June 20, 2024

Despite what they say there’s a Chardonnay to suit everyone

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Some people have lingering doubts about Chardonnay but their fears are outdated

This column doesn’t really do lists, but I would love to have found a way to provide you with details of all the great Chardonnays I have tasted over the past year or so. Looking through my lockdown notes, I came across more than 30 great wines, ranging in price from €15 to €80. I don’t think any other white grape has given me such pleasure. As well as many from Burgundy (and almost every white Burgundy is 100 per cent Chardonnay), there were some superb wines from Italy, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, California, the Jura and many other parts of France besides. 

I know from pre-Covid tastings that some consumers still have lingering doubts about Chardonnay, still scarred by distant memories of those huge alcoholic, oaky monsters of yesteryear. However, once you put a glass of fresh, light, crisp, refreshing Chardonnay in front of them, most are instantly converted. Lynne Coyle, wine director at O’Briens, says: “Chardonnay is such a diverse style depending on growing location, vintage and wine maker influence. I tend to suggest when people don’t like Chardonnay, it’s more that they haven’t found the right one yet.”

She adds that “classics such as Chablis, Mâcon and Pouilly-Fuissé sell very well and always have done. Puligny-Montrachet and Meursault are treat bottles but have a good following also. We would regularly recommend other regions that offer value for customers who love a more restrained Burgundian style, such as Domaine Begude in Limoux, Stonier in Mornington Peninsula and Leyda Valley in Chile.”

When in restaurants, I always look to see if the list has any wines from the Mâconnais region in the south of Burgundy. They are usually reliable, good value and suited to a wide variety of dishes. If you prefer a fresher style of Chardonnay, look to Chablis, Tasmania, Limoux or New Zealand and enjoy them with oysters. Wines from warmer climates tend to have a broader mouth-filling texture that goes perfectly with so many foods. A good Chardonnay with scallops, lobster or black sole is heavenly.

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Contrarian that I am, I sometimes miss those textured, oaky Chardonnays. They are increasingly hard to find, and great with richer fish dishes and creamy chicken and pork. The Rustenburg below is an excellent example. As well as the four wines below, I have written online about the excellent Louis Latour Grand Ardèche, available for a keenly priced €18 in SuperValu as part of their French wine sale. 

Chardonnay has happily travelled the world over the past 50 years and is planted in virtually every wine-producing country. In many cases it takes on a unique local flavour so there is a huge range of fascinating wines on offer. You just have to find the style that suits you. 

Duc de Belmont 2018, Jean Loron, Coteaux Bourguignons Blanc
12.5%, €12.95 down from €18.95
A lightly aromatic Chardonnay with clean, rounded pear and green apple fruits set off by a touch of honey. Drink solo, or alongside salmon and chicken dishes.  
From O’Briens, obriens.ie. 

Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune 2019, Domaine Nicolas
13%, €17.42
This is a delicious, pure Chardonnay, a perfect balance of apple and pear fruits, vibrant acidity with a smidgen of toasty oak. Classic Burgundy at an amazing price.
From Wine Spark, winespark.com.

Zorzal Terroir Unico Chardonnay 2019, Tupungato Valley, Argentina
12.5%, €17.95
A wonderfully refreshing unoaked Chardonnay from high altitude vineyards. Vibrant yet textured with lovely pure peach fruits.
From The Wicklow Wine Co, Wicklow, wicklowwineco.ie; Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Lilliput Stores, D7, lilliputstores.com.

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2020, Stellenbosch
13.5%, €20-€24
A rich rounded Chardonnay with ripe creamy tropical fruits, apricots and subtle toasted almonds. Try this with chicken in a creamy mushroom sauce.
From Baggot Street Wines, D4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown, whelehanswines.ie; Sweeneys D3, sweeneysd3.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; Mortons of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie; The Wicklow Wine Co, Wicklow, wicklowwineco.ie; The Purple Onion, Tarmonbarry, purpleonion.ie; The Oarsman, Carrick-on-Shannon, theoarsman.com

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