Chardonnay is without doubt one of the highest quality white grape varieties. In its finest wines, which are found in a number of regions around the w...
Chardonnay is without doubt one of the highest quality white grape varieties. In its finest wines, which are found in a number of regions around the world, it manages to walk the fine line of perfect power and complexity, generally wrapped up in a subtle blanket of French oak. And within Chardonnay is also great flexibility - whether grown on the cool stony hills of Chablis in France through to California’s warm Sonoma Valley it is always a star performer.
Chardonnay has a range of attributes that make it a cut above the rest. First is the wide range of winemaking techniques that it suits. From simple cool ferments in stainless steel all the way through to full French oak barrel ferment and ageing, Chardonnay can do it all. It is also exceptional at translating climate, soils and geography into the resulting wines. Nowhere is this better showcased than in Chablis - the stony Kimmeridgean clays, made up of ancient oyster beds, showing themselves in the wine’s distinct minerality.There are many regions around the world capable of making great Chardonnay. Historically Burgundy in Eastern France has had the edge - its gentle South Easterly slope, limestone soils and cool climate making subtle yet powerful world beating styles. But the world is catching up, and fast.
California’s Russian River Valley makes very profound and flavoursome wines, similar to the traditional Australian style. New Zealand and South Africa, with their cool maritime climates, are also getting in on the act, making wines of elegance with crisp acidity.
It is Australia, however, that is the leading challenger to Burgundy’s Chardonnay crown, particularly with its modern, more elegant and less oak-dominant style. And this is happening right around the country. From Great Southern and Margaret River in Western Australia, to the Adelaide Hills, Beechworth and in the regions that ring Melbourne, there are numerous wines that can match it with the best in France.