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Chardonnay - Adnams Grape of the Month

By Sarah Groves, also posted in News on

Grape of the monthChardonnay is a remarkably versatile white grape variety, and its characteristics change depending on where, and how, it is grown.

Where it is grown helps determine its character

 Burgundy vineyardsChardonnay’s homeland is Burgundy, where vines have been grown on a few select sites for over a thousand years. Burgundy’s limestone-based soils, varying aspects and microclimates produce wines ranging from basic up to stratospherically beautiful wines with sublime texture, flavours and aromas. The great wine producers in Burgundy offer perfect examples of judicious oak barrel usage. Used properly, oak barrels can impart structure and flavours that enhance Chardonnay’s naturally generous character. The highly sought-after wines from Domaine Leflaive (a biodynamic wine producer) and Domaine Lafon are superb examples of top-quality Chardonnay fruit married with balancing oak structure and subtle (not overwhelming) flavours of vanilla and spice. Burgundy ranges in style from rich and golden in the warmer south through to the steely austerity of Chablis in the north. The appellations are all very different, and the quality varies markedly according to vintage – one of the reasons why wine merchants and wine lovers find this region so alluring. Why not try: Adnams White Burgundy £9.99 - classic Chardonnay, unoaked and delicious. Domaine de la Bongran £17.99 - a remarkable wine made from very ripe fruit. This is rich, complex and full. Chablis, Domaine de la Boissonneuse, Julien Brocard £16.99 - organically-produced Chablis with depth and character. Meursault, Domaine Henri Germain £32.59 - buttery Chardonnay with elegant citrus and apricot flavours. Champagne Chardonnay is a key ingredient in Champagne, where it is sometimes bottled alone, but more often paired with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It’s prized here for its aromatic qualities and backbone of acidity thanks to the Champagne region’s northerly climate. The New World Juniper EstateUnder such an all-encompassing title like the ‘New World’ (South Africa, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina) Chardonnay obviously varies enormously. It’s a very important grape variety in California and Oregon, where it produces rich, ripe styles and is capable of producing subtle, well-structured wines in the cooler areas that can compete with Burgundy in terms of style and elegance. Likewise, the cooler regions of Australia, in areas like the Margaret River, Eden Valley, Clare Valley and Adelaide Hills, can produce pure, generous, well-balanced and utterly delicious Chardonnays. New Zealand can produce Chardonnays with great structure and depth of fruit, ranging from ripe tropical fruit to leaner, 'greener' styles. Why not try: Forrest Estate Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand £10.79 - expressive and open Chardonnay with a touch of spicy oak. The John Forrest Collection Chardonnay, New Zealand £16.99 - Rich and honeyed with aromas of peaches and subtle, nutty oak. Juniper Crossing Chardonnay, Margaret River, Australia £10.99 - elegant lemony, tropical fruit. Gouguenheim Chardonnay, Argentina £8.49 - ripe melon flavour. Chardonnay, Camino Cellars, Monterey County, USA £11.99 - light and fresh with USA warmth.

Chardonnay is a winemaker’s blank canvas

Benjamin Gonzalez, Adnams White Burgundy winemakerChardonnay is an easy grape to grow and is incredibly malleable – in the vineyard and in the winery - so it’s the perfect grape upon which a winemaker can display their winemaking preferences and styles. Chardonnay, like most varieties, is capable of both great and terrible things depending on where it is grown and who is making the wine. The winemaker can choose: i) whether to let the wine go through malolactic fermentation (MLF). MLF is an enzymatic conversion of the harder-tasting malic acid (also found in apples) to the softer lactic acid (found in milk) which imparts buttery flavours ii) have lees (spent yeast) contact, which creates a creamy texture and imparts toasty aromas, and iii) whether to ferment in oak barrels. Or indeed, none of the above, which will create a totally different wine. Chardonnay is even capable of being picked late to create botrytised, sweet wines. It is also a great blending partner with other grape varieties such as Semillon or Viognier. Never write off Chardonnay as boring – there’s far too much diversity and blossoming of styles to ignore it. Our advice is: taste lots, and remember the aromas and flavours you encounter. Chardonnay is an amazingly successful grape variety, and deservedly so.

Fruit characters:

Lemon, lime, melon, banana (when fermentation is hot) and honey (if the grapes are very ripe); from malolactic fermentation you find butter and toast; and from oak barrels vanilla, liquorice, cloves and star anise.

Flavours and aromas that can be found in Chardonnay

Chardonnay Mixed Case Offer

Chardonnay mixed case £105Why not try our mixed 12-bottle Chardonnay case (£105) containing six examples (2 bottles of each) of the grape grown in different countries. You save £17 a case and UK standard delivery is free. Find out more here.


Sarah Groves