Chardonnay is almost an Independent Brand
Chardonnay has achieved an excellent reputation over the years and is considered as the white grape variety par excellence amongst many wine lovers in terms of full-bodied and creamy white wine. The name therefore has almost become an independent brand. The grape variety delivers a golden yellow wine. Depending on development and storage, a young Chardonnay can also contain green specks. Aromas of gooseberry and grapefruit fill the air; honey and caramel can also often be detected. The older the wine the more expressive is the bouquet. In its taste, a typical Chardonnay is fruity; often yellow fruits such as apricot and peach are dominant. It leaves a creamy up to buttery, sometimes even smokey impression on the tongue. Such a white wine is pronouncedly soft in its finish, with a reserved acidity.
Chardonnay - Thoroughly a Noble Grape
Chardonnay belongs to the noble grape varieties. Originally, it derived from Burgundy and was created by a cross of Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc. The grape variety ripens quite early which is why winemakers have to protect it against frost in cooler areas. Simultaneously, winemakers have to make sure to harvest Chardonnay on time. If waited for too long, the acidity in the grapes can vanish. Most young Chardonnay wines have high alcohol content, from 13% upwards. A too young and ‘light’ white wine can therefore indicate an insufficient maturing.
Chardonnay Is Very Adaptable
Worldwide, winemakers experiment with Chardonnay as it has proved to be very flexible. It also mirrors each particular terroir which is why it can sometimes have mineral notes. Most of all, the grape variety is known for its patient character in the wine cellar. Chardonnay responds well to a variety of cellar techniques and development methods. It is one of the few white vines that benefit from a development in barriques, for example. Until the 1990s, one or more winemakers have overdone it and covered the typical notes of the grape with wooden taste. Today, winemakers often still develop Chardonnay in a wooden barrel, yet in a healthy and acceptable level. Some let the grape speak for itself and deliver so-called ‘unwooded’ Chardonnay.
South Africa’s Winemakers and Chardonnay
South Africa’s winemakers and Chardonnay have a two-sided relationship. For a long time, governmental import regulations had made it almost impossible to plant this grape variety. Regardless, winemakers planted their areas with this noble grape, not always totally legal. This lead to problems with the land management though and the results were not always satisfying. Not later than the turn of the millennium and the eased import of healthy vines, Chardonnay belongs to the rising varieties of South Africa and is nowadays the third most frequently planted white grape variety.