Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Believed to be of Middle Eastern origin, Chardonnay is the world's most popular white varietal, and one that loses itself completely to wine making techniques. More a type of wine than a vine variety (with some definite exceptions), Chardonnay is made in every imaginable style. In the last 50 years or so, plantings in Australia and North and South America have given this grape a very high profile. Thanks in part to its popularity, producers in every corner of the globe are jumping on the bandwagon.

Most experts agree the ultimate expression of Chardonnay’s potential is in Burgundy, where the region, not grape type, gives the wine its name. White Burgundy ranges from a light, crisp Macon, to a steely, direct Chablis, to a nutty Meursault, and on to a very rich, layered, and complex Montrachet. Blanc de Blancs Champagne, also made with chardonnay, is breathtaking in its purity, delicacy, and creaminess.

From light, crisp and tart to full-bodied, opulent and ripe, one common denominator is a
malolactic fermentation, the conversion of tart malic acid to the soft lactic acid. Many winemakers employ this technique to achieve this popular buttery characteristic.

Here are a few examples of how Chardonnay manifests itself in different areas of the world:

Adelaide Hills  High natural acidity combined with ripe fruit make a typical, comparatively ripe Australian wine with long aging potential.

Carneros  The mists of the San Francisco Bay moderate what would otherwise be a hot climate, making for well-structured wines that still show some generosity of fruit.

Chablis  The steely table wines of this cool region have a firm acidity that allows them to develop into some of the longest living whites available.

Champagne  In this cool region of France, the grape makes acidic and delicate base wine for the greatest sparkling wines of the world.

Hunter Valley  One of the warmest regions of Australia produces big chardonnays with a typical “peaches and cream” character.

Languedoc  In southern France, the chardonnay grape produces melon and butter characters that reflect burgundy without its great structural balance and intensity.

Marlborough  In this dry region of New Zealand, chardonnay produces wines that may echo some of the Australian fruit styles, but with an extra vein of acidity.

Meursault  In the Côte d’Or, the heartland of Burgundy, the grape produces buttery, nutty wines with a streak of acidity.

Napa Valley  Just 20 miles (32 km) north of Carneros, in Cali­fornia, chardon­nay becomes full, ripe and generous, but without the taut­ness of the wines from farther south. Ripening also allows the various flavor components of the grape to develop.

Chardonnay: citrus, apple, pear, tropical, buttery, creamy, nutty, steely, minerally, oaky.

Chardonnay:  Burgundy, Champagne, Languedoc Roussillon, Umbria, South Australia, Western Australia, North Coast, Central Coast, South Coast, Central Valley, Casablanca Valley, Mendoza.

Long Depaquit Chablis Moutonne, Burgundy (France)
Raveneau Chablis Montee de Tonnere, Burgundy (France)
Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault “Clos de la Barre”, Burgundy (France)
Domaine Coche-Dury Meursault-Rougeots, Burgundy (France)
Domaine Bachelet-Ramonet Batard-Montrachet, Burgundy (France)
Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Batard-Montrachet, Burgundy (France)
Domaine d’Auvenay, Leroy, Chevalier-Montrachet, Burgundy (France)
Salon Clos de Mesnil Champagne (France)
Hanzell Chardonnay, Sonoma, California (USA)

Best Value
Chassagne-Montrachet “Les Blanchot Dessus”, Anglada-Deleger, Burgundy, (France)
Nicolas Feuillate Blanc de Blancs Premier Cru nv, Champagne (France)
Iron Horse Blanc de Blancs, Sonoma County Green Valley, California (USA)

© Copyright 2014 Master Sommelier Catherine Fallis, Planet Grape LLC. All Rights Reserved.

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