WINE OF THE MONTH: Chardonnay!
Hey guys, how are you all coping with lockdown? Me, not to bad, well so far… We only on day 5! However, I do have like a ton of blogging that needs catching up on, so if you kindly don’t mind, you will be hearing from me more often! So where to begin… if you had to see my white board you would be mortified of the looooooong list of items that needs posting. I realised, I hadn’t done one of these for such a long time, it is long overdue. A wine of the month feature. So this month, white wine for the month is: Chardonnay!
In all honesty, it was only towards the end of last year that I really enjoy a good Chard. I have been drinking wine for a very, very, long time. Yes, I was one of THOSE PEOPLE, you know, the ABC wine drinkers (Anything But Chardonnay)
My reasons for not enjoying a Chardonnay is that the unwooded, tends to be too acidic/dry, not really having much body or characteristic. Don’t even let me get started on wooded Chardonnay! Nastiness is not even a word to begin with… “vrot banana” in my wine? No thank you! I’ll pass! I even got into trouble once for saying that. The correct term I should use is over ripeness of banana. 🤢🤢🤢🤢
But I am sorry, call it what you like. Too much wood/oak in a wine is not good for anyone’s taste buds. It is the same reason I can’t stand a certain well known American whiskey. It is a dry state, therefore they can’t taste how prat their whiskey really is.
And that was the problem, no offense to anyone, but thanks to bad wine-making practices, wooded Chardonnays got such a bad wrap in the past. They were just too overly wooded; loosing all those gorgeous characteristics! Thank goodness things have changed!! Or perhaps I finally found what I was looking for. Who knows, but I have been converted.
Now a days you get some pretty damn fine Chardonnays! But before we go into all that, it maybe best to have a little background check on Chardonnay.
- Firstly, Chardonnay has a green skin grape which is mostly used to make white wine and Champagne/MCC.
- The variety originates in a little town called Chardonnay (which literally translates to “place of thistles”), in Burgundy, Eastern France.
- Chardonnay is also known as White Burgundy.
- By law, if a wine label states Chablis, it has to be Chardonnay.
- Chardonnay is the queen of all the grape varietals. The great French writer Alexander Dumas once stated that “one must drink Chardonnay on a bended knee and head bared.”
- Chardonnay is a such versatile grape and is worked in 4 different ways. You get dry still white wine which is either wooded or unwooded, sparkling (Champagne, MCC or Cremant) and late harvest.
- Chardonnay is a cross between Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc.
- It is believed that the Romans brought Gouais Blanc from Croatia. The peasants widely cultivated the Gouais Blanc. Pinot Noir was grown by the French aristocracy. These two grape varietals grew in close proximity two each other. It was a Cinderella love story bound to happen. Not long the two met, got married and had a beautiful love child, called Chardonnay!
- Chardonnay is one of three major cultivars growing in the Champagne region of France.
South Africa and Chardonnay’s Murky History
The South African Chardonnay history is rather an interesting one and one thatFor many years (prior to the 1970’s) the South African wine industry had basically two white wine varieties:
- Chenin Blanc and;
- Crouchen Blanc (which was commonly known as the Cape Riesling.)
New World countries like Australia, Chile New Zealand and even the USA was bringing in Great European grape cultivars like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhine Riesling. If South Africa Wine Industry doesn’t act fast the industry stands a chance of being left far behind.
Frustration grew! Why, well because the current Chardonnay plants in SA at the time had a virus. Basically these vines were useless and could not produce any good quality wine. The biggest frustration was you could just simply import vines like you wanted to.. there was a procedure.
Back in the 70’s things was very different:
- The government was extremely slow at importing and releasing new planting materials.
- The wine industry was regulated by KWV, who was pretty much the big guns during the ’70’s and ’80.’s They called ALL the shots. If they said jump the producers JUMPED!
- KWV also controlled what plant material gets approved and imported (under very strict conditions).
- Once a plant material was approved, producers could not simply plant and make wine. They had to wait between three to five years before they could even start to harvest or produce wine.
- After the 3-5 years they could the wine/vines be propagate for commercial use. Even then it took another 5 years before wine was to be made. There was no way that they could wait 15 years to enter the wine market commercially. Something had to be done and it had to be done NOW!
Thank heavens a small group of about ten farmers who decided it was time to take matters into their own hands. During this period, a group of wine producers smuggled plant material in their underpants, suitcases, laundry and even in uncharted planes into South Africa.
Today Chardonnay produced in all the wine making regions of South Africa, with Robertson, Paarl, Stellenbosch, the Breedekloof, Greater Worcester region and Swartland boosting the largest areas under production.
Chardonnay Flavour Profile
Chardonnay is a very neutral grape varietal. It all depends on terrior and can produce completely different flavours. It can go from lean, crisp and sparkley to full bodied with big bold tropical flavours.
In more cooler climates a Chardonnay is noticeably medium to light bodied with notes of greengage, apples and pears.
Warmer climates will lean more to citrus, peach and melon. In hotter regions you will get bigger and bolder tropical notes of fig, mango and banana.
Should a Chardonnay go under a Malolatic fermentation they will have a softer acidity, fruit forwardness, bursting with a buttery creaminess along with a touch of hazelnuts! Yummy!!
(Malolatic fermentation means that when a wine has been fermented it goes through a second process. This is the wine term MLF or Malolatic Fermentation. MLF basically turns the tart malic acid (the same acid you will find in apples) to a smooth lactic acid (Yes that is right a milk acid) When doing this process it gives wine an oily texture.)
Next time when you are tasting a chardonnay see if you can pick up any of these flavours:
Lemon, Apple, Pear, Pineapple, Jackfruit, Passionfruit, Peach, Fig, Lemon Zest, Citrus Peel,
Apple Blossom, Lemon Balm, Honeysuckle, Vanilla Bean, Jasmine
Celery Leaf, Beeswax, Wet stone or slate, Saline Solution, Almond
Vanilla, Baked Tart, Butter, Pie Crust, Caramelized Sugar, Creme Brulee, Dill, Coconut, Praline
Food and Wine Pairing:
So what food will go with a Chardonnay? Chardonnay is Queen, so undoubtedly, you would want to serve this with the right food and do it absolutely justice. It will be a major sin of epic proportions, should you serve a gorgeous bottle of chardonnay with the wrong food!! But don’t fear, I will help you along the way and not leave you to your own devices.
What NOT to have with a Chardonnay:
You don’t want to have Chardonnay with aggressively seasoned food. So avoid having any dishes that contain chilies (dried, pickeled or fresh). So basically don’t enjoy your Chard with Asian inspired dishes like Indian, Chinese and Thai or Southeast of Asia.
You also want to avoid foods that are on the bitter side so you should idealy not have artichokes, ginger, tumeric, broccoli, radicchio, rocket, brussel sprouts, chickory, white asparagus, endive, kale, grapefruit or brinjals with your glass of chardonnay. It will make your wine taste sour!
You also don’t want to have a glass of chardonnay with foods that are high in acid such tomatoes and or tomato based dishes, olives, capers, ceviche and any tangy salad dressings or sauces.
Definitely you want to avoid cheeses that are pungent, stinky and high in acid. So leave those funky cheeses for your Sauvignon Blancs or a good well aged red.
Food that is a MUST:
There is a rule of thumb: If your dish needs butter, Chardonnay is your best bet!
For example just think seafood with a gorgeous brown butter sauce, chicken with a sage butter sauce, vegetables like corn, or even avo!! Or a creamy pasta the creamier the better. Even a lovely risotto or polenta will go well with a chardonnay. Even your creamy soups will work well.
Here is some further suggestions to help you decide on what type of chardonnay you are serving:
Cooler climate unoaked Chardonnay
Perfect with light and delicate food such as a lightly cooked shellfish for example crab, crayfish, mussels and prawns, steamed or grilled fish, fish pâtés, lightly spice grlled chicken, vegetable terrines, pasta or risotto with spring vegetables or a creamy soup.
Warmer climate unoaked Chardonnay
This is more for us in South Africa. A warmer climate unoaked Chardonnay you can definately go with a more slightly richer foods than the cooler climates.
It must not be to heavy, as you still want the freshness of the wine to come through. Think foods like a gold old creamy fish pie or fish cakes (especially salmon fish cakes). You can have lovely meaty fish like Dorado, Hake, Kingklip, and Kabeljou and even Salmon. Keep the fish dishes easy and minimal in flavour focusing more on a gorgeous buttery sauces.
Chicken, pork or pasta in a creamy sauce, will do a chardonnay absolute justice. Perhaps something lighter like a chicken, ham or cheese-based salads such as caesar salad or chicken salads that include peach, mango or macadamia nuts, mild curries (Cape Malay) with buttery sauces.
Try the following Chardonnay’s: Fat Bastard / Journey’s End Haystack / Sans Barrique 2018
Full bodied, oak aged Chardonnays
Here we are talking about our Chardonnay that has been barrel-fermented and is ready to drink 1-3 years.
Again, we can use the same foods as the warmer climates but with a little extra richness. Who said you can’t have wine for breakkies? A wine like this will go perfect with eggs benedict or just think a steak with béarnaise sauce. You can have veal with a beautiful mushroom sauce. Veggies like red peppers, mielies, butternut or even a roasted butternut ravioli topped with a brown butter and sage sauce served with a rich Chardonnay is a marriage waiting to happen.
Try: Middlevlei, De Wet, or Nuy Mastery, Kaaimansgat/Crocodile’s Lair
Mature barrel fermented Chardonnays
These are Chardonnay’s that are about 3-8 years old. Aged Chardonnay we go back to almost stripping things back. Here you will need something that is finer and delicate, but has creaminess and a little nuttiness for that extra oomph!
Here dishes that are rich in Umami flavours like roasted shell fish like West Coast Lobster or a roast chicken! Having guinea fowl for dinner? No probs Chardonnay will be ideal! Even something with wild and exotic mushrooms like a risotto? That’s right this kind of Chardonnay will do it justice! You can enjoy a good old Bouillabaisse, fish pate or Sushi yup you can’t go wrong with a mature Chardonnay. If you want to sip the wine on its own makes sure you have a delicious creamy cheese to go along with that.
Recommends: Louisvale, Bouchard Finlyson Missionvale
Need some food inspirations how about checking some of these sights out:
Oh my goodness gracious, check the time and there is still so much I still want to tell you about chardonnay, Oh well you will have to come back tomorrow as I will go more into detail about wooded chardonnay’s.
Chardonnay grapes Image by jane2494 from Pixabay
Tractor in vineyards Image by Marlene Badenhorst from Pixabay
Fish in butter sauce Image by RitaE from Pixabay
Creamy Pasta Image by Martin Frost from Pixabay
Eggs Benedict Image by Matěj Vrtil from Pixabay
Featured Image by Orna Wachman from Pixabay