Undeniably, Chardonnay is a great companion to food and until the oak become more of a caricature than a supporting act, always was. And if you are a Sauvignon Blanc-lover feeling your attention beginning to wander, now is the time to rediscover the foodie aspect of this versatile grape.
While riesling and semillon are sought for their leanness and purity of fruit, Chardonnay is more about carefully rendered augmentations. The more complex flavours stemming from Chardonnay spending time languishing on lees or partial malolactic fermentation, add an extra dimension to the aromas and flavours and that extra creaminess factor. This is bolstered by some softening time in oak which may also impart some toastiness and spices.
The skill of the winemaker is to make these augmentations to be as natural looking as possible. The overly buxom are faddish and look artificial after a while.
It is this fine texture and the more robust flavours and body that make Chardonnay so versatile when it comes to food. While a Hunter Valley Semillon, in its youth, will be quickly overwhelmed by a herb crusted chicken, Chardonnay will match the dish’s weight, keep it fresh and add some perspective.
A well chosen Chardonnay can flow from the aperitif, to the starter course and on to the main event. I have yet to come across a typical Sauvignon Blanc that would perform anywhere near as well.
So, in my pursuit of the chardonnay reformation, err should I say the re-affirmation of Chardonnay’s reign, I have more Chardies that give generously to the cause. Next week, I will conclude with some big hitters in the over $25 category.
The story continues with my 10 top picks in the $15 – $25 bracket:
Frankland Estate Isolation Ridge Chardonnay 2010 ($24) : Generous and ripe pineapple, perfumed stonefruit and cream is a lesson in modernity. The silky fruit is a textural delight with some firm oak on finish and fresh acid providing line and length.
Fraser Gallop Chardonnay 2011 ($23) : The firm fleshy ripe stonefruit still has apple crispness gently rounded out with nutty creaminess. Subtle oak delivers poise, balance and texture. An exciting wine from the West for the value.
Yering Station Village Chardonnay 2010 ($25) : With just a hint of vanilla oak to add dimension to the ripe stonefuit and nutty cream this is as juicy as it is elegant with plenty of interesting silky smooth depths to explore. Enjoy with Macadamia Nut Crusted Baramundi and steamed zucchini.
Barwang Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2011 ($19.99) : A reliable Chardonnay with intense melon and peach fruit. There is been well judged oak in support but does not come into the limelight. A fruity style with a firm finish.
Yarrawood Yarra Valley Chardonnay 2008 ($17.99) : All the hallmarks of a modern Chardie with lashings of cream to the ripe grapefruit and stonefruit. Long and textural with pleasurable fruit weight, this Chardonnay provides plenty of interest for the price.
Peloton Bourgogne AOC 2008 ($24.99) : Round and smoky peach and apple fruit with a mineral edge. The soft acid is moreish as is the long ripe length. Ripe pear and brie tartlets come to mind when you get this wine in the glass.
Abel’s Tempest Chardonnay 2010 ($24.99) : Toasty white peach and juicy pear fruit with fresh crispness. There is plenty of interest texturally along the palate with a lean edge to the long savoury finish. Enjoy with creamy scallops.
42 Degrees South Chardonnay 2010 ($21.50) : Oozing with ripe grapefruit & stonefruit but I also found some nettley herbaceous & minerality sneeking through. There is enough ripe concentrated fruit to give a pleasing weight without the assistance of oak. It has an elegant mouthfeel kept fresh with a supple acid backbone length.
Whitebox Chardonnay 2009 ($19.95) : Good summer drinking with ripe stonefruit with melon freshness. A soft buttery Chardonnay with a fuller rounded body. A good wine with some chicken salad.
Catching Thieves Chardonnay 2010 ($16.99) : Perfumed fleshy stonefuit with refreshing acid. There is soft, silk and fruit weight providing shape and texture. A crowd pleaser.