A great day

for Chardonnay!

Many white wine lovers have had an on-again, off-again love affair with Chardonnay. Oak levels in some of these whites grew almost exponentially through the 1970s and 1980s as winemakers tried to balance the intense fruit - particularly Chardonnays from California and Australia.

However, it is still one of the most widely planted grape varieties. With more than 210,000 hectares (520,000 acres) worldwide, Chardonnay is second only to Spain’s Airén among white wine grapes and fifth of all wine grapes, including reds.

Few of today’s Australian Chardonnays are oaked to the smoky, splinters- between-your-teeth levels of those wines of 40 years ago.  As well as dialling back the uber-ripe fruit character, they have brought the use of oak into a lighter balance.  And that balance is bringing white wine lovers back to Chardonnay.

Begun in Bilyara, Australia in 1966 by German immigrant Wolfgang Franz Otto Blass, Wolf Blass Wines redefined quality winemaking in that Land Downunder.  The first Wolf Blass Yellow Label wines were produced from the 1966 vintage.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay (226860) $15.49 Much leaner, subtler and more food friendly than many whites from Oz with bright notes of apple and pear sliding into subtle tropical fruit, creamy vanilla and lightly toasty oak in every sip of this elegant wine.

Like their counterparts in Australia, California winemakers have reined in the use of oak in their Chardonnays, possibly in response to the defection of so many white wine lovers in the 1980s to New Zealand’s bright, sassy, tropically fruited Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region.

California's oldest continuously operating winery, Beringer Vineyards makes a wide range of wines in a variety of styles and price-points. Fresh and smooth, Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay (534230)   $16.49 subtle aromas of toasty vanilla and tropical notes with full-bodied flavours of apple lemon and lime with sweet vanilla notes.

The Marris family were descendants of William de Marisco (approximately 1100 AD), who was said to be one of the 35 illegitimate children of King Henry the First. Marisco ‘King’s Legacy’ Chardonnay (652891) $17.99 was fermented in large French oak casks using predominantly wild yeasts and allowed 10 months' on the yeasty lees. Fresh apple, nectarine and tangerine flavours predominate with a subtle creaminess, and hints of toasted almonds.

In 1987 Aurelio Montes, Douglas Murray, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro 

Grand got together and set their hearts on creating the finest wines that South America had ever seen. The four friends knew the potential for quality wines in Chile was waiting to be harvested, and so Viña Montes was born.

 

Even at the premium level, among similar wines from other Chilean producers, Montes Alpha Chardonnay (390203) $26.99 is a fascinating white wine with a medley of mango, peaches, guava and grapefruit aromas and flavours tantalizing the taste buds over a core of fresh sliced lemons and asparagus. Ten months in French oak adds subtle elements of toast, vanilla, butterscotch and caramel.

The village of Lugny is located in the South of the Mâcon region. It has a great reputation for its white wines which has made Mâcon famous. With its limestone soils and warm climate, the village of Lugny produces the most coveted white wines of the region.

Founded in 1926, Cave de Lugny is a cooperative of grape-growing families.  Cave de Lugny Mâcon-Lugny "La Carte" (819573) $32.99 comes exclusively from the best soils of the appellation. The vineyard faces south-west with vines averaging over 40 years old. Apple and pear notes slide into honeyed melon and mango with chalky minerality leading into almond and marzipan on the finish.

Terry Meyer Stone and her partner, Andrew Stone purchased 4 ½ acres of vines on the side of Anarchist Mountain overlooking Osoyoos and the Okanagan Valley in 2010. It is one of the highest elevation vineyards - 1,700 feet - in the Okanagan and perfectly situated for slowly ripening their grapes.

From 32 year-old vines Anarchist Mountain Élévation Chardonnay (468820) $33.99 is classically subtle with a medley of apple, pear, cantaloupe, pineapple and lemon rind notes morphing into a creamy mid-palate of vanilla and hazelnut with a dash of sage and lemon, apple and guava dominating the rich finish. 

It is long past time to take another look at today’s Chardonnays!

Reach WineWise by emailing douglas_sloan@yahoo.com