The fact that so many wine drinkers love some kinds of chardonnay while hating others is a great testament to the versatility of the world’s most-popular fine-wine white grape. Although there should always be some varietal similarity, chardonnays can be high or low alcohol, big and buttery or lean and minerally, still or sparkling, more fruity or more savory. It all depends on the region, the winemaker, and the clone.
Fortunately, I love all these iterations, although some more than others.
Here are notes on eight chardonnays that collectively cross styles and national borders — but, in the end, they are all chards:
2012 Franciscan Napa Valley “Equilibrium” ($20). Except this one, which I have included to illustrate that chardonnay plays well with other grapes. It’s a delicious blend of chard, sauvignon blanc, and muscat — creamy yet crisp, juicy, with flavors of white peach and peach skin with a back of green kiwi.
2009 Domaine Vocoret et Fils “Blanchot” Chablis grand cru ($46). Very floral and fruity with delicate wood notes. A little soft in body, but nevertheless a crisp finish.
2010 Château de Maligny Chablis vieilles vignes ($20). A nice everyday Chablis with good minerality, tart apples, and a crisp finish, although the weight is a tad heavy. A good food wine.
2011 Jean-Marc Brocard “Vau de Vey” Chablis premier cru ($29). Medium-bodied, well-balanced with lots of fragrance and fruit — mainly mellow apples.
2011 Biltmore Estate North Carolina reserve chardonnay ($15). Very fresh, very delicious with tangy apple flavors, a hint of creaminess and a long, minerally finish. Great food wine.
2012 Hardys “Nottage Hill” SE Australia chardonnay ($11). Lightly sweet and fairly simple with nice perfume and creamy pastel flavors.
2011 La Follette “Sangiacomo” Sonoma Coast chardonnay ($35). Gamey and green fruits, mainly lime, up front with more tropical, vanilla notes in the finish. Still a little tightly wound.
2011 Cuvaison Carneros Napa Valley chardonnay ($21). Very good. It has nice floral notes and lots of citrusy fruit — lime, ripe pineapple — with a hint of cream, then a tangy closing.