Chardonnay – it’s time to forgive & forget

I think its time to absolve Chardonnay of its crimes against wine. Over the past few months I have realised that my go to white is the often maligned, but often majestic Chardonnay. Firstly there are the great Chardonnays of Burgundy- steely, minerally Chablis, big and fat Meursault, elegant and flamboyant Chassagne, buttery Pouilly Fuisse. But the new world is also providing some great competition. No longer should we talk about the over-oaked, unbalanced wine of the past, but more about the freshness and purity of the fruit, and the sympathetic use of oak (barrels, not staves or chips!).

From the New World I have been particularly impressed by California and New Zealand – I will be searching out some Aussie Chardonnay very soon. These wines hold their own against many of their French counterparts and deserve our attention. The reason behind this post was an Easter meal where we pitted France against New Zealand in a Chardonnay and Pinot battle. The outcome was even for both varieties – we loved them all!

So whatever your preconceptions, give Chardonnay another go.

I was looking through my tasting notes and was quite surprised how much Chardonnay I have drunk over the past six months. Here’s a few of the notes, from aged Burgundy right through to entry level bargains (sorted from high to low score):

Domaine Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Caillerets 1990 (Nickolls & Perks £120.00)
Golden, honeyed colour… I couldn’t wait to smell and taste it. The smell is the essence of hot buttered toast. It’s nutty, its brioche, its amazing. ‘Where’s the fruit?’ I hear you ask: well, the peach and even a bit of baked apple hits your palate. But it’s the honey, nuts and toast that takes your breath away. And it just goes on and on and on. It’s amazingly fresh and the acid backbone is beautifully balanced. This wines makes you close your eyes and say thank you. 95 points

Maison Nicolas Potel, Corton-Charlemagne Grand Cru, 2005 (Exel Wines £60)
(Tasted at West London Wine School Burgundy tasting February 2013)

Oh my this smells amazing. Oakley, floral and delicate, with plenty of white peach and sweet vanilla. In the mouth there is a wonderful streak of acidity – really zesty green apples and wonderful ripe peaches. The oak is beautifully integrated and kisses your tongue, providing a lick of vanilla. This is elegance personified and amazing fruit, oak spice and toast that lingers and lingers and lingers… 94 points

Morey-Blanc Meursault 2001 (£29.00 The Wine Society)
Nuts and peaches jump out of the glass and just a hint of smokey oak and butterscotch. This smells its age and smells expensive. The nuttiness is foremost at first taste and then peaches and grapefruit before a lingering finish of beautifully judged and balanced oak that just goes on and on. Its still so fresh. Magic. 93 points

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Marlborough, New Zealand (Wine and the Vine £16.45)
Peach, apple and honey aromas with a lovely smokey/toasty notes – even a hint of bacon. Good body and weight with yeasty, bready and honey notes, and below a foundation of apple and peach. It tastes like a spicy, baked apple, covered in luscious double cream, topped with nuts! Very much in the Meursault mould – a big mouthfilling and delicious Chardonnay. 92 points

Domaine Larue Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Les Cortons 2008, Burgundy (Bin Two £24.00)

Apple and savoury buttered crumble with custard spiked with nutmeg and vanilla. Delicious aromas. Buttery, toasty savouriness combines with a beautiful acid steak of apples as well as some tropical fruits. The oak is beautifully judged and integrated through the finish, which is delightful and lingering. This is a massively underrated Burgundy appellation. 92 points

Chateau de Beauregard Grand Beauregard Pouilly Fuisse 2007, Burgundy, France (The Wine Society £36.00)
Huge aromas and smells rich and intense. Lovely mixture of stone fruits, hint of citrus and lots of smokey oak. Medium weight on the palate but more than made up for in depth and richness. Peachy fruit, nutty and smokey flavours with a beautifully oaky finish. Top notch. 92 points

Maison du Tastelune, Chassagne Montrachet 2008 (M&S £30.00/£22.50)
Beautiful nose of white peaches, honeysuckle and a dart of vanilla oak. I could smell this wine for hours! Clean and fresh with a little bit of weight, peachy, spicy and long. Very fresh with lovely acidity but still plenty of Chassagne weight. This comes with a heftyish price tag but will brighten up your Xmas. Love it. 92 points

Powers Chardonnay 2009, Washington State, USA (House of Townend £11.99)
Top class Chardonnay this with ripe, also most tropical fruits appearing from underneath a delicious preachiness. There is a delightful use of oak which is beautifully balanced with a fresh and zesty acidity. Delicious and cab stuff. 91 points

Sandhi Wines Santa Barbara Chardonnay 2011 (Roberson £26.95)
(Tasted at Roberson Sandhi & Kutch tasting February 2013)

Peachy, nutty and toasty with plenty of citrus fruit and a hint of grapefruit. This wine is surprisingly light bodied, as the nose suggested an all together bigger wine. The acid is fantastically refreshing and delivers loads of citrus fruit and buttered toast on the finish. This is a lively, energetic and a “happy” wine. I was just left thinking how much more Chablis or Macon I could get for my money. 91 points

Domaine Pascal Bouchard, Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir, 2006 (Waitrose £29.99)

Lots of stones and mineral on the nose but also plenty of green apple fruit. There is also a delicious savoury element here, reminiscent of almonds, marzipan even. On the tongue its clean, fresh and wonderfully acidic. Tart green apples and lovely minerality. The finish is generous with a touch of bitter almond right at the end. Clean, elegant, fruity, mineral and savoury. Very good. 91 points

First Press Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2010. (Waitrose £16.99/£12.74)
Overripe melon in a lovely way. Supercharged fruit, lovely brioche waft and a note of nuttiness. Not as wild on the palate but a lovely appley streak of acidity. Nutiness comes through after a while in the glass. Delicious. 90 points

Domaine de Mac Mahon Auxey-Duresses 2004 (Cave D’Ange Gardien €18.50)
I picked this bottle up at a tasting at Le Cave D’Ange Gardien in Beaune last February (#1 thing to do on Tripadvisor) and had forgotten about it. It’s great. Oaky, smoky nose with a little bit of peach fruit. I expected it to be fuller but its fairly light bodied with lots of toasty, woody flavours, yet deliciously light and fresh. May have to look for some more from Auxey-Duresses. 89 points

Domaine Gérard Duplessis, Chablis 1er Cru “Vaillon” 2007 (The Bull Inn, Beaumaris £27.00)
(Drunk at Ye Olde Bull, Beaumaris)

Lots of apple with a fresh citrus streak on the nose. The wine has good body, quite “fat” for Chablis but very good nevertheless. The appley fruit is very pronounced but so is the cool, dry limestone flavour, which is beautifully integrated with the fruit. Very decent, especially at this price. 88 points

Domaine Botti Sant Veran 2008, Macon, Burgundy (Wine and the Vine £12.85)
Honeydew melon and pink apples on nose and palate. A dash short on acidity but very tasty and lovely almond or cobnut finish. Decent intro to white Burgundy. 88 points

Doña Paula Estate Chardonnay 2010, Mendoza, Argentina (Wine and the Vine £11.55)
Very nice peachy nose with hints of the tropics, maybe some crunchy pineapple. Backed up with a big if smoke, gentle oak. Tropical and mandarin on the palate, a big of unwelcome alcohol warmth, which is a shame because the finish is quite pleasant, if uninspiring. 87 points

The Society’s White Burgundy 2011, Macon (The Wine Society £7.50)
Fresh and round. Apples and peaches. Needs a bigger zing of acidity, but very pleasant. 87 points

Henri De Lorgere Macon Villages 2011 (Aldi £4.99)
Very pale straw colour, lots of citrus and nectarine, even some tropical fruit aromas. Big hit of acidity and lime; very fresh, very simple, very young. For the price this is great stuff and would happily have a bottle in the fridge just waiting to be drunk after a bad day at work. 87 points

The Exquisite Selection Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2012, South Australia (Aldi £5.99)
Very tropical aromas of melon, mango and even passion fruit. Not what I was expecting at all. You may even think this is a Sauvignon it’s that tropical on the palate too. Not much body but very refreshing. Thus would be an excellent BBQ wine with some chicken. 86 points

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Posted on April 1, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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