SITUATED AT the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in New South Wales, Tumbarumba is perhaps best-known for its pristine chardonnay, arguably the reigning hero of this often unsung region. But the combination of climate, soil, vine age and excellent viticulture is paving the way for myriad varieties at world-class standards. We tasted through 33 recent regional examples: here are our top 12.
2018 Kosciuszko Chardonnay, Tumbarumba, A$26
Almond meal, white stone fruit. Crisp, almost delicate, with restrained oak notes;
oak tannin, good phenolic structure and fine acid. Alpine herbs, musk and a sweet stone fruit character underpin it all. This is a fine, distinctively regional chardonnay.
2018 Collector Tiger Tiger Chardonnay, Tumbarumba, A$40
A famously reductive style from Canberra based winemaker Alex McKay. Aromatically, it sits in the flint/struck match spectrum, with white floral, nectarine and juicy melon notes. Pristine acidity and flavours of lemon rind, melon, white nectarine and roasted nuts.
So very complex, with great length to boot.
2019 Boutique Wines by CSU Tumbarumba Chardonnay, A$27
This is from a great project run by the winemaking school at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga, championing fruit from nearby regions. This is tense, textural and energetic. Lemon rind and white pepper aromas; plush fruit and savoury, saline acidity. It’s all here.
2017 Nick O’Leary Tumbarumba Riesling, A$30
One of the Canberra District’s favourite sons, Nick O’Leary looked to the Cribbin family’s high-altitude (850m) vineyard for this wine. Medium-bodied and textural, with slate, Bickford’s lime cordial, lemon blossom and yuzu pulp flavours. Mouth-watering, sherbet-like acidity darts across a long finish.
2017 Coppabella Sirius Chardonnay, Tumbarumba, A$60
From Block 20 of the 1993-planted Tralee vineyard whose fruit was once designated for Penfolds Yattarna. A precise and characterful chardonnay – nutty, bright and incredibly savoury, with an apple skin-like crispness.
2019 Penfolds Cellar Reserve Tumbarumba Chardonnay, A$55
Salty and floral, with plenty of freshly squeezed lemon. It’s just medium-bodied, and full of life, with a beautiful thread of saline acidity that doesn’t slow down. In the context of Tumbarumba chardonnay, it has Old World feel to it. A wine to sit and ponder.
2018 Moppity Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, Tumbarumba, A$35
Jason and Alecia Brown are two of Tumbarumba’s greatest advocates – perhaps better known for their distinguished shiraz, but their elegant chardonnay deserves a look-in, too. This is floral and briney, with a touch of flint and integrated oak spice. Great length.
2019 De Bortoli Regional Classic Chardonnay, Tumbarumba, A$20
Funny how a wine, made from fruit grown some 200km from the Pacific, can smell so much like the ocean. This is a focused, mineral chardonnay, centred around pure, luscious fruit. Vanillin oak sweetness rounds it out, framed by mouth-watering acidity. Great value.
2018 Nick O’Leary Tumbarumba Chardonnay, A$30
O’Leary may be best known for his fine riesling and shiraz, but he gives chardonnay a decent nudge. Salted lime and grilled nectarine aromas. There is obvious oak but it’s well-integrated; spicy and toasty, with zippy acid.
2019 Mada Wines Tumbarumba Chardonnay, A$35
Canberra-based Hamish Young is one of southern New South Wales’ most exciting winemakers. This is a beautiful wine, almost textbook in its delivery, defined by savouriness and minerality. Pitch-perfect fruit weight and structured phenolics are guided by mineral, slatey acidity. If you can find this, buy it.
2018 McWilliam’s Single Vineyard Revee Estate Pinot Noir, Tumbarumba, A$40
Due to its location, Tumbarumba pinot noir is a very different beast to that of Tasmania or the Yarra Valley. This displays charcuterie, fruits of the forest and a whiff of pepper. Flavours of blackcurrant and bramble, and a core of savoury fruit. Suede-like tannins.
2019 Courabyra Pinot Meunier, Tumbarumba, A$32
Courabyra are one of Australia’s greatest sparkling producers but they make a pretty mean table wine, too. This has serious crunch. Strawberry, cherry, cranberry jam. It’s broad and sweeping in its texture, but it’s light-bodied, brisk and energetic. Fantastic drinking.