The charms of
Chardonnay is the world's most popular white wine. No other variety of white wine sells more bottles.
From it's birthplace in France's Burgundy this green-skinned grape has travelled the globe and put down vines in every wine grape growing region. California, Chile, Australia and South Africa all offer a wide range of affordable Chardonnays.
Founded in 1986, Chile's Emiliana Vineyards farms 2,812 acres in the regions of Maipo, Colchagua, Casablanca, Bío-Bío, Cachapoal and Limarí. Collectively, these vineyards are the single largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world.
Grown in the cool, coastal vineyards of the Casablanca Valley, Emiliana Adobe Reserva Organic Chardonnay $14.49 is full of bright, fresh citrus notes up front – lemon, lime and grapefruit – with wisps
of apple and peach and subtle mango and pineapple rising as the wine warms in the glass. This un-oaked style of Chardonnay was first made popular in the cool Chablis region of northern Burgundy.
The romance and mystique of Burgundy and the demand for the wines has increased prices. Although there are occasionally French Chardonnays from the southern Languedoc available in the $10-$15 range, entry-level Burgundy – Bourgogne Chardonnay – starts at $25 and an inexpensive Chablis, today, is over $30. Expect to pay the same – at least $30 - for oaked white Burgundys from minor regions like Rully, Macon and St.Veran.
With fewer levels of administrative regulatory officialdom involved and no restrictive rules to slavishly follow, 'New World' wineries, outside of Europe, can put excellent wines that are similar in style to white Burgundy on the shelf for less than half the price. Delicious premium Chardonnays from California can be found under $30 and don't overlook affordable wines from New Zealand.
Established in 1934 by Croatian immigrant Marino Selak, Selaks Wines has a special focus on affordability. Clearly aimed at everyday wine lovers Selaks Buttery Chardonnay $14.99 is upfront about its attributes: “We’ve called this Chardonnay Buttery because it is smooth, creamy and simply melts in your mouth. The beautifully integrated toasty oak results in flavours of brioche and vanilla, while still enabling the delightful ripe stone fruit characters to shine through.”
Elsewhere in numerous 'New World' wineries, the same price-conscious principles are being applied to premium Chardonnays. Inexpensive, affordable wines dominate the selections we routinely see from South Africa but starting around $20 retail, exceptionally tasty wines are guaranteed.
Boschendal Farm lies between the Simonsberg and Drakenstein mountains, an hour’s drive east of Cape Town. A blend of 70 percent oak-fermented and matured and 30 percent stainless steel fermented grapes, Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay $21.99 opens with citrus and peach aromas and notes of cinammon and nutmeg. On the tongue, those same flavours dominate, underscored by the richly creamy, buttery texture the oak adds to the fermentation.
Finding affordable Chardonnay from France's Burgundy is challenging. Look for wines from the southernmost regions - Côte Chalonnaise and Côte Maconnaise. The small village of Lugny is one of the most famous areas in the southernmost Mâconnais, producing predominantly white wines.
Founded in 1731 in Beaune by Michel Bouchard, Bouchard Père & Fils, is one of the oldest wine estates in Burgundy, perpetuating tradition for almost 400 years. Bouchard Pere & Fils Macon-
Lugny Saint-Pierre $26.99 features the classic white flower, green apple and citrus aromas that define Chardonnay. Some chalky minerality lurks beneath the fruit character and lingers in the finish.
Very few Italian Chardonnays show up on our shelves here in BC. Di Lenardo Vineyards draws grapes from their own vineyards in the Friuli region of Venezia, in northeastern Italy, as well as rented vineyards in nearby Palmanova.
Partially fermented and aged for three months in new American oak barriques, Di Lenardo Father's Eyes Chardonnay $22.99 is a creamy mouthful of lemon
meringue, peaches and tangerine rind with ripe, rich buttery vanilla, caramel, almond and smoky hazelnut flavours rising above the bright stone fruit base. Overwhelmingly tasty, absolutely delicious and perfectly balanced! Tasted blind, this could be mistaken for a generous California Chardonnay.
A classic and wildly popular benchmark in that actual and authentic California style, Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay $27.99 never succumbed to the extravagant oak-barrel treatments that gives us full-throttle white wines that taste more like caramel than wine grapes. Pear and spicy apple pie aromas are first out of the glass. Lemon, lime and green apple flavours that linger over the subtle nutty notes of the previously used oak barrels that make up more than 80 percent of the aging and finishing of this exceptional wine.
Our own Okanagan and Similkameen Valley wineries, here in British Columbia, produce a wide range of Chardonnays. Although they produce other wines, Meyer Family Vineyards – located outside of Okanagan Falls on McLean Creek Road – look to Burgundy when they make their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.
Meyer Family Vineyards 'McLean Creek Road Vineyard' Chardonnay $32.99 exudes an intriguing medley of spicy,
toasty, hazelnut aromas as it opens up in the glass. Apple, peach and apricot flavours fill out the fist sip with restrained notes of lemon rind and marzipan adding to the weight and structure and lingering in the lengthy finish.
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