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International Chardonnay Day

Thursday is designated International Chardonnay Day and so please let me suggest a few to celebrate this occasion.

As much as I would like to say that this is the world’s most planted white wine grape, I cannot find definite proof that it exceeds the little known airén of Spain. As most of airén is distilled to make brandy, let us just settle on the fact that chardonnay is the most asked for white table wine.

Firstly, the stories of four that would be classified as “weekend wines” in our home. The 2019 Catena Chardonnay from Argentina shows an intense greenish colour with yellow notes followed by honey, citrus, pears, peaches, and white flowers. Then minerality and delicate vanilla are added to clean refreshing acidity. James Suckling believes that it deserves a 92/100 and calls it “beautiful, with creamy texture and lovely fruit”. $22.25 (Stock #7119).

The 2019 Oyster Bay Marlborough Chardonnay is a reminder of why we should just not think of New Zealand as a sauvignon blanc producer as this iconic winery gives us a part oak-aged and elegant chardonnay. It shows white peach, vibrant citrus and a creamy mouthfeel. Canadian critic Natalie MacLean feels that “this is a lovely and fresh chardonnay, with aromas of lemon and green apple. Medium bodied on the palate, soft with a creamy hint but balanced with some medium acidity, fresh and ripe fruit on the palate, and a bit of a mineral hint on the finish. Enjoy with citrus and herb seasoned chicken”. $22.95 (Stock #6901).

The 2019 J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay from Monterey in California gives us enticing aromas reminiscent of ripe orange, fresh nectarine and hazelnut, which are complemented by the palate flavours of apricot, ripe peach and honey. The rich texture and balance on the palate from ageing sur lie gives way to flavours of vanilla, citrus cream and a hint of oak on the long finish.

The Wine Enthusiast magazine expresses this view: “Opulent aromas of ripe pear, gardenia, apple and coconut show on the nose of this bottling. It’s racy with acidity on the sip, where a tart lemon flavour leads into apple blossom, poached pear and pineapple, with a slight butter tone on the finish. Best Buy. 90/100.” $24.40 (Stock #7988).

In my early years in this business, it was common to ask for a glass of “chablis” as this was a generic term for white wine. The French needed to defend their historic village that is the birthplace of chardonnay, and so international courts banned this custom. Back then, in the 1970s, bottles of Californian chablis had to be relabelled California white wine, or identify what grapes were used in their production. From that decision most of us now, certainly with New world wines, ask for them by their varietal grape make-up.

The 2019 Drouhin Vaudon Chablis is, of course, the real McCoy and like all levels of chablis from this old family firm, it is created by certified biodynamic methods. It also demonstrates the Old World tradition of identifying the wine by where it is from and not what grapes are used in its production – in the case of chablis it is always 100 per cent chardonnay. Wilfred Wong of wine.com gives us this: “The 2019 Drouhin Vaudon Chablis is a bright and focused wine that offers a racy yet rewarding experience on the palate. Enjoy its aromas and flavours of ripe apple and chalk with linguine and clams. 92/100.” $31 (Stock #8181).

I am writing this on a Monday when I suspect that I may have to break the rules as I have a suspicion that my wife is planning to make what she calls “British fish pie” – a new dish for her. We have small amounts of cod, shrimp, scallops, salmon and halibut on standby and such a dish deserves a most beautiful accompanying wine.

The 2018 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay is such a wine. I’m sure I’ve shared this story before – I think of it every time I mention this wine – forgive me for doing it once more. It is March of 2006 and I am groggily coming out of a day of open-heart surgery and carotid artery bypasses. My wife holds my hand and asks if there is anything that she can do. I shakily croak: “Yes, please get me a glass of Shafer chardonnay.” John Shafer loved that story when I shared it with him.

Critic Jeb Dunnuck adds to his 95-point rating: “The 2018 Chardonnay Red Shoulder Ranch is beautifully done, with a vibrant yet rich style carrying notes of buttered lemon, orange blossom, white flowers and toasted bread. With bright acidity, terrific overall balance and a great finish, this is classic Napa Valley chardonnay to enjoy over the coming five to seven years. I wouldn't be surprised to see it keep even longer as well.” $66.90 (Stock #6815).

If French wine with British pie is requested, I may have to nip up to our Harbour Road store and pick up a bottle of 2018 Drouhin Puligny Montrachet. Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin was full of praise for this wine and the third generation family producer when he visited to taste through their wines: “They’re firm believers in organic and biodynamic viticulture, part of their philosophy of meticulous attention to detail throughout their range, from villages to Grand Cru. This is a fine 2018, just beginning to open up, with depth, ripeness and poise. Let it breathe to enjoy all its creamy, nutty and ripe peach complexity.” $77.50 (Stock #8169).

Our fridge at home is set to 39F, which is a bit cold for chardonnay as they tend to show better at 50F, even slightly more for the finer ones.

This column is an advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Contact Michael Robinson at mrobinson@bll.bm. Burrows Lightbourn have stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554) and Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355). Visit www.wineonline.bm

Wine drinkers around the world will observe International Chardonnay Day on Thursday, May 27

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Published May 21, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated May 17, 2021 at 3:03 pm)

International Chardonnay Day

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