Sales boom for premium Chardonnay

May 21, 2019
By Alana House

New data shows Chardonnay is experiencing double-digit growth in Australia, with wine lovers happy to pay more for quality.

Sales of premium Chardonnay – wines in the $20-30 price range – have increased 12% year on year according to figures from Dan Murphy’s and BWS, making it the fastest growing category for the varietal.

“Australian Chardonnay is one of the most exciting wine categories in the world today,” says Andrew Caillard, Fine Wine Principal at Dan Murphy’s and BWS. “The quality and value is explosively good with so much diversity of style yet precision and superb fruit definition.”

Meanwhile, online wine retailer Vinomofo says chardonnay is its leading white wine category, accounting for 40% of the site’s white wine sales.

Head of merchandising Eddie Schweitzer told the Herald Sun: “We’re seeing customers seek out examples from cool climate regions such as the Yarra Valley and Adelaide Hills, and are prepared to pay a premium if the quality is high.

“We’re also seeing a trend towards customers exploring new regions for chardonnay, with more than 25% of our chardonnay sales now coming from abroad.”

Margaret River Chardonnay makes up approximately 15% of total Chardonnay sales in the country, despite the region only producing 3% of Australia’s total crush according to Wine Australia.

In Western Australia, Margaret River Chardonnay makes up 31% of Chardonnay sales, the highest proportion in all states.

Winemaker Freya Hohnen discusses premium Chardonnay.

Margaret River winemaker Freya Hohnen (above) believes the uniqueness of the wine region together with the collaborative spirit of the winemaking community has helped the region excel in Chardonnay, the white wine variety that was an outcast for more than a decade.

“Some winemakers in the 1990s were making overly oaky and buttery styles of Chardonnay and it become very uncool to drink Chardonnay all of a sudden,” she said. “The term ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – was even coined.

“Winemakers in the Margaret River have started working together, and through trial and error and by listening to wine drinkers, they refined and evolved the style. Today, Margaret River Chardonnay has found its sweet spot. It’s not too lean and not too powerful – and the feedback from wine drinkers is that this is the kind of Chardonnay they love.”

However, Hohnen said she still gets pushback from consumers.

“Often when I host wine tastings, people will walk past saying ‘Oh, I don’t like Chardonnay, I won’t try that’. I ask them to just give it a go and more often than not they’ll be pleasantly surprised.”

Hohnen grew up on the estate of Cape Mentelle, which was co-founded by her father David Hohnen, one of the original Margaret River pioneers.

While he favoured Cabernet Sauvignon, her specialty is Chardonnay.

Once & Well premium Chardonnay

“I wanted to make a premium Chardonnay that was accessible to all Australians, and an expression of the region,” she said. “The grapes are from different sites, so you get a blend of tropical flavours and citrus characters. The end result is a lovely, balanced Margaret River Chardonnay.”

Once & Well Chardonnay is available at Dan Murphy’s for $20.90, as well as selected BWS stores.

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