I once loved had returned.


The more and more different Chardonnay’s I sampled, the more and more tipsy I became; and of course the more and more I became a converted Chardonnay addict again.


It seems as though Australian wineries are now a lot more educated on producing this variety of wine using better quality oaked barrels in the process. With oak being one of the critical stages of producing a Chardonnay, bear in mind that quality French and American oak barrels don’t come cheap. Remember the old age saying, “You get what you pay for”? Well this totally rings true for the Chardonnay. While you may need to fork out a little extra for a bottle than you normally would for a bottle of white, you will be treated to that dry crisp finish you once loved. You will also have an abundance of choice, thanks to the many wineries that have now perfected their releases.


If you’re still a ‘Nay’ towards Chardonnay, try it out again and you too will be saying ‘Yay’ for Chardonnay.


Here’s two of my favourites – click on the bottle to go straight to purchase. You’re welcome.


Until next time winos,



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