Know your chardonnay
Chardonnay is the classic grape of the Burgundy and Champagne regions, and many wine experts believe it is responsible for producing some of the world’s greatest dry white wines. It is a versatile grape because it does not have conspicuous aromas, like sauvignon blanc, and can take on new flavours created by the winemaking process.
When young, chardonnay has aromas of peach, apricot and nectarine. It can also show citrus, such as lemons and grapefruit, as well as apples. If the wine has been fermented or aged in oak barrels, it can develop notes of butterscotch, caramel, hazelnut, vanilla, spice and cedar.
Chardonnay is made in a variety of styles. The unoaked style originates from the cooler climate of Chablis in northern Burgundy and shows high acidity and minerality with fruit flavours of green apples and lemon. Chardonnay made from grapes grown in warmer climates shows more tropical fruit flavours. It can be full-bodied and often reaches relatively high alcohol levels of 13-14 per cent. This high alcohol content can make chardonnay seem sweet on the palate even when bone dry. Most chardonnay is made with the intention that it is consumed within the first two to three years, however premium chardonnay can confidently age beyond 10 years. Winemaking techniques of lees stirring, malolactic fermentation, barrel-ageing and barrel fermentation influence the style of chardonnay.
Chardonnay in New Zealand
Chardonnay suits New Zealand's cool climate and is grown in every region. It is the third-most planted grape in New Zealand but its influence has been undermined by the growth in sauvignon blanc and, in more recent years, pinot gris. Consumers are now returning to chardonnay and we certainly have some excellent examples being produced. The most highly regarded chardonnays in New Zealand come from Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Nelson and Marlborough. There are pockets of excellence in Canterbury and Central Otago, however it is generally considered that the greatest number of consistently outstanding chardonnays come from Hawkes Bay.
Try these wines
Louis Michel Petit Chablis
An excellent selection of chablis can be found at Maison Vauron in Newmarket. From Chablis AC to the highly rated Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards, you will find many wines to showcase this style. Try Malandes Chablis 1er Cru Vau de Vey 2012, or Louis Michel Petit Chablis.
From Hawkes Bay, Paritua Chardonnay is big, buttery and delicious with all those oak and caramel flavours that we love.
Villa Maria Taylors Pass Chardonnay
Villa Maria makes many great chardonnays. Taylors Pass is located in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley and this single vineyard captures the cooler climate with more citrus, grapefruit and mineral tones.
Other outstanding Chardonnay
- Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard
- Te Mata Elston Chardonnay
- Craggy Range
- Ata Rangi
- Trinity Hill
- Neudorf Moutere
- Sacred Hill Riffelman’s
- Bell Hill
Buy these wines
All wines available to buy online at heraldwine.co.nz for a limited time.
In her latest book New Zealand Wine Guide: An Introduction to the Wine Styles and Regions of New Zealand, Celia Hay, Director of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine and well-respected wine educator, explains in detail about new Zealand’s wine regions, significant grape varieties and wines produced.
RRP $49 from nzwinebook.com and selected retailers.
Chardonnay with food
The flavours in these dishes would suit a full-bodied, oaky chardonnay.