Chardonnay is grown all over the world. It can handle many kinds of climate and soil types. It is often oak aged but not always. All this means that chardonnay is available in many different styles and tastes.
A fun and pleasant way to discover some of these different styles is to organize a wine tasting and compare chardonnay from different countries. A classic and crispy Chablis from France is an obvious choice for a typical example of the grape’s character without the influence of oak. Avoid Chablis premier cru and grand cru as these are sometimes oak-aged.
Compare this with a more powerful Burgundy from the Côte de Beaune, fermented and aged in oak barrels. The oak ageing is usually around six months. Sometimes there is batonnage, stirring of the lees, which gives extra “fat” (or body) to the wine.
If you can find a slightly oxidized and nutty chardonnay from the Jura Mountains in eastern France, bring it along to see a truly different style of the grape. The slight oxidative style is not a defect; it is the style in which many wines are made here.
Add a full-bodied and warm Australian chardonnay, usually aged in oak, sometimes quite a lot of oak. The warm climate gives body to the wine, and sometimes quite high alcohol.
Chardonnay from South Africa is another excellent choice. One from the Hemel-en-Aarde appellation in Walker Bay on the cool south coast would be perfect. Here the taste is classic and balanced. In style, maybe in between a Burgundy and a Chablis chardonnay.
California, and not least the Napa Valley, makes fantastic chardonnay wines, often in the full-bodied and oaky style, but with balance. On the Pacific coast of Chile, several regions produce elegant chardonnays in relatively cool climates.
A tasting like this gives you an idea of how chardonnay tastes, what differences and similarities there are.
Chablis 2018, Domaine Clotilde Davenne, Bourgogne, Chablis, ~17 euro
Bourgogne Les Murelles 2018,Domaine Roux, Bourgogne, ~15 euro
Côtes du Jura Chardonnay 2018, Maison Rijckaert, Côtes du Jura, France , ~16 euro
M3 Chardonnay 2017, Shaw and Smith, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, ~25 euro
Chardonnay 2018, Black Stallion Estate Winery, Napa Valley, USA, ~20 euro
Reserva Especial Chardonnay, 2017, Viña Maycas del Limarí, Valle del Limarí, Chile, ~16 euro
Chardonnay 2018, Sumaridge Wine Estate, Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa, ~20 euro
When you travel in the wine regions you get an even better understanding of the grape characteristics of each country. In Chile (and Argentina) on the South America wine tour you will get plenty of chardonnay. And on the South African tour you will taste some of the best chardonnays of the country..
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