Chardonnay

Trademark qualities: Elegant minerality (Chablis) to buttery fullness (Burgundy and New World), with almonds and honey flavours emerging with age

Try it with: Chicken with honey and sesame seeds.

In general it goes with: fish and white meat; the more mineral Chablisienne style with seafish and shellfish, especially oysters, the rather fuller styles with shellfish, freshwater fish and fish in creamy sauces.  The ‘bigger’ wines go well with chicken

This style of wine:

Classic white Burgundy is as confusing as most French regions (other than Alsace).  First, a Burgundian won’t accept that Chablis or Macon are parts of Burgundy.  Second, it rarely says Burgundy on the label, at least not prominently, and it certainly won’t say Chardonnay.  Many white Burgundies and Maconnais are raised, at least in part, in oak barrels; Chablis usually not.

There is plain (and affordable) Bourgogne Blanc and Macon Blanc, then the villages wines like Macon Villages, then the specific village wines like Macon-Prisse and St Veran, and finally the top-end villages/domains/producers where you get tiny quantities of wonderfully elegant wines like Chassagne-Montrachet from specific producers at eye-watering prices.

Wines from the Maconnais, with the exception of Pouilly Fuissé, tend to be cheaper than those from further north. The most expensive northern wines come from the Cote d’Or which comprises the Cote de Nuit, Cote de Beaune and Cote Chalonnais.

Chablis is generally more mineral (sharper) and better with seafish and shellfish.

New World Chardonnays come from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, California and South Africa.  NZ is now outstanding, Chile is up and coming.

Most are fuller, fatter wines than the French originals but some have (or had, the practice is on the wane) offensively high levels of new oak, i.e. they were not fermented in oak casks, but had new oak chippings suspended in the fermenting wine.  Australian Chardonnay suffered for years from what Australians themselves called ‘Dolly Partons’, but the situation has since improved a lot.  For good, reasonably priced Australian chardonnay try Jacob’s Creek.

Keeping: Most should be drunk within five years of the vintage, however the finest white Burgundies will last around ten years.  Very few New World chardonnays are made to be kept for more than a few years.

Pricing:

  • Everyday/Party            £7.00 Macon or New World
  • Informal Dinner           £8 – 12 Maconnais or New World
  • Impress the Boss Dinner        £12 – 16 ‘junior’ Burgundies, some New World
  • Investors Only             £50+ Cote d’Or specialist producers

Overall: A range of styles and prices. Most people like it, but oaky types can be offensive and beware connoisseurs.

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