The most popular of all white grape varieties, albeit not the most widely planted variety in the world (a dubious honour belonging to Spain’s Airen). Why so popular?
As the grape of white Burgundy it produces a variety of flavours & styles according to where it’s grown & how it’s made. From mineral, unoaked Chablis to the grand & complex, nutty dry whites of Meursault, Chassagne & Puligny-Montrachet in the Côte de Beaune & the riper wines of Pouilly-Fuissé further south. Along with Pinot Noir, it is also the major grape variety in Champagne.
Because of its versatility, it has spread like a bush fire throughout Europe & the New World, with brilliant, opulently & exotically flavoured whites in California, Australia & New Zealand. As winemakers lavish increasing attention on Chardonnay, it does increasingly well in Argentina & South Africa too.
As a ‘non-aromatic’ variety, it has an affinity with oak, whether new or used, French or American, & while barrel-fermented Chardonnays tend to be the richest, most complex & long-lived dry whites, the trend towards unoaked Chardonnay is catching on as a backlash to the hefty, overwooded styles.
Despite talk of Chardonnay fatigue, its wonderful flavours & versatility ensure that it is here to stay & on that note here are some of our current unoaked / lightly oaked favourites…
William Fevre Domaine Chablis (France / Burgundy)
Combines lovely fruitiness with an attractive freshness & characteristic minerality.
Price: £23.99 / 2 for £40
Bouchard Pere et Fils Macon-Lugny ‘Saint-Pierre’ (France / Burgundy)
Single village Macon. Aromatic & fresh nose with a rounded palate.
Price: £16.99 / Now £14.99
Domaine des Pourthie Chardonnay (France / Pays d’Oc)
Full-flavoured southern-French style with a lightly creamy finish.
Wente Family Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay (USA / California)
Bright & crisp fruit balanced by subtle hints of toasty oak & vanilla from 50% barrel fermentation.
De Wetshof Estate Bon Vallon Chardonnay (South Africa / Robertson)
Unoaked but matured on its lees to produce a vibrant, dry wine with a delicate nutty finish.
Berton Vineyard Foundstone Unoaked Chardonnay (Australia / New South Wales)
A fruit-driven wine with tropical notes & a zesty finish.