As a bottle shop owner, I can tell you that people have a lot of feelings when it comes to Chardonnay. This month I would like to challenge some of those preconceived notions and shine a light on the versatility and beauty of this unfairly maligned grape. Yes, some chardonnays are oak and butter bombs, but there are also chardonnays with elegant creamy butter notes that are so well integrated that they leave your mouth watering. There are also chardonnays that have no buttery notes, they carry more nuances of crisp stone fruit and salinity. If you find that you don’t like creamy weighted chardonnays, you might think you want an “unoaked” or stainless-steel fermented chardonnay, but the truth is, when done right (or in the fashion I prefer), oak acts more as a vessel for the wine to fully express itself, not as an overwhelming flavor profile. One aspect that particularly stands out about chardonnay is that it is a variety that can be grown so many different places and each place brings out different expressions in the wine itself. Regardless of where you stand in the great chardonnay debate, I hope you keep an open mind and enjoy this journey, for those who think they aren’t a fan of the variety, I think you’ve been missing out, and below are three reasons why.
2021 Sanctum Medved Chardonnay
This aromatic and thoughtfully made Chardonnay comes from the steep hills and valleys of Northeast Slovenia. French monks first cultivated vineyards in this region in the 12th century thinking that this region was perfect for Burgundian varietals, and they were right. Sanctum Winery embraces the minimal intervention approach. The vineyards are all dry-farmed, hand harvested and the whole cluster pressed. Spontaneous fermentation takes place in barrels and the wine is aged 12 months in Slovenian and French oak before being bottled unfiltered. In the glass, this is a very light clear yellow. The nose has aromas of softer tropical notes and laffy taffy with a bit of dustiness. The palate is creamy and weighted with notes of dried apricot, and vanilla with a nice acidity to carry through.
2020 Castel Sallegg Chardonnay
Alto Adige, Italy
Castel Sallegg, also known as Schloss Sallegg in German, is a historic and prestigious winery in northern Italy’s Trentino-Alto Adige region. This region is known for its stunning landscapes, picturesque vineyards, and a long tradition of winemaking. The winery is situated near the shores of Lake Caldaro, in the village of Caldaro. The property features a historic castle, which has been associated with winemaking for generations. The estate is renowned for its vineyards, which are strategically located in the South Tyrol wine-growing region. The vineyards benefit from a unique microclimate, with warm days and cool nights, thanks to their proximity to Lake Caldaro and the surrounding mountains. This climate is particularly conducive to the cultivation of high-quality grape varieties, including their delicious Chardonnay. In the glass, this Chardonnay is a golden straw yellow. The nose has notes of spiced curried cashews, lime zest, and minerality. The palate is silky with a lighter body, and the wine has an old-world rustic feeling.
2019 Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey en Pierrelet
Château de Chamirey is a well-regarded winery located in the Mercurey appellation which is in the Côte Chalonnaise subregion of Burgundy. The vineyards are protected from the wet cool winds common to the area as they are tucked along the hillsides of the Val d’Or meaning the Golden Valley. The earth is rich with limestone and red clay soils. The unique combination of soil, climate, and geography in the Mercurey appellation influences the wine’s flavors and aromas. Coming from a single vineyard plot this Chardonnay shows us why Burgundy is the home to this versatile variety. In the glass, this is a shiny light-yellow hue. Aromas are layered with caramel, vanilla, and golden delicious apples. The palate is beautifully put together from top to bottom. There is a great luscious texture throughout with acidity that carries through. There’s a little nuttiness and creaminess. It’s a lovely wine.