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Chardonnay: The Greatest of Grapes

Like people who take their Mother for granted, there are those that do not show Chardonnay the respect it deserves. If I were told I could only drink the wine of one white variety for the rest of my life, then Chardonnay would be it. Why? Because it is capable of being at once both magnificent and cosseting; I want to be bowled over but not injured in the process. I know some will trumpet the versatility and filigree fine-ness of Riesling and they are right. Riesling can and has made me cry such is the intensity and density of its best work, but it assaults rather than woos and for this reason I could not drink it daily. Chenin Blanc is another favourite of mine making some of the most thought provoking dry and sweet wines in the world, from its base in the Loire, whilst building an ever increasing body of quality work in South Africa.

Yet Chardonnay remains the one. At this point it would be easy to list the great and the good of Burgundy, quite rightly considered the apogee of what is possible with this variety but that would also be very predictable. In the New World; Australia, New Zealand and California all have producers that consistently craft wines of top 1er Cru level quality (to use Burgundy as the reference), and there is no reason to believe that in the near future, wines of ‘Grand Cru’ quality will be beyond their reach.

And so to Italy, a nation not associated with great Chardonnay. From her heel to her thigh, Italy’s reputation is for food-friendly reds not jaw-dropping whites but that is changing. In Tuscany, Isole e Olena produce an anachronistic or, if you prefer, ‘classic’ style of Chardonnay which oozes oak from every aromatically charged pore. Such is the intensity and refinement on display, the oak acts as a foil rather than obstacle and helps promise a wine capable of a decade or more of decadence. The moral of it all? Don’t dis your Mother.

Isole e Olena, Collezione Privata, IGT Toscana, 2011, 14.5%
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Lots of new French oak
Note: Romantic I know, but this smells of a warm Tuscan summer. A little dusky peach, lemon oil and fig. Incredibly concentrated but it does not lose its charm, you will want to keep drinking this. Delicious and fine.
Price: 3,300NT
Score: 18/20
Available from: Ascent Way

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