Everything you Need to Know about Chardonnay
Are you yay or nay with Chardonnay?
In celebration of International Chardonnay Day on Thursday 23 May, surprisingly, this dynamic, white wine has fizzed its way back into fashion with retailers such as Dan Murphy’s and BWS reporting a 12 percent growth of premium Chardonnay in the past year.
Once & Well, Margaret River winemaker, Freya Hohnen explains that “some winemakers in the 1990s were making overly oaky and buttery styles of Chardonnay, and it became very ‘uncool’ to drink Chardonnay all of a sudden. The term ABC – Anything But Chardonnay – was even coined.”
“Often when I host wine tastings, people will walk past saying ‘Oh I don’t like Chardonnay, I won’t try that’. I ask them to just give it a go, and more often than not, they’ll be pleasantly surprised and say ‘Wow, that was not what I was expecting’,” she said.
As the perfect pairing for International Chardonnay Day, Hunter and Bligh have collaborated with Australian winemaker of Once & Well to pour over some interesting facts you may not know about this wine variety – just in time for you to give Chardonnay another play.
It’s from France, and it’s fancy
Chardonnay originates from Burgundy in France, where it has gained a huge reputation for the exceptional wines its finest vineyards produce. One of the most prestigious wineries is Domaine Leflaive Montrachet, and a bottle of their Grand Cru Chardonnay can set you back over $7000. When made in Burgundy, Chardonnay is often referred to as ‘White Burgundy’.
Champagne has Chardonnay in it
According to the strict rules winemakers have to adhere to in France’s Champagne region, only certain grapes are allowed when making Champagne – and Chardonnay is one of them! In fact, you can even get a Champagne made exclusively with Chardonnay grapes (the style is called Blanc de Blancs). When grown in cool climates, Chardonnay retains beautiful acidity which is why it is used when making Champagne and other sparkling wines.
It’s a great white for winter
Chardonnay is known for being a textured wine, which means it’s quite a mouth-filling white wine. This combined with the fact that Chardonnay should be served only slightly chilled (the ideal serving temperature is 12 degrees, so 30 minutes in the fridge before serving) means that it won’t be too cold to enjoy when the temperature drops.
It can grow almost anywhere
Some grapes favour warm climate regions (like Shiraz) or cool climates (like Pinot Noir), Chardonnay can grow almost anywhere. The grape is planted and made into wine in such diverse regions such as the cool climate of Central Otago in New Zealand to warm climates like Egypt. Margaret River is considered the region that makes the best Australian Chardonnay.
Styles range from lean to oaky
Although Chardonnay reacts well to oak, the grape itself is incredibly versatile and can be made into several different styles, ranging from fresh and steely, to slightly or highly oaked wines. In other words, the style is all about what the winemaker does, and they often add complexity through malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and oak maturation.
It’s a Noble Grape
Chardonnay is considered a noble grape variety, along with Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Pinot Noir. Noble grape is a term used to describe wines that have played significant roles in some of the finest wines in the world.
It’s back in fashion
Chardonnay used to be the most popular white wine in Australia before Sauvignon Blanc overtook it. It is still the second most sold white wine, and sales are on the increase, with a 12 percent increase in sales of premium Chardonnay (price range between $20 and $30) in the last year. Also, celebrities like Victoria Beckham and Jay-Z love a good Chardonnay!
Chardonnay is a great food wine
As Chardonnay is made in a range of different styles, you’ll be sure to find a style to suit you. The simple ‘white wine, white meat’ rule applies, but, richer Chardonnays work well with barbequed meats, vegetable soups and a variety of cheeses, particularly creamy styles. If you have a premium, rich aged Chardonnay, you can even enjoy it with a piece of steak! The more restrained Chardonnay styles can aptly match Asian spices, smoked meats and more delicate seafood dishes.
ABOUT THE WINEMAKER
Margaret River’s Freya Hohnen from Once & Well was almost destined to become a winemaker after growing up on Cape Mentelle – a founding winery of the region, established by her father David Hohnen who is considered one of the original wine pioneers of Western Australia’s wine precinct.
After Cape Mentelle’s partnership with Veuve Clicquot in the early 1990s, Freya became interested in the French language and culture which soon led her on a one-way ticket to France. Here, Freya met her neighbour, a New Zealander who introduced her to the beautiful Burgundy and Bordeaux wines. Once working as a cellar hand in Provence, Freya returned to Australia to study and deepen her knowledge of wine and furthermore wine making.
Once & Well was established in 2014. Using Margaret River as their backbone, Freya believes that the diverse region has similar growing conditions to the Burgundy region France – a precinct renowned to make some of the world’s best Chardonnay.
“Margaret River is a very special region where the two oceans moderate the climate, so you have this growing season where it never gets too hot nor too cold,” she explained.
Using Margaret River as an expression throughout Once & Well, Freya uses grapes from different sites to create an invigorating blend of tropical flavours and citrus characters to create the balanced taste of a true Margaret River Chardonnay.