The Many Faces of Chardonnay

By on May 20th, 2022 in Blog
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We’ve spoken of the wonderfully adaptable grape variety Chardonnay previously in these pages. When we discussed when the term ‘Anything but Chardonnay’ came to prominence several years ago. So rather than cover old ground, we’re going to celebrate the incredible adaptability of the world’s second most widely planted white grape and take a good look at the many faces of Chardonnay.

chardonnay vineyard

Turns out you can teach an Old World dog new tricks

Before the 1980s, Chardonnay was grown fairly sparingly outside Burgundy and Champagne. Then New World winemakers started labelling their wines with the grape variety. The approachable, laid-back Chardonnays they produced were straightforward, easy-drinking and became a firm favourite. Such was the power of varietal labelling that many Old World winemakers followed suit, proving you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Easy to drink and easy to grow, half-decent Chardonnay can be made pretty much anywhere. It’s fresh, mineral and acidic in cooler climates, especially useful for sparkling winemaking. But it can be lush with tropical fruit flavours and less acidic in warmer climes. And for those winemakers with a little more cash to splash, the use of barrels can give a creamy texture with buttery, toasty notes. It even makes great sweet wine.

Here we look at four different applications of Chardonnay, showcasing its versatility, adaptability and charm.


Fresh and Fruity

Here we celebrate Chardonnay in its most exposed form. Great quality, ripe fruit made into wine using only stainless steel tanks and made for drinking young. The aim? To offer as clear and fresh an expression of the fruit as possible.

Manos Negras hails from Patagonia, which is about as far south as you can go and still grow grapes. This fresh, cool, high-sunshine, low-rainfall climate does wonderful things to the fruit grown here. It nurtures very concentrated fruit flavours while holding on to refreshing acidity. This balances the wine and stops it from becoming ‘flabby’ as they call it in the trade.

The Manos Negras Chardonnay, although dry, benefits from lush, sweet fruit flavours of ripe peach and melon. Just enough acidity and a pleasing lemon and Granny Smith character help it along to a lasting and moreish, citric finish.

With no oak in sight and minimal winery intervention, this highly gluggable wine will win over any Chardonnay hater. Guaranteed.

Manos Negras Chardonnay, Los Arboles


Rich and Lush

Now to the other end of the New World spectrum. There are many regions in many countries using oak barrels to both ferment and mature Chardonnay. Few can match the combination of winemaking skill and value for money that Stellenbosch in South Africa produces.

Presenting Jordan Wine Estate Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. It’s quite simple really. Grow world-class fruit. Find exactly the right cooperage to make barrels out of precisely the right oak. Find a top, top-level winemaker and then give them free rein in a state-of-the-art winery. And what have you got? In this case, a wine for under £20 that competes with Burgundians and Californians at 5 times its cost.

Aromas and flavours of honey nut cereal, posh vanilla, cream, apricot, peach and sweet Amalfi lemons. It’s balanced, elegant and has just enough acidity to balance. Quite simply, divine.

Jordan Wine Estate Chardonnay Barrel Fermented


Classical Elegance

No Chardonnay list should be without a Chablis. This mineral, elegant and refreshing style is super easy to drink. Classically it keeps things simple with flavours of lemon, lime, green apple and sometimes a little apricot. It’s also the one wine you can rely on to confound those who profess a dislike for this incredible grape. It usually goes something like:

“No thank you, I don’t like Chardonnay”.

“Oh really? But how about Chablis?”

“Oh yes, I like Chablis… Is that Chardonnay?”

This particular example is not your typical Chablis. Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis uses grapes from some of this cool region’s warmest and best vineyard sites. So, as well as those mineral and citrus flavours you also get red (instead of green) apple, ripe apricot, white peach, orange blossom and a hint of honey. With just a little creaminess at the back, a rich mouthfeel and well-balanced acidity, this is stellar winemaking.

Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis


Marvellous Sparkling

In some ways, we’ve saved the best till last. Chardonnay is the backbone of the vast majority of sparkling wines. From California to Argentina. From France to Italy, Germany and now even Spain. And from Australia and New Zealand to South Africa, Chile and the UK. This marvellous grape does do the business when it comes to sparkling wine.

Black Chalk Classic is one of the very best white sparkling wines the UK has to offer. A true standard-bearer for English fizz. Flavours of honeyed pear, baked apple, lemons, peaches and vanilla all shine through. There’s a little buttery pastry dough at the front and plenty of refreshing acidity. It’s all so beautifully balanced!

And what’s even better, it tastes different from other sparklers. Distinct from its French, Spanish or Italian counterparts, Black Chalk offers a proper taste of British wine that’s properly, genuinely delicious.

Black Chalk Classic