For a few years now we have thought that tasting Giaconda Chardonnay next to a top Chardonnay from Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey would be a great comparison for many reasons. Last week, we did just that.
For us, Giaconda makes Australia’s best Chardonnay by some distance. Located in the granitic hills of Beechworth in the Victorian Alps, it’s one of the most sought-after wines on the Australian wine landscape and the quality is there to match the hype.
From the other side of the world, PYCM makes some of our favourite white Burgundys. Based in the village of Chassagne Montrachet, Pierre’s whites have shot to fame in the past decade. The quality is fantastic from the entry level Bourgogne right up to the rare and very expensive Grand Crus.
While both producers make reference-point Chardonnays, what is particularly notable is that stylistically, they share more similarities than differences despite being thousands of miles apart geographically. I like to describe both wine styles as ‘full-throttle Chardonnay with the acid profile to match’. By this I mean that neither producer is afraid of ripeness or shy on oak but the wines balance these aspects with kaleidoscopic flavours spanning grilled nuts, rich stone fruit, citric acids and lactic elements. For me, they’re as close to the complete package as one can get. They also share a level of reduction, which lends aromas of struck match, smoke and flint.
So, in a bit of fun, last Friday night I decided to open a bottle of Giaconda Chardonnay 2021 next to a bottle of PYCM Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Maltroie’ 2020. There were six of us (all staff) at the shop and what I did was tell everyone the two wines I was pouring them, but I did this without revealing which wine was in which glass.
We started with appraisals of both wines and what was immediately obvious was how great both wines were/are, how similar they were in many way and how much we were already loving the comparison. On the surface of it all, great wine should be wine that stimulates your mind and provokes discussion and that’s exactly what happened here.
The next part of the assessment revolved around everyone suggesting which wine they liked more. No wrong answers here. The room was basically split down the middle but all of us could have gone either way.
The most interesting part came next: I asked every to suggest which wine was the Giaconda and which wine was the PYCM. All five people said that they thought that wine one was the PYCM due to the added level of tension and crackle to the acidity. This wine seemed to show slightly more firmness to acid (marginally) compared to the slightly more open-knit profile of wine two (again, this is all relative).
To everyone’s surprise, this answer was incorrect! Wine 1 was in fact the Giaconda. We were all somewhat amazed that the Giaconda not only held its own but possibly outperformed the PYCM at twice its price. This tasting was never about which wine was better, and from the outset we knew the comparison could potentially be very interesting, but none of us had thought that the wines would be this hard to split. The PYCM certainly possessed some characteristics that you may typically associate with new world Chardonnay and likewise, the balance of ripeness and acid in the Giaconda was at levels rarely seen in Australian Chardonnay (usually in Australian Chardonnay, it’s a trade-off between these two characteristics).
Al in all a fascinating tasting. A treat to drink wines of this quality and a true education looking at them side by side like this. Ches Cook, FWC.