Understanding the Many Faces of Chardonnay

Chardonnay


The King of White Grapes

With summer upon us, now is a great time to beat the heat and reach for a glass of Chardonnay. One of the most versatile grapes in the world, it is capable of many different expressions based on soil, climate and winemaking styles. Sometimes maligned and often revered, Chardonnay is the king of white grapes although advocates of Riesling may have other thoughts!

Why Chardonnay?

Some detractors have jumped on board the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) bandwagon, but to them, I say you have not tried the right version! If you are one of these naysayers, it’s time to re-examine your preconceived notions and find one to your liking. The range of styles of this grape is impressive. From clean, crisp and dry to rich, honeyed expressions with buttery and nutty nuances to everywhere in between, there is a Chardonnay for you!

Chardonnay is an excellent food pairing grape which is excellent with seafood, poultry and vegetables. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a better pairing for the richness of crab, lobster or scallops, and the result might just leave you weeping for joy. Below are different styles of Chardonnay from around the world.


CALIFORNIA


Chardonnay produced in California is generally riper, rounder and often displays less acidity than their old world counterparts and may contain a myriad of  favors. Some feel that the prototypical winemaking style obscures the inherent charms of the grape. It is diffcult to argue with success though as Cali Chard remains hugely popular with local sales eclipsing those from other countries by far.

Over time, some domestic producers have scaled back the use of oak and lessened the effects of malolactic fermentation in trying to mimic the wines of France while others do a great job of finding the middle ground.

SANDHI 2014 CHARDONNAY “RITA’S CROWN” SANTA RITA HILLS

Started in 2010 by Sommelier Rajat Parr, Charles Banks and Sashi Moorman (winemaker for Stolpman), Sandhi focuses on crafting wine from select vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County. Their style is to make wines with vibrancy, freshness and energy. A recent tasting showed a compelling flinty minerality with deep fruit and flavors of candied orange and ginger with zippy acidity.

HUDSON 2014 CHARDONNAY ESTATE CARNEROS

Nestled in the rolling hillsides of the Carneros growing region, Lee Hudson has amazing vineyards and an impressive list of clients who purchase Hudson Vineyard fruit including Cakebread, Duckhorn, Kistler, Kongsgaard, Lewis, Neyers, Nickel & Nickel and Ramey. Hudson’s Estate Chardonnay offers a beautiful rendition from the Northern Coast, rich and full of ripened orchard fruits, citrus and bright  owers.

PAHLMEYER 2015 CHARDONNAY NAPA VALLEY

Sourced from estate property on Atlas Peak, this offers a gorgeous mouthful of rich, buttery Chardonnay, loaded with exotic tropical fruit, pear, melon and pineapple  flavors.  The full-bodied texture, purity and acidity along with the fruit combine to make this a memorable wine.



BURGUNDY


France is the ancestral home of Chardonnay, and some would argue its best examples come from there. White Burgundy aka Bourgogne Blanc o ers some breathtaking wines in a range of styles. It can be a bit complicated, but let’s break it down and keep it simple.

LOUIS MICHEL 2014 CHABLIS 1ER CRU MONTEE DE TONNERRE

Zippy green apple and intense minerality lead the way in this focused and precise, energetic wine. This is clean, crisp and dry and is a textbook expression of Chablis.

MAISON HENRI BOILLOT 2015 MEURSAULT 1ER CRU CHARMES

Warm yellow apples, gingerbread and smoke, weigh in on this classic Meursault which is underpinned by mouthwatering citrus flavors.

DOMAINE LEFLAIVE 2015 PULIGNY MONTRACHET 1ER CRU LES COMBETTES

Intense florals, apple, lemon, spice and mineral notes are on display from one of the most renowned producers from the appellation.


GREAT CHARDS FROM OTHER REGIONS


Drilling deeper, there are plenty of other wines of note from around the world. Here are just a couple of the excellent wines to consider.

LEEUWIN 2013 CHARDONNAY ARTIST SERIES

This Australian producer from Margaret River regularly tops both old and new world counterparts in blind tastings. A concentrated and vibrant aroma, highlighted by lime curd, juicy pears and lemon and cardamom. Beneath lies subtle complexities of a cinnamon quill and black cardamom. On the palate, the fullness of body is balanced with crisp acidity and  flavors of cut limes, pears and white peach give pleasure.

HAMILTON RUSSELL 2016 CHARDONNAY

This South African icon of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is one to know. Unusually prominent pear and lime fruit aromas and  flavors are brought beautifully into focus by a tight line of bright natural acid and a long, dry minerality. An elegant, yet textured and intense wine with a strong personality of both place and vintage.

For those well-versed in the ways of Chardonnay and those who lack experience, now is the time of year to reach for this refreshing white and challenge yourself by choosing a different style or in exploring a different region.

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