Pure and delicious, rich and elegant; chardonnay is the international star of the grapevine.
It originates from the cool-climate Burgundy region in France, but because it’s so easy to grow and neutral enough in flavour to take on many guises and personalities it has become one of the most widely-planted grapes in the world.
Initially, with New World chardonnay came a shift in style to big, buttery, overly-oaked wines high in alcohol. Gradually, we tired of these blockbusters and consumers joined the ABC bandwagon: Anything But Chardonnay.
Winemakers responded and today’s wines show far less oakiness and far more structure, and the trend has led to a new ABC: Absolutely Brilliant Chardonnay.
Chablis is possibly the most famous styles of chardonnay. Fresh and breezy, try Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons 2011, France (£22.18, www.spiritedwines.co.uk) with citrus scents, green apple and pear flavours, a hint of oyster shell and a mineral-driven long finish.
Further south, the Languedoc is good hunting ground for fruitier expressions. Tanners Chardonnay, IGP d’Oc 2011, France (£7.40, www.tanners-wines.co.uk)) is an easy-drinking style with peach aromas and pineapple and pear on the palate with a juicy finish.
Australian chardonnay was once dubbed ‘over-oaked and over-here’. Today, though, its upfront style has become a little more restrained. For a good week-day wine, lightly oaked and nicely fruit-driven, try Burra Brook Chardonnay 2012, Australia (£7.99, Marks & Spencer). Sunshine in a glass, it’s fragrant and refreshing with touches of ripe apricot and pears, good acidity and a hint of spiced pear.