Here, Charles Steevenson of Charles Steevenson Wines Ltd, who supplies the Ring of Bells with wines, pulls no punches in the defence of the much-maligned Chardonnay grape.
ABC – have you heard these letters used when perusing a wine list and discussing a Chardonnay? ABC – it’s shorthand for ‘Anything But Chardonnay’!
Well, I say what a load of tosh! Chardonnay is the backbone of some of the most sublime
Chardonnay’s unfair reputation only developed when wines from the New World invaded our shelves, wines such as those of Australia, Chile, California and the like. Alas, these wines were often created from indifferent fruit that was, in turn, enhanced by oak integration. It is the often clumsy over-use of oak that became so dominant and unwelcome. The assumption to many is that Chardonnay is always naturally oaky and toasty – wrong!
This most classic and noble of all grapes is cultivated in all the wine growing regions around the globe. These regions, like the wines they yield, can be diverse and varied. While Chardonnay is one grape variety there are many different clones that have developed to suit the all important and very individual growing conditions. This, in turn, determines the size of yields, quality and, subsequently, the price. How very different are the styles of green-tight and highly acidic wines of say Chablis to an equivalent unwooded wine from Chile or South Africa.
While all white wines need to be punctuated by uplifting, balanced acidity, the real tangible difference will show itself in the texture, weight, structure and finishing persistence the wine can offer. Texture is often enhanced by the vigorous use of wood but this may well mask the real identity and subtlety of the wine. Also, the age of the vines will play an important part in not only the size of yields produced and concentration of the finished wines but, more importantly to the customer, affect the cost.
At the Ring of Bells there are three new key Chardonnay contenders to tempt you. Firstly, the Macon–Chardonnay, Talmard 2011, from the Maconnaise region of Southern Burgundy. Made in the village of Chardonnay, from the Chardonnay grape, rich honey/lemon, no wood, so rewarding and typical of the region.
Then there is the Rustenberg Chardonnay 2011 from one of the top estates in South Africa; both the bouquet and palate display intense vanilla/toasty wood notes with a hint of lime and crème brûlée on the finish.
Our third option, Domaine Grauzan Chardonnay 2012, Vin de Pays d’Oc. Made with fruit sourced from the very south of France, this wine is more reminiscent of a Maconnaise wine, slightly honeyed fruit with a pleasing citrus finish, bold in weight yet, again, with no intrusive oak influence.
Charles Steevenson Wines Ltd. The Wine Warehouse, 11 Plymouth Road Industrial Estate, Tavistock, Devon PL19 9QN Our warehouse shop in Tavistock is open: Monday to Friday, 9.00am – 5.30pm and Saturday, 9.00am – 1.00pm