After initial enthusiasm for the novelty involved, heavily oaked (vanilla, butter and caramel dominated) chardonnay dramatically lost its allure a number of years back.
Outside the iconic White Burgundies and in a “baby and bathwater” reaction however, sales of almost all chardonnay nosedived as a result.
Slowly, however, chardonnay’s versatility became more widely appreciated with unoaked and mineral influenced versions leading the way back.
Indeed, even oak was slowly rehabilitated – provided its use was proportionate and it served more as a “condiment” than as a major component.
Here are a few lovely chardonnays (of differing styles) suggesting – dare I say – that any such rehabilitation is now complete.
Deliberately, they span a fairly broad, lower-end price range but start at £5 to £6.
Adopting my traditional format, images and – where possible – hyperlinks accompany the assessments of the wines.
First then to Chile
2022 Camino del Angel Chardonnay (£5 – instead of £6.25 until 5 September – at Sainsbury’s and 13% abv):
Recent chardonnay vintages from Chile have been impressive and here is evidence that versions from 2022 could be equally good.
Bright with just a mild twist of sweetness, this recent Top Tip recommendation displays medium bodied apple, peach and pear flavours.
These are combined with pithy grapefruit acidity and a trace of vanilla.
Next, it’s Australia
2022 M&S Lock Keepers Reserve Chardonnay (£6.65 – instead of £10 until 11 September – at M&S and 13%):
Illustrating how far Australia has moved from those wooded chardonnays of yesteryear, this uses oak sparingly.
Apart from smoothing the wine, its contribution here is simply adding subtle toffee influences.
Consequently, the wine’s apple, greengage and melon favours are free to radiate nicely, and harmonise well with its supporting characteristics.
Those characteristics include sharp lemon acidity and contrasting suggestions of ripe apricot.
It’s Europe from now on.
2022 Paul Mas Reserve Chardonnay (£6 at Morrisons and 13%):
Despite being 3° south of Burgundy in latitude and 6°C hotter, France’s Languedoc region can still produce excellent chardonnay.
Sites must be chosen carefully but one can expect producers of Jean-Claude Mas’s stature to do that – as he has with this wine.
Floral and pleasantly smooth, its foundation includes ripe apple, peach and orange flavours.
Lime acidity and a depth that contains caramel, vanilla and other oak components, combine to complete the picture.
Staying in Languedoc
2021 Les Volets Chardonnay (£10 at WoodWinters and 12.5%):
Most classy Languedoc chardonnays are produced in its cooler, western hills that benefit appreciably from Atlantic influences.
And those hills are, of course, also homeland to this example.
Bright and smooth, this brings us gentle pear and melon flavours built into a vanilla, fudge and crème fraiche texture.
Freshness is provided by the wine’s lively lemon acidity with the initial invitation to taste coming from its attractive oaky aromas.
Finally on to Burgundy
2020 Edouard Delaunay Septembre Chardonnay (from £13.99 at Majestic and 12.5%):
Having been very successful in Languedoc, Laurent Delaunay re-purchased the Burgundy estate his family originally owned.
There he produces typically classic white burgundy like this – but without the price label such wines often command.
Golden and soft, it exhibits smooth fresh pineapple, baked apple and apricot flavours.
These are supplemented by firm lime and tangerine acidity along with mild savoury influences within a pie crust and vanilla texture.
A nice surprise to conclude things.
2021 Adnams Petit Chablis, Domaine Roy (£18.99 from Adnams and 12.5%):
Grand Cru, Premier Cru and straight Chablis offer the gold standard for the chardonnay produced in that region – and deservedly so.
Meanwhile Petit Chablis wines come from the surrounding area where it is slightly cooler and where the soils are less propitious.
Predictably then, petit chablis can often fall short of the standard set by their illustrious neighbours.
So the theory goes – but I rate this petit chablis as every bit as good as many examples from higher classification vineyards.
Light in colour with just a trace of sweetness, it contains sophisticated melon, apple and orange flavours.
Additional components include perfectly balanced citrus acidity coupled with a lingering nut and caramel finish.
Join me again on Monday to see what I am recommending as the latest Top Tips among High Street retailers.
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