Week 21 – Chardonnay

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “It was especially difficult to select the wine we’d taste this week. If we stayed true to our usual mode of choice we would have gone for something that represented a true and classic taste of that grape.

The thing is that Chardonnay is a real chameleon. Even in its birthplace of Burgundy, it has an array of flavour profiles because it is the grape that most reflects where it is grown and how it is made. So if we start at the Northern tip of Burgundy in Chablis, the Chardonnay there is most often unoaked very brisk and zippy with striking minerality and fruit that is green apple or citrus in profile. But then you venture south from there and reach the Cote D’Or the aptly named section where some of the priciest wines come from; think Meursault or St Aubin. Here whites are oaked and therefore have a richness and buttery fruit flavour, plus differing mineral and complex expressions depending on the exact patch of land and winemaker who made them. It doesn’t stop there, as you get on the motorway and drive down to the Maconnais part of Burgundy, the climate gets warmer, and the wines tend to be unoaked, giving them rich but pure fruit flavours; think peaches, melon and honey.

I haven’t even mentioned the wider world of Chardonnay; venture into other classic regions like Adelaide Hills (Australia), Napa (California) or Mendoza (Argentina) and the array of styles will get even broader.

I hope I have made one point here. If you think you dislike Chardonnay it is probably because you haven’t found the one you like yet!

But onto the wine we tasted. I went big this week and selected my ultimate desert island wine, a Puligny Montrachet, from that Cote d’Or region. It was pricey but I really wanted to show Andy why I love this grape quite so much. We tasted one from David Moret, a new producer I have discovered who is well worth searching out. The experience was just what I hoped. Puligny has this amazing honeysuckle aroma which is bright and elegant. We had a 2014 which is a fantastic cool vintage and still very young in expression. To taste, it was so pure in flavour, a seamless line of creamy rich lemon curd, with electric minerality coming across as crunchy sea salt, interplaying well with the oak that gave it an almond nut richness, with a caramel twist. I could go on but I won’t bore you. I hope I have expressed why I find this wine so exciting. And if you want to try a slightly cheaper version I have tasted this producer’s Rully of the same vintage last week and it was great.

One confession is that we didn’t get the food match right. 52grapes is really challenging our social scheduling. We had to taste it last night and I got home late after meeting a friend so the only food we could summon was a takeaway pizza. Needless to say this isn’t going to be something I would recommend, and probably something I’d never repeat…”

Andy says: “I’m going to assume you all gave up reading this page by Emma’s 47th paragraph, and whatever I write here will remain unseen by human eyes.

I have two main takeaways from this week’s wine. 1 – I always thought I preferred unoaked Chardonnay, and 2 – I always thought I didn’t like Chardonnay. The first thing that hit me was the oak. To me it was ‘quite oaky’, but Emma mumbled something about the grape and the region and how it takes on so much flavour, or something. I don’t know, I was trying to watch Taskmaster at the same time and that took precedence.

There was also a big hit of acid. I didn’t get the same cheek-watering sensation as last week, this was more along the lines of a crisp, eye piercing, grimace. And then the cheek watering. All in all a tip top tipple, highly highly recommended.”

Buying Guide

We will be heading straight to the the classic region of Burgundy. Our sub region of choice will be Puligny Montrachet. So head to the French white section and look for any of these, your choice may be dependent on how much you want to spend: Bourgogne Blanc, Macon Villages, Chablis, Pouily Fuisse, Rully, Chassagne Montrachet, Meursault or Puligny Montrachet.

8 thoughts to “Week 21 – Chardonnay”

  1. I’m somewhat behind schedule on posting this (only ten weeks late…). But it was worth the wait. I had managed to buy a rather nicer bottle than expected after a getting a generous discount from Amathus. It came about after an amusing mix-up which is a story for another time, but a big thank you to the lovely lady in the Wardour Street shop. The problem was then finding a suitable occasion to open it. A holiday with family last week provided the long awaited opportunity.

    The wine was a Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Clos de la Garenne Premier Cru 2014. It was well outside my usual price bracket, but all I can say is that it’s worth paying for if you can. It was simply one of the best wines I’ve ever tasted. Looking back at the scribbles that made it back from holiday I seem to have written the word ‘divine’ no fewer than four times. I shall try to keep these notes a little more down to earth.

    In the glass it has a lovely warm medium gold colour with a slight tint of green. The nose was of fresh hay, lemon, flowers (honeysuckle) and chalky minerals, beautifully rounded with custardy vanilla and butter from the oak. It was a restrained and elegant scent at first, but with air it got better and better opening out with glorious rounded creaminess.

    The palate was wonderfully rich and flavoursome, but without being showy. It was dry (citrus) but perfectly balanced with honeysuckle sweetness and oaky caramel nuttiness. The creaminess was present again providing wonderful full body. The flavours were similar to the nose – lemon, some underlying minerality, oaky butteriness. The length was remarkable – the taste seemed to go on forever.

    So overall five stars from me. Without wanting to sound even more poncey, it worked very well with zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and anchovies.

  2. Waitrose White Burgundy 2016 13%

    I wasn’t prepared to ‘push the boat out’ for a chardonnay, so have opted for a basic version. There is a benefit in that it has barely seen any oak and so I can get a good indication of what chardonnay really tastes like. I hope!

    The wine is clean, bright and orange straw in colour, giving a glimpse of it’s richness.

    It is slightly honeyed on the nose, but giving the typical flavours that have never attracted me to chardonnay. What those flavours are, I just don’t know; cabbage?

    Acid drops on the palate and flabby in the mouth. A slight prickle on the tongue. Behind it all there is a bitter taste.

    The bitter taste survives longest on the finish, with not much else coming through.

    Chardonnay never fails to disappoint for me.

  3. Wine – Puligny-Montrachet, Les Charmes, Lay and Wheeler (Majestic £40)
    Bottle says – nothing of consequence

    I buy a few bottles of Puligny-Montrachet a year; this is one of my go-to treat wines, and it rarely disappoints. I usually spend around £25, so this was a step up in price for me, although I have to be honest, this wine wasn’t noticeably better than the usual stuff I buy.

    On the nose, we’re talking about butter, cream, toasted almonds, toasted toast, and a (very) faint whiff of lemon zest. The taste basically just delivers what the aroma has promised; big, buttery flavours of butter; a creamy-smooth delivery of cream and butter, in a creamy-buttery shell. A little acidity cuts through the creamy butterness, resulting in a wine that does what it does exceedingly well.
    I had this wine with skate wings cooked in butter, with asparagus and new potatoes, (both served with butter), and it complemented the food beautifully, although a little more butter would not have gone amiss.
    I wouldn’t want this wine everyday, as it is a little intense and limited in its scope and versatility, but it’s one of those wines that never fails to put a satisfied smile on my face.

    1. On a side-note;
      “To taste, it was so pure in flavour, a seamless line of creamy rich lemon curd, with electric minerality coming across as crunchy sea salt, interplaying well with the oak that gave it an almond nut richness, with a caramel twist.”
      That’s just a ridiculously good description.

      1. Hi Jason,

        I love the fact you share my passion for Puligny. I can’t believe you can get it for £25 – please tell me where.

        And very flattered you like my tasting note. If only every wine made it that easy. And if only every day was a Puligny day!


        1. Yes, my memories seem to have been a little selective! I probably should have said ‘drink a few bottles every year’, rather than ‘buy a few bottles every year’, as I have been drinking these from my cellar.
          Checking my old wine invoices, I did buy a case or two for £29 a bottle around 3-4 years ago, from a wine merchant down south (may have been bin ends), and seem to remember buying a few bottles from Majestic for around that sort of money in the not too distant past, so either the price has shot up over the last few years, or my senility has finally arrived.

  4. All the stars for quality and value for money albeit a bit beyond my pocket for a weekly drink of white wine. I bought the wine knowing I could sleep it for a few years – fat chance. I think a modern wine that perhaps did not spend any time in an oak barrel.
    Chablis 2015 I liked its freshness seemed to have some power and tenacity – Stoney, flint taste. Definitely a wine to go on my Christmas wish list.

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