As the world’s most popular white wine, chardonnay commands the spotlight. Despite its ubiquity, it has never lost its lustre, because consumers continue to enjoy drinking it – and winemakers around the world love to make it.
Steve Weber, winemaker at De Bortoli Wines in Australia’s Yarra Valley, once suggested that the chardonnay vine is like a weed because it can grow anywhere – but vintners in Australia, California and other warm regions are increasingly looking for cooler spots to cultivate their vineyards. Cooler climes can help preserve the acidity in the grapes to promote freshness and purity in finished wines.
Good examples of chardonnay continue to be produced in vineyards across the globe. Fantastic bottles are coming from cooler locations, notably Canada’s own wine regions, which can produce a diversity of styles: oaked and unoaked, still and sparkling, fresh and fruity or rich and complex.
A recent survey of current releases underscored the enjoyable nature of the grape variety and the expressive range of chardonnays produced at home and abroad. Many of the selections are featured in a current spotlight at LCBO Vintages outlets in Ontario, with the goal of introducing consumers to the crisp and refreshing styles of cool-climate chardonnay, which is presented as “a summer sipping staple.” The in-store and online feature coincides with the 10th anniversary of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration, which holds a variety of virtual and in-person events July 23 to 25. Visit coolchardonnay.org for the full schedule of events.
This week’s wine recommendations include an impressive selection of Canadian chardonnays, including the return of the Village label from Le Clos Jordanne and impressive single-vineyard wines from Huff in Prince Edward County and Mirabel in the Okanagan. Bottles from Chile, California and France underscore chardonnay’s versatility and appeal – two enduring reasons why this grape variety continues to be a global superstar.
Escudo Rojo Reserva Chardonnay 2019 (Chile), $17.95
From the Rothschild family’s operation in Chile, this fuller-bodied and flavourful chardonnay is made in an easy-to-appreciate style. There’s a nice balance of creamy and spicy notes and riper mango and pineapple fruit flavours. Drink now. Available in Ontario.
Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $19.95
Flat Rock Cellars delivers a more round and flavourful style of chardonnay from its estate in 2019. Barrel-fermented and aged in French oak for 10 months prior to bottling, the finished wine is rich and rewarding, with ample lemon character to balance the grilled peach, butter and spice notes. Drink now to 2023. Available at the above price in Ontario, $20.15 direct through flatrockcellars.com, $21.50 in Quebec.
Gérard Bertrand Côte des Roses Chardonnay 2019 (France), $18.95
The popularity of the Côte des Roses rosé in Canada has inspired an expanded lineup at liquor stores across the country, including this refreshing chardonnay from the South of France. The flavour suggests a mix of citrus and apple with some earthy and spicy notes. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $23.99 in Saskatchewan, $19.99 in Manitoba ($17.99 until July 31) and Newfoundland.
Huff Estates Winery Catharine’s South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $35
This impressive white benefits from the seasoned approach of winemaker Frédéric Picard, who hails from Burgundy, and chardonnay grapes harvested from established vines that are around 20 years old. An expression of Prince Edward County chardonnay that’s more rich than racy in character, this wine is remarkably pure, with terrific texture and nutty, earthy notes that add complexity to the mix of pear and peach flavours. Drink now to 2025. Available direct through huffestates.com.
La Crema Monterey Chardonnay 2018 (United States), $26.95
La Crema gathers chardonnay grown in vineyards across Monterey, Calif., to produce this fresh and nicely layered chardonnay. Warmer vineyards in the south offer more tropical fruit flavours, while cooler northern vineyards provide pure peach and citrus notes. Those fruit flavours take centre stage here and are nicely rounded out with some subtle creamy and spicy notes from aging in oak barrels. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price, $30.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $24.95
A revitalized Le Clos Jordanne returned to the Niagara wine scene in 2017 with the release of its top-of-the-line, single-vineyard Le Grand Clos chardonnay and pinot noir. Having successfully established its reserve tier, the brand is launching its rejuvenated Village label with the 2019 vintage, which blends barrels of wine made from chardonnay grapes grown in three vineyards in the Niagara Region community of Jordan. This vibrant and youthful expression of the varietal offers intense pear and candied lemon flavours with some pineapple, cream and toasted notes that add richness and complexity. It’s appealing now, but another year or two in the bottle will add more layers and interest if you can wait. Drink now to 2027. Available in Ontario at the above price and direct through leclosjordanne.com.
Louis Jadot Chardonnay Bourgogne 2019 (France), $24.95
Jadot’s popular chardonnay presents more tropical and toasty notes than usual owing to the hot and dry growing season in 2019. The mix of concentration and freshness makes this reliable white even more appealing. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $31.99 in B.C. and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta.
Mirabel Vineyards Chardonnay 2019 (Canada), $32
The family-owned Mirabel Vineyards was founded on producing pinot noir from its hillside estate in Kelowna, B.C., in the Okanagan Valley. Chardonnay has proven to be a recent and most welcome addition to their portfolio. This rewarding white offers a mix of apple and citrus with savoury and creamy notes from fermentation and aging in oak. It’s nicely integrated and promises to mature gracefully in the bottle. Drink now to 2029. Available direct through mirabelvineyards.com.
Vanderpump Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2018 (United States), $37.96
This is a full-bodied, rich and inviting style of Sonoma Coast chardonnay produced by vineyards owned by the Vanderpump family, who turned their hospitality careers into fodder for a successful reality television series, Vanderpump Rules. Its concentrated core of ripe fruit gains interest and intensity with serious toasted and spicy oak notes. Drink now to 2024. Available in Ontario.
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