Chardonnay, originally from Burgundy, has during the last 50 years become the most popular white grape variety in the world.
It is grown in all large and important wine regions, sometimes successfully, and at other times not so successfully.
Chardonnay is a “chameleon” grape. You can fashion it in the cellar if the fruit is ripe.
It is a wonder grape. When grown in cool climates it is infused with plenty of zippy freshness, complexity, and potential to age.
Warm-climate chardonnays are rich, brimming with tropical fruit aromas, and eucalyptus.
In cool climates the wine tastes more citrusy and/or orchard fruits (apples and pears), elegant with an acid backbone that makes it most suitable for food.
Burgundian chardonnays are different to Chablis, a few hundred kilometres northwest from Dijon; on the other hand California chardonnays are high in alcohol, highly aromatic, and sometimes over-oaked.
Ontario produces fine cool- climate chardonnays.
Australia offers both cool- and warm climate chardonnays, South Africa has special attributes, and Argentina, of late, embarked on an experiment of growing this grape in high altitude vineyards so far successfully. Sicily, a warm climate region, boasts that at least one winery (Planeta) excels in chardonnay grown on high altitude.
Generally, chardonnay wines are barrel aged, although of late, many wineries started producing un-oaked chardonnay.
The type of oak used in aging makes a difference. In France, generally, Nevers, Jupille, Allier, oak barrels are used, in California mostly American oak barrels are employed. American oak imparts high vanilla aromas much liked by Americans, but not elsewhere. Now some Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries use blends of French and American oak barrel aged wines.
The toast levels of barrels also influences both smell and flavour of the wine. Medium toast is most appropriate for chardonnay, although some winemakers prefer light toast.
The following regions and wineries produce reliable quality pending on vintage – Ontario (Niagara Peninsula, Prince Edwards County)
S. Kocis Vineyard Chardonnay, 2009, Closson Chase; Chardonnay, 2009, Flat Rock Cellars; Reserve Chardonnay, 2009, Le Close Jordanne, Chardonnay, 2010, Ravine Vineyard, Chardonnay, 2009, Rosehall Run, Sketches Chardonnay, 2010, Tawse Winery; Chardonnay, 2010, Blue Mou8tnain British Columbia.
New Zealand, Chardonnay, 2008, Kumeu River.
In Burgundy vintage quality matters a gereat deal . 2006, and 2011
Vintages are considered to be outstanding, and any chardonnay from the following wineries or estates will be appealing: Bouchard Aine et Fils, Pascal Marchand, Robert Drouhin, Chartron et Trebuchet, O. Laflaive, Bouchard Pere et Fils, L. Latour, Alex Gambal, L. Jadot, Jean Mommessin, Jean-Marc Morey, Domain Albert Moret, Domaine Blaine Gagnard, Domaine Bonneau du Martrey, Domaine Colin-Deleger, Paul Pillot, La Chablisienne, Domaine Louis Michel, Domaine William Fevre, Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard, and J. Moreau.
In California 2008, and 2010 vintages have been rated very good. You can buy any chardonnay from Konsgaard, Marcassin, Lewis, Pahlmeyer, Buena Vista, Aubert, Kistler, Paul Hobbs, Morgan, Buehler, Calera and Sterling.
In Australia the following wineries make very fine chardonnays Vasse Felix, Heytesburg, Yarra Yering,Blue Pyrenees, Chalk Hill Wines, Chateau Tanunda Estate, Dominique Portet, Dutscke Winery, Lehmann Wienry, and penfold’s. are only a few that come to mind. The 2009 vintage is acclaimed.
South Africa is better known for its red wines and a few white wines, but chardonnays can be very fine indeed. Hamilton Russel’s 2009 chardonnay of 2009 vintage tastes great. The following wineries 2009 vintage chardonnays are highly recommended – Baluwklippen Vineyards, Boekenhoutskloof, Bouchard-Finlayson Winery, Dellheim Wiens, Diemerfontain Wines and Country Estates, Goede Hoop Estates, Laborie Wine Estates, Meerlust estates, Morgenhof Wien Zestates, Muratie, Rusten Vrede Wine Estates.
ARGENTINA AND CHILE ARE NOW PRODUCING SOME VERY FIEN, AND HIGH OCTANE CHARDONNAYS THAT ARE WORTH TRYING.