There is a story of an Australian winemaker who brought his wines to a tasting in London in the 1970's. Expecting enthusiasm and approval, he was taken aback by the mild confusion he encountered. So he approached one of the old Etonians present and asked "So what do you guys want it to taste like then?". Having never been asked this question before by a winemaker, the bemused Brit replied hopefully "Chablis"? "Right, you are then" said our Antipodean friend and headed home.
The next year the same winemaker returned with a range of wines which tasted like Chablis but with more fruit and lots more oak. The result was a Chardonnay like no one had ever tasted before, suddenly Oz Clarke was raving about Australian Chardonnay and it was all we Brit's were drinking. Finally wine was affordable, tasted like fruit and ok for everyone to drink, not just the toffs.
Nowadays of course Chardonnay is a bit of a dirty word and lots of us have gotten a bit bored by that melon/pineapple, buttery style of Californian or Australian Chard-oh-nay but there is more to this variety than all that. It is perhaps the white grape that offers winemakers the greatest opportunity to express their skill and the potential of the soil in which the vines grow.
Here are a few of our favourites that we think should be on your radar and in your glass this summer.
Staying with Australia the Soldiers Block Chardonnay is a super value option at just £8.49. This is un-oaked, so no shoulder pads or crimping tongs required, bright and juicy with white peach and apricot flavours this is perfect summer sipping. Don’t take our word for it though Decanter selected it as one of the four best pound for pound Chardonnays from Australia, can’t say fairer than that.
A bit more of a treat at £16.99 Domaine de la Motte Chablis shows what wines from this prestigious location can do. We have chosen wines from this Domaine for their consistent quality across recent vintages. The careful selection of grapes and means the wines always deliver great varietal character and a real sense of place. The 2015 Premier Cru, a snip at £21.99, has been awarded the prestigious Taste Vinage medal in recognition of its excellence.
Meursault “Les Narvaux” 2015 £31.49 is the perfect introduction to what might be the ultimate expression of the Queen of Grapes. Warmer than Chablis this part of Burgundy allows the grapes to ripen fully, developing more tropical aromas and flavours while retaining mouth-watering freshness. The other character that differentiates Meursault is the use of Oak which can be powerful and intense but in this wine is restrained, adding fullness without robbing the wine of its freshness. Poised and elegant this is a superb treat to share with someone you love.