In Burgundy, the Chardonnay grape is known for its impressive ability to translate the site-specific character of each vineyard. But this is also true outside of Burgundy, as Chardonnay shines in places that imprint terroir stamps all their own. Here are three surprising examples of this noble variety sure to keep your mind and palate stimulated.
The Loire Valley, with its near overabundance of top-quality and well-priced wines, is a veritable trove of value. It’s just hard to go wrong there. Looking for a white or red for the cellar? Try Savennières or Chinon. Perhaps you’d enjoy a bottle that has already been aged for you. Our Loire producers often hold back large portions of vintages to sell them in the future (hint… stay tuned for an email coming later in August). Sparkling, still, or sweet, the Loire delivers and therefore it’s no surprise that our top Chardonnay value doesn’t come from Burgundy, but from Éric Chevalier and his domaine on the western edge of the Loire Valley, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. In this land of châteaux and sea breezes, Chardonnay soaks in the complex minerals of this region’s soils. Though you might be hard-pressed to point out the specific flavor of Serpentinite in a wine, this bottling has a distinct mineral aroma, like fresh rain on the rocky shores of a mountain river. But perhaps the most distinct characteristic of Éric’s Chardonnay is intrinsic to the grape itself. Good Chardonnay has texture and grain and that’s what you have here—it sinks into the palate and lasts and lasts. Some wines deliver well beyond expectations and the Chevalier Chardonnay is one of them.
From the marl slopes of Château-Chalon, where the Savagnin grape stars in the Jura’s most storied and long-lived oxidative wines, François Rousset-Martin crafts this unusual Chardonnay with regular topping-off of his barrels, to avoid any oxidation. An exotic nose of candied lemon and spices prefaces a focused acidity and a sensation of beeswax and nuts on the palate. Buttery sautéed mushrooms and oozing grilled cheese sandwiches ought to do the trick with this one.
Kante’s Chardonnay is grown in pure gray limestone just minutes from the Adriatic, then aged on its lees for a year in old barrels in a three-story-deep cave carved out of the rock. It seems to have absorbed the essence of its surroundings: a brisk maritime wind and the dank scent of a cellar dripping with mineral water. The Chardonnay grape, in this case, is merely a vehicle for expressing the stark terroir of Friuli’s Carso zone.
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