15 best chardonnays
Forget ABC and remember BBC – bring back chardonnay
Chardonnay has had a bit of a bad press in recent years with its ABC (“anything but chardonnay”) image. But now’s the time to cast all those old reservations aside and embrace what is still one of the world’s most popular and enduring white grape varieties, with a range that covers everything from the complex flavours found in its Burgundy homeland to the fresh and invigorating examples to be dsicovered in Romania, Germany, Chile, South Africa, Australia, the US and even the UK.
Carmen Gran Reserva 2015 Chardonnay, 14%: £14.99, Ocado
Part of the Gran Reserva range from Viña Carmen, one of Chile’s oldest wineries, this is a refreshing, fruity chardonnay with peach and apple flavours integrated with a gentle oaky background. The El Refugio vineyard where the grapes for this are hand picked is only 30km from the Pacific and if you close your eyes you’ll swear you can almost smell the sea breezes.
Bergström Old Stones 2014 Oregon Chardonnay, 13%: £28, Roberson Wine
Oregon doesn’t just produce fabulous pinot noirs, it also knocks out some pretty impressive chardonnays, including this example from the famed Willamette Valley where doctor turned winemaker Dr John Bergström and his family carefully cultivate five vineyards covering 84 acres. This has great apple and citrus flavours but with a flinty minerality that gives it an extra zing.
Cramele Recas Sole Orange Wine 2016, 12.5%: £12.30, Tanners
Bristol-born Philip Cox is one of the men behind Recas Estate, launched in 1998 and now one of Romania’s biggest wine producers and exporters. This 100 per cent chardonnay orange wine made its debut last year and is produced by macerating half of the de-stemmed crushed grapes in juice for three weeks, before blending it with grapes that have undergone carbonic maceration with no added yeast. This gives the wine its specific orange hue (and name) and distinctive taste. One for the more adventurous wine drinker.
Saint-Véran 2014 Les Vignerons des Grandes Vignes, 13%: £12.99, Majestic
This lively and fruity wine comes from a co-operative in the southernmost part of Maconnaise in Burgundy. Big flavours of peach, lemon and nectarine are complimented by a zingy minerality that make this an ideal summer beverage. Enjoy with light chicken or seafood dishes or even as an accompaniment to a fruity dessert. Good to be drunk now or can be kept for a couple of years for a more mellow and honeyed taste.
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay San Francisco Bay 2016, 13.5%: £12.95, Tanners
Named after the mist that rolls into the California vineyard early in the morning, this is a product of a winery that can boast of being the godfather of the Californian wine industry. German immigrant C H Wente brought in a chardonnay clone from Burgundy in 1912 that is the source material for 80 per cent of American chardonnay plantings today. Still family run, this their latest chardonnay offering, delivers big time with vibrant green apple and tropical fruit flavours allied to a smidgeon of toasty oak.
Wakefield Estate Chardonnay Clare Valley 2016, 13.5%: £11.99, Majestic
From an Australian wine-making family concern that spans four decades and three generations comes a chardonnay that dials back slightly on the oak to create a fruity but balanced wine with peach, nectarine and citrus flavours to the fore and a creamy vanilla-like texture. Enjoy it with white meat dishes or by itself as an early-evening freshener. The rear label includes a “current temperature indicator” that tells you when it’s chilly enough to enjoy at its best.
DeMorgenzon Stellenbosch Reserve Chardonnay 2016, 14%: £29.95, Slurp
A big and outstanding chardonnay from a South Africa vineyard famous for its somewhat unconventional cultivation techniques. Flowers are grown between the rows of grapes and baroque music is played in an effort to “calm the vines”. Some may mock but the result is an enormously zesty and vibrant wine with huge white peach and apricot flavours and an insistent but pleasing minerality. “DeMorgenzon” translates as the morning sun as this high-altitude vineyard is the first one to enjoy its rays. It should bring a little of that sunshine into your glass as well.
Simpsons The Roman Road Chardonnay 2017, 12%: £22.95 (£137.70 for a case of six), Simpsons
Here’s an English chardonnay that can hold its own with the best the Continent and the New World can offer. This single vineyard chardonnay comes from grapes grown in the sheltered chalky slopes of the Simpson Estate in the North Downs of Kent and undergoes fermentation in stainless steel tanks before ageing for three months in French oak. Rich and creamy, with full-on flavours of melon and green fruit and a hint of honeysuckle. It’s only made in limited quantities so get it while you can.
Snake + Herring Corduroy Chardonnay 2015, 13%: £24.95, Slurp
A single vineyard chardonnay from the Karridale region of the Margaret River in Western Australia where high rainfall and humidity together with cool days and nights produce a wine with plenty of stone fruit flavours and a satisfying flinty minerality. After chilling in a cold room overnight, whole clusters of the grapes are pressed direct to barrel with no clarifying and no added yeast. After 10 months on full lees in French oak the wine is bottled. Can be drunk now or will cellar well for up to 10 years.
Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2015, 13.5%, £34.99, New Zealand House of Wine
Now we’re talking. An exceptional chardonnay from the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. Cluster pressed and naturally fermented in French barriques and matured for 10 months in French oak and two months in tank and gently fined before bottling. The Vidal winery, founded in 1905 consider this the pinnacle of their estate and it’s hard not to see why. Concentrated stone and citrus fruit flavours and an invigorating minerality make this a wine to savour. Drink now or enjoy until 2025.
Medalla Real Gran Reserva Santa Rita Chardonnay 2016, 13.5%, £11.99 Ministry of Drinks
From Chile’s Leyda Valley where a cool climate, the proximity of the Pacific Ocean, the low-lying Costal Mountains and early-morning fogs gang together to create an intense and animated chardonnay with full-on white fruit and citrus flavours, a distinct but pleasing minerality and a long and lingering finish. Enjoy with fish pie or fish cakes, poached salmon or chicken in a creamy sauce.
Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé 2016, 13%, £17 Tesco
The southern Burgundy villages of Pouilly and Fuissé are linked in one of the region’s most famous wines, a creamy but complex chardonnay made from grapes collected from more than 40 different family estates. Lashings of apple and soft fruit flavours with a balanced acidity and soft oakiness in a wine you can drink now or keep for a couple of years.
Scherzinger Batzenberg Kabinett Trocken Chardonnay 2015, 13%, £19.50 GK Wine House
There aren’t too many Germany chardonnays on offer in the UK which is a shame, as this elegant and structured example from the Markgräflerland wine-growing area of Baden, with its aromas of pineapple and grapefruit and subtle vanilla notes is a real winner. The winery has a history that stretches back nearly 500 years, so they obviously know a thing or two about making great wines. Enjoy it with fish, seafood, chicken or carpaccio.
Majestic Loves Chardonnay 2017, 13.5%, £6.99 Majestic
An entry level into the wonderful world of chardonnay with a wine that’s been gaining plaudits for its fresh and fruity appeal. Produced from decades-old vines in the Robertson area of South Africa, it’s a splendid no-nonsense wine with hints of citrus and oodles of white peach and nectarine flavours that make it ideal companion for summer days and garden barbecues.
Montagny Les Clou, Domaine du Clos Salomon 2015, 13%, £21.95 Slurp
Another beauty from Burgundy with wonderful aromas of soft fruits, melon and citrus and underlying flintiness. It’s been described as a cross between a top-quality Macon and a Meursault, with all the qualities of wines that are much more expensive. A perfect accompaniment to pasta dishes, salmon tuna or shellfish, soft cheeses and cured meats.
Chardonnay provides perfect summer drinking and there’s a huge array of top-quality examples to chooses from, including burgundy favourites such as Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuissé and Montagny Les Clou as well as exemplary New World wines such as Bergström Old Stones and Wente Morning Fog. Closer to home there’s the Roman Road from the Kent winemakers Simpsons and the splendid Scherzinger Batzenberg from Germany. Australia offers the single vineyard Snake + Herring Corduroy while South Africa is home to the quirly but impressive DeMorgenzon Stellenbosch Reserve. Best buy is the vibrant and attractively priced Carmen Gran Reserva from Chile.
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